A resume is a piece of paper, one of the main tools that gives you the ability to convince the hiring manager that you should be paid tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars. And depending on the role and your career path and how long you end up at the company, it could even be more than that. That alone means a resume should absolutely be taken seriously.
When a hiring manager knows what he or she wants, and your resume fits the criteria of what the hiring manager is looking for, the resume becomes an incredibly important resource.
A resume should be viewed as the structure used, or a central point of reference when talking about your background to a hiring manager in the interview process. But beyond that specific scenario just mentioned, there aren’t a whole lot of other benefits or use-cases for it.
But here is what is the most important thing to remember about the hiring process: YOU HAVE TO STAND OUT. While a good resume can help you do that, it is not the only thing used to determine your ability to do the job. Things like competence, comprehension, punctuality, problem solving skills, technical skills (if required) and (depending on the opportunity) leadership abilities are far more important to display and showcase, than “proper past-tense language” on a piece of paper.
So should resumes still matter? Yes.
But not as much as you think. And certainly not as much as it used to.
Here are a few reasons resumes should not be viewed as the most important thing in the interview process:
No one reads it.
You’ve probably done this before: call a recruiter at a company that interests you, or an HR person to get more information about a job available. The HR person tells you: “if you’re interested, please submit us your resume. Then we’ll get back to you if you’re a fit.”
The only reason they ask you to do this (most of the time, and especially at large companies), is because it’s easier to filter you out of the process with Applicant Tracking Software when you have a resume. ATS systems are notorious for filtering out the WRONG people and presenting candidates to hiring managers who have the wrong experience. And recruiters spend less than 10 seconds looking at your resume.
Networking and referrals can trump resumes.
Too many people worry about every little detail on a resume. Imagine If it was used as your only judge of character. It won’t help you stand out, not from the thousands of other applicants you’re competing with. Rather, spend your energies on things far more important. Like making sure you understand all of the requirements and responsibilities of a job description you’re applying for, so you can prove you’re the right fit. Or building your professional network. Or use referrals and mentors to help you get in front of the right audience. Then your resume doesn’t matter as much.
- How to get referrals. You can create opportunities for yourself by having an “IN” at a company. Referrals are an extremely coveted avenue for companies. If a company gets a referral from someone performing well, most of the time that referral is good candidate and works out.
So what if I don’t have a “IN”? Create one! How?
- Network Network Network. Use platforms like linkedin and get into conversations around relevant subject matter to an industry or topic. Become a “regular”, by asking questions, provoking thought, and sharing your opinion. Then NETWORK with these individuals in person. Go to relevant events in the industry and put yourself out there! (go to small meet-ups and trade shows. Some of these are free! If they cost too much money, find a way to hit afterparties or small groups around the event) Hand out business cards with your contact information and linkedin profile so people can look you up later. Connect with the most meaningful contacts at each event.
- Linkedin: If you’re new to linkedin, add your personal contact list to your profile. That will allow you to connect with all of those connections, AND get 2nd level and 3rd level connections from those contacts. See if anyone of your connections knows someone at one of the companies you’re trying to work at.
- Mentors. Find people in your industry of interest that you view as a thought leader. Reach out to them (if the situation is appropriate) ask them to a coffee, your treat!! You’d be surprised.. A caramel macchiato can be a great 4 dollar investment in you getting the job, or at least great advice. Once a relationship is established, these people might be willing to refer you to real individuals that can help you.
More people are getting jobs without resumes.
On Linkedin, you can apply for most jobs with just your linkedin profile, and with just one click. A ton of online applications ask you to upload your resume, but the choice is OPTIONAL. If you network and get yourself in front of the right people, the resume can become much less important in the hiring process.
Companies also use recruiters to find them passive candidates; candidates that are high performing and doing well in their field of work and aren’t actively looking for new opportunities. It is unlikely for such candidates to have an updated resume.
Also, the better you do at your job, and the more senior your position, the work you do, BECOMES your resume. There are some who have navigated themselves from role to role, without needing a formal resume, for years.
To be 100% clear, you absolutely should have a resume, and you should update it periodically. Resumes can give your future managers and bosses a quick synopsis of your capabilities. But they only help you “get in the room.”
After that, the rest is up to you. Hopefully, you brought more than just your resume with you, to get the job done.