Are Resumes Becoming Obsolete?

Posted on May 15, 2009. Filed under: Resumes | Tags: , , , , , , |

Spend enough time on social networking sites, blogs, and career pro networks, and you will be bombarded with information of resume do’s and don’ts. But what is the real future of the resume? Some say a paper resume will be obsolete in 5 years. Others say it will be whittled down to a 140 characters or less. Still others say very little will change.

As a resume writer who lives in a household with another resume writer (God help our daughter), this topic is ongoing. So I thought I would bring some of that discussion to you by interviewing my business partner and my bride, as well as my resume mentor, Sheree Van Vreede (aka @rezlady).

Me: Before we engage in our lofty attempt at discussing the future of the resume, why don’t you start off by giving us your credentials as a resume writer?

Sheree: My credentials? I’m sorry, but I’ve never written a resume a day in my life. However, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!

(Me frowning)

OK, you want me to be serious. In that case, I am Certified Professional Resume Writer or CPRW, which means that I have been deemed worthy by the Professional Association of Resume Writers/Career Coaches (PARW/CC) of writing resumes professionally. I’ve been writing resumes since 1995 when I worked for a small research center as a copy editor and was asked to produce resumes for each member of the staff.

Of course, I now write resumes with you as part of our company No Stone Unturned as well as assist our job seekers on

If you could sum up your philosophy about writing resumes, how would you characterize it?

If I had to do it in 140 characters or less, I’d say it is as follows: “Audience is everything.”

What do you mean by that exactly?

Well, basically, it all comes down to your audience, how well you know them, how well you speak to them, etc. I think I differ with many of my colleagues in that I believe resumes have become too long, too complicated, and too weighty and, essentially, not what most audiences are looking for.

It also doesn’t make sense to me to produce what I call “pretty” resumes, and I know that is also somewhat controversial among our resume-writing friends. Of course, you should have an appealing-looking document, but flash doesn’t really sell. Graphics, color, two-column newspaper style…none of that has proven to be anymore effective. Why? Because at the end of the day, the resume must reflect the needs of the potential employer. Period. Add color if it makes you happy, but it really isn’t about you.

Do you think paper resumes will become a thing of the past?

Definitely not. It’s kind of like the paperless office. It’s a nice thought; everyone says they want it; but it won’t happen. You can send them to your website, attach your electronic file to an e-mail, etc., but what do people inevitably end up doing? They either print it out or ask you for a hardcopy when they meet you. That doesn’t mean, however, that I think tools like VisualCV and even video resumes don’t have a future; it just means that at the end of the day, I still think you will need a paper copy.

So what do you think the future of the resume is going to be?

I have a theory that resumes are going to kind of morph into two documents. Right now there is a disconnect between what HR and recruiters want to see and what the actual hiring manager wants to see. And us resume writers are trying to please both of those groups with one document: hence the 5-minute-long document for the 30-second-or-less read.

The predominance of resume advice out there really appeals to HR and recruiters: strong keyword-driven documents with a narrow focus, highlighting accomplishments. But when the candidate gets past all that, the hiring manager craves more of the details, and it is hard to bring all of that out in an interview. So we try to give a little more in the current resume format, but it often isn’t enough or falls flat because we are really trying to appeal to two audiences. Granted, they may be trying to work together for one goal, but they are coming at it in two ways. The recruiters and HR people are there to weed out, and the hiring manager is there to, well, actually hire you. In my book, that requires two different presentations.

Larger companies, especially IT-focused firms, are already asking candidates who have endured the initial weed-out process to fill out long biographies, detailing the entire span of their career, which harkens to a curriculum vita-style document used primarily in academia or overseas.

Already, I’ve been preparing clients to have two documents, a short summary that helps position the client clearly to the gatekeepers, the HR and recruiting people, and a longer career bio that gives the hiring manager a solid view of their career span. Of course, I still think we need to be careful to not write career obituaries, and to keep the bio focused and to the point. After all, hiring managers don’t have all day. So I would recommend focusing much of the document on your involvement in the latest advancements of your industry. Here is where you really get to speak with “your peeps,” your colleagues, to get into more detail about your skill set and knowledge base.

Do you think our resume-writing colleagues will agree with your assessment?

Probably not! But that is OK. I’m not a prophet. I’m just an observer of the market. Some people say resume writing is not a science, and I agree it is not. Instead they say it is an art form. I say that is more like a psychological evaluation. How well do you know your market and how well can you speak to its needs? Right now I believe the resume market as a whole is in flux, and we need to figure out how to fulfill its needs.

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