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Your Resume is Mostly Useless

Your Resume is Mostly Useless

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Crumpled Piece of PaperMany job-seekers spend time, worry and money on their resume, trying very hard to make them perfect. They agonize over each line and each word.

What makes it worse is everyone thinks they are a resume expert. Headhunters say one thing. HR professionals say something else. Your brother-in-law thinks he has the perfect resume style. There are thousands of templates on the Internet, in bookstores, and even on MS Word. How can you know which one is right?

A dirty little secret that nobody wants you to know is that your resume is mostly a waste of time. Very few positions are obtained with resumes. Most of my clients very rarely even pull their resume out of their briefcases. And this is how it should be if one is looking for the very best jobs.

Now, at some point in the job search process, the HR people are going to need a resume, so you’d better have one. They, being the ticky little linear thinkers that they are, want to have a resume nicely arranged in standard reverse chronological order. Have a copy of that ready to give to HR. But don’t use it for real people. In fact, if you’re an executive, you should very rarely give out a resume to anyone but the HR people.

Here is why you should very rarely use a resume in ten easy lessons.

  1. Using a resume gives an employer a chance to reject you before they’ve even seen you. A resume is very rarely a good reflection of you as a person. Many very good people are rejected on their resume.
  2. Your resume cannot give a good picture of your professional career. A resume is a snapshot, not a video. It only concentrates on certain areas of your skills and knowledge.
  3. It goes to the personnel people. HR is your worst enemy. For more explanation as to why, read my post in ColoradoBiz Magazine. HR isn’t happy when I say this, and I’ll get nasty emails and comments, but it is true. If you can bypass HR until after you’ve spoken with the person who will be your boss, you’re going to be much better off and have a much better chance of getting the job!
  4. Sending out resumes gives you the illusion that you’re doing something about your job search. This will often keep you from doing things that are actually useful for your job search.
  5. Posting your resume everywhere is a really good way to lower your offer. You will get to be known as someone who is desperate for a job, and will take any money that you are offered.
  6. You get to be known as someone desperate for a job. In addition to the above, being known as a desperado does not help you get a job. People rarely want to hire people who are desperate for a job.
  7. You waste time fiddling with it. I know executives who have spent whole days messin’ with their resume. These are wasted days!
  8. You have tons of competition for any job you have to send in a resume for. And there are a thousand other people just like you, who have the illusion that they have the “perfect” resume. It’s like playing the lottery. Too many people count on winning the lottery to “make them rich.” If they put as much energy into learning and practicing the tools for creating wealth, they’d be wealthy other ways that don’t count on buying a little ticket and competing with millions of others to chase a state-sponsored gambling racket. It is the same with sending resumes. You’re gambling and hoping that you’ll be the lucky one.
  9. A resume lets companies bypass human beings. All they often do is feed your resume into a document scanner and search for keywords. If you haven’t happened to put the right keywords in the right place on your resume…you’re dead. Your resume then goes to line a birdcage or be shredded for hamster bedding or some other useful function.
  10. A hiring authority will probably never see it. Even if you address it to a hiring authority, it is likely to be either sent to a) HR (see above) or b) discarded by an admin. The chances of a hiring authority seeing it if you email it to him or her is even lower.

In other words, your resume is one, big, fat waste of time and effort!

You need to have one, of course. Our group even has a resume guide for just that reason (e-mail me at [email protected] if you want a free copy). But you don’t use it to fish for a job. You use it after you’re in conversation with an actual hiring authority.

But even then, a “bio” is becoming the gold standard, not a resume. Writing a good bio is actually more important than writing a good resume.

Here’s one more reason not to spend time on your resume. Most companies see them as old fashioned and outmoded. Especially if you’re an older employee, you want to look up-to-date and cutting edge. The typical chronological resume belongs in the Dark Ages… say, 1979, which my daughter tells me was before the birth of Jesus… or, at least, her, and, thus, unimportant.

Networking is your ticket to a very good job. It is, truly, the only thing that works in today’s executive world.

Now, the fact is, most job seekers go about networking in entirely the wrong way and wind up wasting their time there, too. (More on that here.) But that, as they say, is a whole other Oprah.

My advice on resumes? Chill on your resume. You didn’t hire someone off of a piece of paper when you were hiring. Neither will your next employer. Stop being so superstitious about it. Carry a rabbit’s foot if you must.  But just remember that the rabbit’s foot wasn’t very luck for the rabbit, now was it? Resumes are so last century! Do the things that work in this century, which are networking, including LinkedIn (invite me and join my “Getting Employed” LinkedIn Group if job-hunting) and becoming well connected. Spend your time joining LinkedIn Groups, attending valuable groups (though be careful about which ones) and actually getting yourself, as opposed to a piece of paper, out there in the job hunt.

John Heckers has over 30 years of successfully helping people with their careers. He has consulted to executives from Fortune 500 companies, five-person companies, and everything in-between.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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John Heckers John Heckers is president of Heckers Development Group, LTD, a consulting firm based in Denver, Colorado, specializing in Strategic Executive Coaching.