The End of the Resume: R.I.P.

The resume or curriculum vitae (Latin meaning course of life) is dead as we know it. This decade of the Internet has already changed the way we look for work, are screened for work, and are recruited. The resume in its usually rather drab and inconsistent dress has gradually given way to the list of key words that satisfy the applicant tracking systems and automated database entry that most large companies now own. Even smaller companies are opting to use an outside service to scan resumes or are purchasing any of a number of smaller systems that are cost effective and adequate for organizations with low volumes of openings and resumes. These rather crude matching systems are now evolving into interactive tools for building resumes in real time and for simultaneously conducting aptitude and interest testing. Entire books have been written giving hints on how to write a resume for this electronic age. Many of them include lists of words that will get your resume noticed by a recruiter. Many job seekers trade secrets and discuss strategies on how to beat the system and get their resume into the hands of an actual human recruiter who may see merit where the computer doesn’t. At outplacement seminars topics include discussion and practice in crafting resumes that list all relevant words that might result in a match with a job. Applicants are taught how to read a job decryption and ferret out the significant words and phrases. Dictionaries of key words are passed around the Internet. There are 5 downsides to resumes from an employers perspective: (1) they are written by the candidate and show only favorable information and use key words to influence the matching process, (2) they do not include all the information an employer may want, (3) they are too general to clearly identify what the candidate is interested in, (4) they require a written (and administratively time consuming) response, and (5) they have to be scanned into some form of database to be easily accessible to hiring managers and recruiters. As the job market remains tight for skilled people (and it will remain this way for at least the next decade despite the economy, Asia, or Clinton simply because of supply), the paper resume will slip into oblivion. The process of applying for a job will be more interactive and more focused on a variety of parameters rather than the few that can be encompassed in a resume. I think all of us agree that our careers are more than a piece of paper. I have heard candidates say countless times: “My resume doesn’t really reflect what I can do.” Sharp managers also realize that a person who has a skill doesn’t necessarily become a great employee. Other things such as attitude, energy level, creativity, and philosophy all play a part in making someone a good employee. These are traits and abilities that don’t come across on paper very well. Because of this, some organizations are now developing web sites that build a resume for you by asking the questions the company wants to ask and by ‘forcing’ you to supply the information the organization needs to make a decision about proceeding on with you or not. Cisco and Microsoft have built web sites that not only build a resume, of sorts, but also screen you for a variety of jobs based on how you answer a series of questions. Microsoft has developed an on-line aptitude test that then automatically recommends a variety of jobs that a candidate might be interested in. More companies will begin automating the process of gathering basic information about a candidate. The process is already accelerating as we end 1998. Korn Ferry has teamed up with the Wall Street Journal to offer FutureStep, a program that determines interest and aptitude and then builds an on-line profile in real time of potential candidates. World Hire, a newly started company in Austin, Texas has developed a number of tools that aid a company in building a profile of potential candidates and then ranks candidates based on how they have responded to questions that have been weighted by the hiring manager. World Hire also builds an on-going relationship with candidates and keeps information current. I predict that between now and the turn of the century most large companies will have modified their web sites to include interactive, real-time resume building. These sites will take the candidate through a discovery process about the company and the potential jobs. They will be very interactive, have video and audio, and give a prospective candidate a realistic preview of what the company is like. At the same time, the site will collect information from the candidate about education and experience, probe for skills, assess interests, ask for opinions and ideas, and in the end offer a hiring manager a much more rounded picture of a candidate than can be done with a paper resume. Look for more and more tools and companies to pop up that help your create these sites. Also look for tools that evaluate skills and that assess interests. These are available now but will be greatly enhanced and sophisticated over the next two years. The resume has had a good run — more than 80 years — and will live on electronically in a vastly different format. May all those resumes in file cabinets and file folders around the world rest in peace as they crumble into dust.

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at