Most job boards have a post about the first résumé somewhere in their blog history. Leonardo DaVinci’s résumé written in 1482 is often used to show how to write a good résumé. Experts say that DaVinci omitted some of his most famous artistic skills on purpose. Instead, he focused on the skills his audience, the Duke of Milan, would find most useful (e.g. fortifying castles and building siege engines).
Generally, this story teaches job seekers to tailor their résumés to each employer so that only the most relevant skills are listed. This helps to project the image that the job seeker is the perfect fit for the job.
But this same story about DaVinci and his résumé is also cited in a growing debate. Is the résumé losing its relevance?
There is reason to think so. Consider the following developments since the dawn of the Information Age:
Don’t doubt it. Employers are still reading résumés. But once they have a shortlist of candidates, they will “Google” the names on the list for any social media profiles that might give them further insight into the background and character of their candidates. In one of the more controversial approaches, called “social media snooping,” employers have requested their candidates’ social media passwords. The process is being banned almost as quickly as it became popular. But the problem of social media remains. For better or worse, it threatens the résumé because it can so easily reveal the “real” person behind the possibly embellished résumé.
Online Job Boards
Over the last several years, job seekers are increasingly submitting résumés to online job boards as the first step in finding a job. To illustrate this, Monster.com boasts roughly 30 million résumés on file. But not one of those résumés is tailored to address the needs of a specific employer. The process of submitting a single, generic resume to a broad audience is counter to DaVinci’s time-tested approach.
Digitization and Keyword Search
By digitizing the résumé and storing the data from millions of keyword-parsed résumés in databases, online job boards solved one problem by creating another. Employers now have access to a seemingly endless trove of talent, and they have enough experience with search engines to be very comfortable with the process of keyword search. But with too many irrelevant résumés mixed among the few relevant ones, keyword search can be ineffective.
Misspellings, abbreviations, and flat-out different ways to describe the same skill can be huge problems. In recent years, some measures have been taken to get around these obstacles. For instance, keywords are matched to other keywords, misspellings, and abbreviations to enhance the search performance. But the biggest underlying issue remains: by design, the résumé is only a summary of one’s skills. This means a standard résumé does not include every single skill that a job seeker possesses. Oftentimes, the more general, “umbrella” skills are the ones that make the cut to the finalized, one-page résumé. Unfortunately, employers often find these generalized skills are often not specific enough to be useful.
So Is It? Or Isn’t It?
A lot of articles out there comment on the relevance of the résumé. Some say it is a dead or dying medium and others point to its 530+ years as evidence of its permanence. So which is it? Is the résumé “going… going… gone?” or is more like the Energizer Bunny—just “going and going?”
For job seekers, it almost doesn’t matter. As long as some employers rely on the résumé, job seekers will want to keep an up-to-date résumé.
For employers, the résumé is clearly in jeopardy as the be-all, end-all document of candidate selection. In fact, certain big “résumé bank” job boards now offer special services in which the employer pays the job board to search its own database of résumés to find viable candidates. This is a blatant admission that it is difficult for employers to find what they are looking for.
Perhaps the standard résumé format is still valid. But when it comes to sifting through thousands of job seekers to find the exact skills required, a more precise and comprehensive solution is greatly welcomed.