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How the Internet killed the old-fashioned resume

In the good old day the content of your resume was important but as or perhaps even more important was how it looked. I remember how I used to go down to the local copy shop to get my master printed on a laser printer – I think I still had a dot matrix at home (don’t worry if you have no idea what that is) – and then leaf with delight through the binder of paper choices that this original would then be copied onto. It was a bit of an urban myth that the way to be successful in a new job hunt was to get a hundred copies of your resume made – this would ensure that you’d get hired at the seventh or twelfth place you applied – long before that expensive stack of resumes had been even half depleted.

And certainly the Internet has driven a stake right through the heart of this important appearance quality of the resume. The convenience of the electronic resume isn’t just that it is quick, cheap and easy to send and receive but that the employer can do so much more with it. Rather than having to scan it using humans they can feed it into a computer that can then analyze it for keywords and required skills and use it to screen (or eliminate?) candidates much more efficiently and cost-effectively than before. But many of the automated application systems like Brainhunter or proprietary systems (like at UVic) absolutely butcher your resume. For me this almost brings tears to my eyes when I think about how gorgeous those old printed resumes looked.

On most of these systems you are simply directed to go to your properly formatted resume created in MS Word or other program, do a select all, copy it and then paste it into a box on the screen. Your sentences and paragraphs flood onto the screen and bullets turn into weird symbols. Fonts are lost or distorted and overall the thing looks like crap. But there is little or nothing you can do about it and you just click done hoping that you’ll be judged on the content and not on the way the damn thing looks.

Hopefully there will come a day when the resume will once again be valued for both its aesthetic appeal and its role as an easily accessible snapshot of what a candidate has to offer. But I think it is obvious that even if it does rise again to a more prominent position in the jobseeking toolbox it now one of many components instead of being the single tool at a job hunters disposal. I would suggest that for anyone – whether artist, aspiring CEO or anesthesiologist in training – a presence on LinkedIn is important. And increasingly anyone seeking a job needs to think about whether a portfolio is a more appropriate vehicle for them than the resume.

There have been a sprinkling of video resumes that have garnered some attention but for most of us I think that is still some way off and it is hard to imagine how some jobs (mechanic? Truck driver?) would benefit from such an alternative to the resume. But definitely this is a space to watch and going out on a limb and trying something a bit unusual might make you a more memorable candidate which can be very difficult in today’s economic climate when there are so many talented people competing for so few jobs.

My final thought is that it is crucial to make sure that if you create alternative/supplemental tools in addition to the resume you must check and recheck them to make sure that they agree completely on the details of your education, employment and skills. You don’t want a typographical error in recording a date to call your integrity into question for example.


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2 Responses to “How the Internet killed the old-fashioned resume”

  1. Ray Colegrave says:

    Some thoughts in response to your article:

    1. When doing an online application, create a text only resume with a maximum 80 characters and spaces per line and ensure you have a paragraph break at the end of every line. You can’t make it as attractive as a well formatted resume in Word, but you can make it look pretty decent by using keyboard symbols (* instead of bullets for instance). Benefit is that when you paste it into a box online, it should retain the formatting. The text only resume should aslo maintain any hyperlinks on your resume (Email address, linked-in public profile, etc)

    2. I believe the resume is still valued for both its aesthetic appeal and its role as an easily accessible snapshot of what a candidate has to offer. That will not change. However, because we are sending them electronically and employers are opening them on their computer, we also have an additional tremendous opportunity to make them even more attractive by adding interactivity to them. They are a live document on a computer; make them alive for the employer.

    Give your readers bells and whistles, give them links they can click beyond your email and your linked-in public profile – previous work experience with a large company, give them a link to their website; got a blog, give them a link, did a video resume on youtube, provide a link to it on your resume, do career related pins on Pinterest, give them a link, have an electronic business card (view my free one at http://prestoh.com/rcolegrave) with a QR Code, put it on your resume; do a 1 minute video propmotion of yourself on Sparkhire.com, have document/PowerPoint/Spreadsheet/database samples, pictures, you want them to see, find a way to build a link to them etc. etc.Make your resume a visual showcase of your skills and abilities.

    The resume should remain royalty in your job search toolkit, but it does not have to remain static and stale; Let it change with the times. Use the internet to your advantage through your resume; make your skills, abilities, training, your entire portfolio available to them by adding clickable links to your resume. I don’t know about you, but if I have a resume open on my computer with symbols, widgets, links on which I can click, I cannot resist; I have to see what might be there.I believe that curiosity resides in most of us. Take advantage of it; dazzle employers with it; make yourself stand out.

    • Ray – thanks for this excellent comment! Those of you struggling with today’s resume requirements and how to keep what you submit online looking as ‘nice’ as possible take heed.

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