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.