Is the paper resume dead?

Not yet.  But I think that day is coming.  Frankly, I’m not too upset about it either. 

I have never been fond of deciding whether or not to grant a job applicant an actual interview based solely on what he or she wrote in a resume.  Anyone that knows me or has heard me speak at conferences on the subject of recruiting will also tell you that I have strong opinions on relying solely on the number of years of experience that an applicant has to in order to decide whether to grant interviews.  I think both of these tactics are foolish.  Here’s why:

In the past, people (myself included) were told that you have to fit everything on ONE page or your resume will be immediately tossed.  I remember trying to do that early in my career.  I was no stranger to 8-point fonts.  As an executive, I also remember trying to read such resumes with squinted eyes and in some cases, a magnifying glass.  How ridiculous!  But, it all had to be on one page, right?  While the one page rule has been relaxed a bit over time, there are still people that cram their whole lives into their resumes.  And it’s just silly.   To be honest, I don’t care what you did on your summer breaks 15 years ago and I certainly don’t want you to have to try to fit what you think are the most important achievements of your career onto just one page.

As for experience – how many qualified, smart, and passionate applicants don’t even bother to apply for a position because they see that spirit-killing last line in the posting?  You know the one: “must have XX years experience.”  Don’t get me wrong; experience is indeed necessary for many positions.  I am not arguing otherwise.  However, I don’t think that a candidate should be disqualified solely because he or she only has 8 years of experience rather than the requested 10.  Sadly, entirely too many professionals are subject to “weeding out” based on that one criterion, i.e., number of years of experience.   Never mind that in those 8 years, the applicant has achieved more than many people do in their entire careers.  Never mind that due to his or her achievements in those 8 years, the applicant commands more respect as a leader than the guy with 25 years of experience that will eventually land the job.  There is no possible way that a recruiter can learn everything there is to know about a person from a resume.  There is no way to effectively gauge a person’s entire skill set, personality, passion, drive, commitment, and ability to do a job from reading a few words on a piece (or pieces) of paper.

So, what will happen to the paper resume?  We are already starting to hear about organizations using more advanced tactics to find job candidates.  An applicant’s social media footprint is being looked at.  More employers want applicants to provide a video or another kind of media besides the written resume.  As the marketplace continues to evolve and professionals become more tech-savvy, I think that the days of the paper resume are numbered.  And I hope that intuition and gut-feeling take on bigger roles in selecting job applicants for the next step.

Walt Disney never put too much focus on the number of years of experience a person had.  He wanted to know if the person had the right attitude and the potential to do the job well.  Perhaps recruiters and human resources personnel will consider these criteria in addition to the others.


Sean McDonald

Sean McDonald

Sean McDonald is the President of Your Full Potential, LLC and the Founder of ABSURD! Leadership.  He is a highly regarded speaker at national and international conferences for the credit ... Web: Details