Last week, a local job training program asked me to put together a talk on resume basics. As I started preparing, I realized it would be useful to remind everyone why we will continue writing resumes as we approach 2024. So, here are three questions to think about:
- Why should we write a resume?
- Why will “old school” resume templates no longer work?
- Can we create one resume for all your job applications?
Our world has changed since the start of the new millennium, and so has job search. When I finished college, I had a resume typed up, and then walked around Manhattan distributing offset-printed copies. A client tried this strategy in 2020, and then told me no one would see him or accept his printed document. So, why do we still need a resume in the 2020s?
Why should we write a resume?
Your resume is one tool for promoting the benefits of hiring you. It lays out your personal brand, business and technical skills, professional and business accomplishments, work history, education, training, and related information to readers.
It’s easy to understand why some jobseekers feel they do not need a resume. We can go to websites such as LinkedIn that will build resumes for us or provide the same information to employers. The majority of large employers also have online applications that will connect with your LinkedIn profile so you do not necessarily need to develop a resume first.
But there is strong rationale for creating your own resume. First, the resume is your document. You can use the resume to tell your own professional career story your way.
Remember that the online application you complete is the employer’s document. It is designed to collect the information your prospective employer needs in a format that is useful for them.
Similarly, LinkedIn is a corporate social media platform with its own agenda. Although LinkedIn has many features that benefit jobseekers, it is also employer-driven. Much of its revenue appears to come from recruiters that pay to use it as a talent-search tool. An outstanding profile and thoughtful posts will benefit us, but someone else controls it.
Develop your own business resumes to tell your story the way you want to communicate it in writing. Don’t let LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, or any other site control your career marketing message.
Why will “old-school” resume templates no longer work?
There is no right or wrong way to design a resume. We have found though, that there are some common “old-school” formats that will not work anymore. For example, there are resume templates online that make heavy use of MS-Word tables. A resume that is entirely constructed within a table can be difficult for an employer’s applicant tracking system (ATS) to interpret. A few weeks ago, I even received one that was difficult for me to interpret, although I read resumes constantly. Most importantly, the jobseeker landed no interviews with the resume.
Old resume templates may also ask jobseekers to include items such as their job objective. Briefly, a job objective tells employers what you want to do, rather than what business problems you will address for them. Templates may also include sections that take up space without providing useful information. For example, “references provided upon request” is a waste of space. Of course you will provide references when asked! And most of the time, no one cares if you like reading, traveling, and your puppy, so that is a waste of space, too.
Another resume format most coaches consider ineffective today is the so-called functional resume. Some of us used functional resumes—formats that organized our experience by job function instead of putting jobs in reverse-chronological order—“back in the day” to emphasize experience that was most closely related to the job we are applying for at the time.
A client I worked with some time ago was frustrated when I recommended that she avoid the functional format. ATS systems don’t digest functional resumes well because they don’t match dates of employment with the work an applicant did.
Hiring teams don’t like functional resumes either, although people are better at dealing with ambiguity than computers. Specifically, hiring teams feel job applicants are hiding something when they do not present their work experience in reverse-chronological order.
Fortunately, there is a solution when your reverse-chronological experience may be a disadvantage. You can use a strong personal brand statement and accomplishment-based summary and place it above our reverse-chronological work history. For example, a client that worked as a personal care provider and home tutor during the pandemic has a personal brand statement and summary that focuses on her experience as a medical secretary and administrative leader in a large medical practice.
So, do not despair if your career took a detour during the pandemic or for some other reason. There will be a way to make your resume work for you.
Should you create one resume for all your job applications?
The “one size fits all” strategy that was once popular is another outmoded way of doing business. It was challenging years ago for most of us to type and submit a unique resume for each job application.
Now it is relatively easy for most of us to generate a unique resume for every job opportunity. Often, we can customize a resume for specific employers with small changes to personal brand statements, summaries, and by reordering accomplishment bullets to emphasize different experiences.
A client in London, England, for example, customized the American-style resume I worked on with her to suit the preferences of British employers. She used the US version for jobs with American organizations. Later, she reported landing several consulting projects with versions of the resume we developed together.
While you may not want to collaborate with a coach on a unique resume for each specific job, you can get a tremendous head start with a strong “base resume.”
The resume is not dead. Despite continued predictions that the resume is going away, it will still be with us in 2024 and beyond. Your resume will remain a powerful tool for promoting your personal brand, skills, work experience, education, and training to prospective employers.