Why Much of the Advice About Resumes Is Wrong

You have heard it before.  “Make your resume stand out.”  This advice is based on the hope that the recruiters and hiring managers are going to say “By golly, this is the right candidate” just by looking at your resume as they diligently read through all of the resumes from those who have applied for a job.  Like a lot of advice, this is well-intentioned but dated and flat out wrong in most cases.

Not that long ago, sending and receiving resumes was difficult.  The employer had to place ads in newspapers and trade publications.  Job seekers would have to search through ads to find jobs.  When they found a job they liked, they would have to type another copy of their resume or go to a store with a copy machine to make copies.

Then they would need either mail copies of their resume – yes, through the post office – or they would drive to the location of the prospective employers and drop off their resume or fill out an application while onsite.

Your resume is a tool to keep you in the conversation.

Your resume is a tool to keep you in the conversation.

Bottom line it was harder for employers to get the word out about jobs to job seekers, and it was harder for job seekers to apply for jobs.  This meant that employers would be lucky to get 20-30 resumes for an opening.  The grunt work of reviewing resumes had to be done by hand, page by page, by the recruiter or hiring manager.  This meant that each and every resume was reviewed.

Back then, the advice was to keep it short, under a page, and make it stand out.  During those times, you had a short span of time that someone was looking at your resume to get their attention.  If you did, chances are you would be called up for an interview, and hopefully get the job.

Fast forward to today, things have changed.  The communication of job openings has become easier.  Employers can copy and paste details from one job posting to another and advertise another opening with the click of a mouse.  This has made it much easier for employers to advertise.

For job seekers, applying for these jobs has become even easier.  Word files of resumes can be used to apply over and over for different jobs.  With a web search, job seekers can easily find thousands of open jobs.  Countless numbers of jobs can be applied for in one sitting.  Many job posting services even allow job seekers to automate their applications for jobs as soon as the job is posted without ever having to see the actual job opening.

I am sure you can imagine that the number of applicants for each position has gone up.  It was not uncommon as a hiring manager for me to have 250 or more resumes submitted for a position.

Who do you think looks at all of these resumes?  The recruiter? Hiring manager? Administrative assistant?  Sadly, no one looks at most of the resumes in many cases.  For the recruiters and human resources folks, it would be next to impossible with all of the other positions needing to be hired to look at every single resume.

The reality is that the hiring manager probably has extra work to do because someone left the job and oftentimes the hiring manager is the one left making sure it all gets done.  Looking for resumes that “stand out” is not the top of their priority list.

Many companies have technology to do a lot of the sifting and sorting.  This means that oftentimes computers filter who might even have get the attention of the hiring managers and recruiters.  The truth is that once the resume is being looked at, the hiring manager is usually overwhelmed with other tasks and barely skimming through the resume.  They are usually not looking for a resume to jump out; they are looking for reasons to strike resumes and not have to interview or commit any more mental energy and focus on that candidate.  Sadly, the pool of resumes has to be thinned somehow.

Here is how you can combat this.  First off, never think of your resume as a tool to get your foot in the door or to get noticed.  It is merely a tool for you to communicate your experiences and accomplishments. It is also a tool for the employers to find ways to eliminate their ever growing pool of people.

Think of your resume as a chance to speak a little bit about yourself if you are lucky enough to get it the attention of the right people and means to keep you in consideration for the job.  It can also be a tool for hiring managers to keep straight who it is they would like to look at.  We will talk more about this at a later date.

Basically, it is a stage.  It is your time to shine and your potential job to lose at that point.  If you are lucky enough to have it seen by a hiring manager, you want it to not get it thrown out.

Last updated : February 17 2014

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