I had a few very enthusiastic responses to last week's post about why a resume is so important. I have many more thoughts on the topic so have decided to repost one of my most popular articles from a few years back.
Have a great week!
Last week, I got an e-mail from a previous client, Jack. He was just hired as a director for a company, and – immediately upon being offered the position – was asked to submit a bio for their website. I helped Jack with his resume, so he chose Tandem for his bio as well. When I saw Jack's name in my inbox, I was especially eager to see what he had to say. Before embarking on his resume writing project a few months ago, we had a long-running back and forth about what makes a good resume, why a resume is important, and how resumes have changed over the years. As I've touched on previously people have a lot of questions about all facets of the job search process. I don't even know how to begin to describe, though, the sheer confusion / frustration that people, like Jack, have surrounding resumes and the role they play.
At the end of their rope with the job search and often nonplussed about their resume, a prospective client will often fall in one (or a few!) of the following camps:
- The "I couldn't be more ambivalent about / fed up with my resume" camp.
- The "what are keywords and all of these newfangled resume tactics" camp.
- The "help! my resume just isn't working" camp.
- The "resumes don't get jobs, networking gets jobs" camp.
- The "resumes are useless" camp.
There are more camps, but these five do a good job of summing up how many of my clients initially feel. Most of my inquiries come from people who fall in the first camp, and quite a few come from people in the second and third. I want to take a moment to talk about people who fall in the last couple of camps. Now, to be clear, most of my clients won't explicitly say it, but a handful have strong camp-four and/or camp-five tendencies. Let’s face it, people like to grumble about resumes. That's where Jack comes back into the picture. He was one of those clients before we got rolling.
In our initial back-and-forth, Jack had to be convinced that a resume means something; that a crisp and compelling resume is an essential component in a modern day job search. Jack reached out for help when, after being “networked in” for interviews with four companies, he was going nowhere; the interviews led to nothing. The way that he viewed the world of work had been turned upside down. He thought that being referred made him a shoo-in. He thought that no one really looked at a resume. He was frustrated, and he was looking for insight. Jack and I debated a great deal about the above fact. By the end of our project, he got it and went on his way with a killer new resume. It took about three more months, and then he landed the aforementioned position.
When he got in touch with me about the bio, he gave me the full scoop on how he got the job. The company had narrowed the candidate pool down to: three internal candidates, three referred candidates, and one "blind" candidate. As was the case several times before, Jack was one of the referred candidates. A friend on the inside passed along his resume. He made it through a series of interviews and became one of the final three candidates. At that point, he had a panel interview where, he said, the interviewers were "going on and on” about his resume.
When the recruiter called to get his feedback on the interview (a sign of a great company, by the way), Jack reiterated how thankful he was to be referred and how he felt he was a great "fit" with the company. The recruiter let him know that, despite the fact that he was referred, his resume still had to make it through the computerized screening process, where it did very well. When he then asked what other information he might be able to provide, the recruiter commented that the panel got everything they needed from the interview and that they appreciated how professional and achievements-oriented his resume was. After a three week wait, he was offered the job.
I use Jack's experience because it is illustrative and, actually, not atypical when everything ends up in sync (he has a network, solid interview skills, a great resume, etc.).
So, when I hear or see claims that a resume is unimportant, I cringe. Usually, this kind of comment will come from people who, for instance, don't like their resume, aren't having any luck with a job search, and don't understand the role that a solid resume plays. Why would anyone say that they believe that a resume doesn't matter? Oh yeah... because people like to grumble about resumes. There is no gold standard in the world of resumes so they are certainly mad-making. That doesn't make them unnecessary, useless, or stupid. Whether we like it or not and whether it makes sense or not, they play a critical role in the world of work.
Conversely, when I hear someone say, "I need a resume that will get me a job," I shudder. These people, on the other hand, like to place all of their job search woes and hopes on a resume. As I tell clients, a good resume will not get you a job, but it is an essential component in the process.
Having said all of that, here are 10 of the reasons why an outstanding resume matters and is an integral part of the complex process of searching for a job.
- Like it or not, your resume is your personal marketing tool. Why would you want it to be anything less than great?
- Networking is important, but that doesn't dilute the fact that a strong resume plays a critical role in a multi-faceted process. How are your interviewing skills? How do you present yourself? Pay attention to the full package.
- Hiring managers and HR often view your resume as your first deliverable. Don't treat it like it doesn't matter.
- Your resume – and any other associated correspondence – will largely frame the context of your future communication with a company. A good resume will often drive the content of your interviews. Maximize that fact.
- Resume screening software is a reality. Follow conventions that appeal to it.
- The resume is often a tie-breaker when hiring managers and HR start narrowing down the field of candidates (see #3).
- A good resume is like steroids for your confidence; this lends trajectory to all of the other dimensions of the job search process (and your life!).
- Strong resumes do their job by cleverly enticing the reader to want to learn more. What better way for them to learn more than via an interview.
- A well done resume encourages you to look at yourself and your employment history in terms of accomplishments and successes, rather than as a series of tasks.
- It's your first impression, and you know what your mother told you about first impressions!
Sometimes we can't get out of our own way – or head – when attempting to put our best foot forward via a resume. That's where I come in. I enjoy resume writing and other Career Development stuff because I have a passion for helping people to present themselves in the best light possible.
In todays world of work, resumes aren't everything, but they matter a lot. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.