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Ask the Headhunter/ General Management

The Naked Truth About Resumes

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by Nick Corcodilos
Contributing Writer
CMO.com

See More by this author >

Article Highlights:

  • The traditional resume doesn’t need dressing up.
  • Efforts to "reinvent" the resume stem from a simple misconception.
  • The substantive discussion and exchange of information that gets you in the door has to happen one-to-one.

No matter how high tech recruiting becomes, the old-fashioned resume is still king—or maybe emperor. Social media entrepreneur Joel Cheesman says this emperor doesn’t need any new clothes—and suggests that career industry entrepreneurs selling newfangled resumes are looking kinda naked.

It seems everybody in the career biz who’s trying to make a buck has bet their angel funding on dressing up the recruiting process with bling—while doing nothing to improve it. These guys are touting more resume formats describing your estimable credentials than any recruiter could ever handle, including video resumes, infographic resumes, visual resumes, social resumes, Internet-based resumes.

But the traditional resume doesn’t need dressing up, says Cheesman in “This ‘Reinventing-The-Resume’ Thing Needs To Stop:” “There’s a reason resumes are the way they are. They work. They work because they’ve become standardized. Recruiters know the format. Job seekers are taught early on this format.”

Imagine soliciting applicants for a job and receiving not just thousands of resumes, but having to sit through hundreds of 10-minute videos and wade through thousands of infographics to figure out where someone worked and what they did last year. (I lampooned multimedia resumes in “When Recruiting, What Kind Of Resume Do You Look For?”)

Before Cheesman reinvented his own career to focus on SEO and mobile marketing (his new company, Morale.me, just introduced an app to track employee satisfaction), he made a name in the online recruiting space. He knows what he’s talking about when he pillories such startups as Beyond.com (“here to deliver career opportunities that are right for you every step of the way”) that suggest employers should drop everything and learn to read infographic resumes.

He cites one ill-fated new idea, a startup named VisualCV (“a revolutionary approach to creating an Internet-based resume”) whose blind dive off the career cliff has been followed by countless other hapless career-biz lemmings: “It was fun for a while, and high-profile names like Guy Kawasaki got on board. Five years hence, the site is still live but the most recent press release is from 2009 and the footer copyright reads 2011. It’s fair to say it didn’t take off. And a few more years of Facebook and Pinterest won’t change that.”

Efforts to "reinvent" the resume stem from a simple misconception: that a resume is "your marketing piece," and that its purpose is to "get you in the door." But today resumes are too much of a commodity. They are dumb, blind documents that don't recognize their recipients or defend their subjects. Trying to turn them into something that screams "Me! Me! Me!" is a fool's errand--but I admit, I have a great time watching these antics and the fool marketers behind them.

The purpose of a resume is to help an employer you've met--who has already expressed an interest in you--fill in the blanks about your background. But the substantive discussion and exchange of information that gets you in the door has to happen one-to-one--or you and your resume wind up on the trash heap. That's why the traditional resume is perfectly fine.

The employment industry is awash with wannabe entrepreneurs trying to turn a simple, historical document into a digital billboard. Can we please admit to job hunters that resumes are what you leave behind, not what you send in advance?

Cheesman quotes “industry vet” Peter Weddle endorsing Beyond.com’s latest resume bling: “In today’s hypercompetitive job market, job seekers need a way to stand out. . .”

And I say, yeah, job seekers can stand out by doing the hard work of creating real-time shared experiences with employers they want to work for. If you’re waiting for your “Career Portfolio” to get that employer’s attention, then you're not worth interviewing.

Cheesman concludes: “Resumes work because everyone knows the rules, and expectations are met. Expecting to change consumer behavior is a failed experiment. Just ask Ron Johnson, the now ex-CEO of JC Penney.”

The employment industry needs to stop playing dress-up. Better to put its serviceable old coat back on, and let resumes be resumes.

About Nick Corcodilos

Nick Corcodilos writes "Ask The Headhunter," a weekly blog on CMO.com in which he shows you how to tackle the daunting obstacles that job hunters and managers face when trying to work together. From time to time, Corcodilos also will provide feature stories offering insights into various management career strategies, In addition, his newest books, Keep Your Salary Under Wraps, How to Work with Headhunters and How Can I Change Careers?, are available as PDFs.

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