When the HR team says, “Your resume is on fire,” it’s probably not a reason to rejoice.
It’s disappointing when all those resume tips and tricks that you so religiously incorporated in your CV didn’t really impress your dream company.
While there’s no dearth of resume improvement articles that promise to reveal the secret tips and techniques to get you noticed, most invariably end up focusing on the best font size for resumes, the importance of using white space, bullet points and action words.
It’s not that the resume tips you’ve been reading are all wrong. In fact, many are quite useful.
What’s the problem then?
The problem isn’t with the resume tips per se. The bigger issue is with the basic concept of the resume itself.
Just like millions of other professionals, you have been relying only on your resume to give the world at large a peek into your capabilities and potential. That’s where the conventional and single most powerful tool of the recruiting world fails.
Why even the best CV tips and tricks don’t help much
Here are some reasons why the traditional resume fails to deliver.
1. Resume format issues
Among the top tips you’ll get to improve your resume, one would be to keep it short, and rightfully so. Often, a 1 pager can capture most of the key skills and accomplishments you want to highlight.
The law of diminishing returns applies to resume lengths too. Even if you think, you’ve achieved a lot in your career to fill a book, an HR manager would hardly have the patience to read a long (10-page) resume.
This means that the standard resume format forces you to squeeze it all into a short space. This means that the nuances of what you can offer lose out to the simple, quantifiable points (like certifications, size / duration of projects).
2. Biased contents
When you are writing to promote yourself, you wouldn’t go out of the way to highlight your shortcomings. The focus would be on your strengths.
It’s also highly likely that you customised the resume for a particular set of opportunities you are targeting. That would mean picking and choosing the words to match the job-description.
Apart from being biased, the reader also knows that there may be a fair bit of exaggerations about your self-rated capabilities.
It then comes down to how credible, selective and elite your academic institutions and former employers were.
3. Historic & possibly irrelevant data
Your reverse chronological listing of roles and companies would take you back to graduation days.
The junior levels you took on earlier straight out of college compete for space with your most recent accomplishments.
When you’ve changed careers (for instance, after an MBA), your resume is still expected to host the details of those old and irrelevant jobs.
The common factor is that you are using a whole lot of backward facing data to convince your recruiter of your current and future potential.
Out of personal interest, though it isn’t part of your formal job description, you may have gained some knowledge about a particular industry or role or skill which may be relevant for the next opportunity. Such aspects are largely ignored in the conventional resume.
4. Limited air-time
By virtue of the CV format and the manner in which readers are used to evaluating them, even the best written resumes would possibly get a few seconds of air-time.
What registers in that short time-frame is your qualification, number of years of experience, industry, function and the league of companies you’ve worked for.
That’s hardly sufficient for anyone to form a realistic perception of you as a multi-faceted individual.
5. Wrong timing
More often than not, recruiters who are seriously looking at your resume are responding to a hiring mandate that’s been dumped on them by an impatient manager who wants.
They are under pressure to hunt for the most ideal candidate to fill in a position. All they have as a reference point is the idealistic job description that the manager cooked up when asked to describe the perfect candidate for the job.
In such a situation, the initial filtering is done pretty mechanically based on keywords and phrases that exist in your resume and match with the ideal candidate.
That in turn means that your resume serves very little purpose apart from than getting standing out in the crowd. That’s a tough sell, when most candidate applying for the job might have similar credentials, skills and work-experience.
While there may be other reasons, the five we’ve covered here are already making the all-powerful resume look vulnerable.
Does it mean you should discard the resume and start getting all creative just to stand out?
No, that wouldn’t help. The big proportion of the recruiting world still relies on the lowly resume to quickly get a feel for what you can offer them. So, the resume isn’t going out of fashion any time soon. And in all fairness, it does serve a purpose.
However, what you can do is to supplement the resume with additional tools that an interested party (like a recruiter, a business partner or a prospective client) could evaluate to decide whether they should take the next step of reaching out to you.
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