Sorry, folks, you still need a resume

Seth Godin says: I think if you're remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn't have a resume at all. 

Unfortunately, I think Seth is leading people astray. I could count on one hand the people that I would hire without a resume. For everyone else, spectacular or not, I want to see everything I can about their background. It's a matter of efficiency.

Also, consider that the resume is the ticket to the interview. The interview is where you prove your spectacularness. Without the resume, you aren't going to get the chance.

Seth also may not be aware of compliance issues for government contractors (which includes more companies than you would think). Resume required. Period.

And good luck to all those folks that just read Seth's article and decided that they are spectacular enough not to have a resume. What's the bar for spectacular and is anyone really objective enough to decide that they are or aren't? The hubris of the prospect that tells me they are unwilling to forward a resume is enough of a red flag for me. Donald Trump doesn't need a resume, Seth Godin doesn't need a resume. You? You need a resume. The fact that you have time to read my blog means you need a resume. Don't worry, I do too.

I think I understand what Seth was trying to get at (though I don't think it's an either/or proposition). Unfortunately, he wrote it for such an incredibly small fraction of the population and many more people read his blog. And many of those people will  remember his point as "you don't need a resume" and that's just plain old bad advice.

Comments (27)

  1. Wine-Oh says:

    I see the resume as an outline or a table of contents to a person and their work history. The more I have interviewed for specific niche jobs (sorry I dont have a common background as a dr or lawyer or CPA), the more I find myself talking with hiring managers conversation style about my achievements and skills. They use the resume to see where I worked and the path I took, but want to hear about projects, budgets, managing people, etc backed up by specific examples or experiences. One can only highlight those things on a resume.

    Simply put, a resume can be used to pique someones interest, but you need to be able to back up what you did and  be able to show achievement and success when asked about it.

  2. Jason davis says:

    Hey heather, it was nice seeing you last week.

  3. JRS says:

    A resume is the skeleton of your career.  It’s your frame and (hopefully) supports you.  Everything else is the flesh that surrounds it which comes out once you get in the door for the interview.  But without those bones you might as well just be a mushy blob to a potential employer.

    All the things Seth mentioned can be used in conjunction with a resume.  I doubt it is worthwhile to sit at home and expect your reputation to proceed you into that great job you want.  You may be waiting quite a while.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, agreed.

    Jason – likewise

    JRS – exactly!

  5. RB says:

    Donald Trump? I’d hire him to shovel pig excrement. And even then he’d pile it as high as he possibly could and name it Trump Crap Pile.

  6. seth godin says:

    Did Ray Ozzie send his resume to Steve?

    My point is that living like you don’t have a resume (and then making one later) is a lot more likely to lead to happiness than relying on randomly getting picked as a needle in a haystack.

    The interesting other riff, Heather, is that amazing companies (including your competitors) are working hard to find and recruit the kind of people who would never dream of mailing in a resume.

    After all, the best hires are often those not looking for a job!

  7. Native Wizdom says:

    Resume are a good start of presenting your talent/value to a perspective employer. However, EVERYONE submits a resume, so what level of uniqueness should I reach in order to attract interest??  

    Sure degrees are fine..but most people in my field have degrees (MBA and JD), so this is not unique.  Networking is also not unique but is helpful.

    Just need some way to add spice/uniqueness to my resume.

  8. btu says:

    I agree with the conversation here EXCEPT the one (and mind you, only one) time I was called on by a recruiter.  We spoke by phone for a good hour.  I’d been referred by a professional contact and they had seen my profile on LinkedIn  (which is completely filled out).  They wanted me to interview on site, but insisted in me producing a resume.  It struck me as quite "old school."  There should have been enough material to move forward without testing my ability to compose an updated resume.

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, I just don’t know that Ray Ozzie read your blog post, Seth 🙂 A lot of people that aren’t at the level of Ray Ozzie, reputation-wise, will believe that they don’t have to have a resume based on your words.

    Oh, and "getting picked" isn’t random. It’s based on the resume and the extend to which the skills on the resume match the requirements of the job.

    We reach out to people outside of those that are posting their resumes online or sending them in. But for us to get serious about them as a prospect (and invest time in interviews(, they generally have to have a resume. Maybe that is where there’s a disconnect; the difference between "having" a resume and posting it online. We call people all the time based on recommendations, reputations, etc.

    As for our competitors, some of them have GPA requirements and I think that’s a load of bunk too. Anyway, just my .02 😉

  10. JobsBlog says:

    Argh.  It’s evident from Seth’s comment above that he not only misunderstood Heather’s argument but he’s talking about something entirely different from what he conveyed to his readers. Sure … a great word of mouth reputation (via blogs, industry presence, etc) is a fantastic way to lead you to your next job.  It can be even more powerful than a resume.  No one is arguing that.  But once you are plucked for that dream job, most companies (yes, even Microsoft’s competitors 🙂 will need your resume to seal the deal.

    I know Seth (and many others before and after him) write this kind of stuff to spark debate, but it’s completely inaccurate – and potentially harmful – advice, and it really irks me.

    Good response, Heather!


  11. Wine-Oh says:

    Heather you raise a good point about competition. Each company has its own process for hiring. I know Microsoft has its loop interview and another large company has GPA requirements. I’ve been through both (and a few others at some large companies I am not going to name). The company I work at now conducts behavioral interviewing.

    However I was always bothered with the GPA requirement. Its used as a discriminating factor and I don’t like that. The person I was at 18, is not the same person at 34. If I can do the job and am the right person, why does my GPA from undergrad matter? I got into grad school and have an MBA. Yet this place wouldnt get past the undergrad GPA being below their requirement. I told them it was because of my freshman year and having to miss alot of school due to an illness. They didn’t care. Looking back, I am ok it didn’t work out. If it was meant to be it would have happened.  /End rant.

  12. It seems to me, Heather, that you’re intentionally misreading Seth’s blog. His overarching premise is that truly incredible people don’t need resumes to get truly incredible jobs. And he’s right. But wait, there’s more: Seth does suggest that there are other means of proving one’s abilities, that truly spectacular people have these means, and that all of them are "objectively" better than a Word document purporting to "prove" your worth as an employee.

    And what, by the way, is so objective about a resume? The dates of employment? The duties and responsibilities? How does any of this prove one’s employability? You seem to think that other "objective" means of determining ability—such as GPA requirements—are bunk; what is it about resumes that’s somehow different or better than a GPA requirement? I would think a GPA is a FAR better indicator of someone’s ability to maintain a certain level of performance.

    Here’s the real deal: resumes are the TRADITIONAL way we determine a candidate’s worth. Whether or not they’re an EFFECTIVE determinant is an open question. Seriously. How many candidates with sparkling resumes have you referred to your HMs that turn out to be total schmucks?

    I think Seth is on to something. There are ginormously superior ways to identify great candidates.

  13. HeatherLeigh says:

    Native – uniqueness isn’t the key, it’s the degree to which your skills match the position requirements. How about writing your resume specifically for the position you are interested in? You could even mention the position by title in your objective statement if you have one.

    btu – a LinkedIn profile can be close to a resume, but would look a little unprofessional when it was passed around to the interview team on interview day. The recruiter did you a favor. If they forwarded your LinkedIn profile, nobody would have thought you were serious about the job.

    Samson – nope, just because I disagree does not mean that I am misreading (or "intentionally misreading"….which is an odd thing to say since we don’t know each other).

  14. Has anyone gotten tired of Seth yet besides me?  Please say yes.

    Let’s face it, we can’t all be spectacular now can we…..

  15. Thanks for this post.  There’s lots of talk about the demise of the traditional resume and the "next generation" resume (linkedin profiles instead of resumes, video resumes, online documents with lots of links, etc.).

    It seems to me that a great traditional resume can still stand out in the crowd.  Maybe Seth just got a lot of bad resumes applying for his internship.  Anyone applying should have realized that he would have welcomed something unique and gone for it.  However, as you note, most people are still looking for a resume that they can easily scan in 7 seconds, use for compliance, etc. and move on.  

    I think the demise of the traditional resume is greatly exaggerated 🙂

    Miriam Salpeter

    Keppie Careers

  16. HeatherLeigh says:

    Insane – I think there’s a lot of pressure at his level of notoriety to come up with things that are interesting/challenging/controversial. I try to keep in mind that he is a marketing person, not a recruiting person and he probably wasn’t thinking about the effect that his words would have on people who erroneously considered themselves "spectacular" : ) I don’t want to make excuses for him though.

    Miriam – agree. People can find other ways to get attention in addition to the resume. Doesn’t mean they still shouldn’t have one.

  17. I dont think his notion is controversial, I think it is just inane or even, dare I say, silly

    And just so you know, I’m f’ing spectacular!!!

  18. HeatherLeigh says:

    Insane – I have no doubt! No resume for you! Hee!

  19. There’s another way to interpret Seth’s blog, I think.  I took it not so much as a literal objection to simply *having* a resume if it’s required as a paperwork formality during the hiring process, but as a statement that there are better ways to get noticed than by sending out resumes.  And those ways are the very things Seth mentioned:  having a reputation that proceeds you (Ray Ozzie, Linus Torvalds, Guido von Rossum, etc.), having an awesome project you’re involved with (again, examples like Linux, Guido, and oodles more), a great blog, etc.

    So what’s the take-way from that suggestion? I took it as something like this:

    IF you don’t already have the reputation, project, blog, etc. that gets you noticed for great jobs, start establishing it.  Start an interesting project, start volunteering to speak on your topic(s) of expertise, start writing on your subject of expertise, etc.  

    The goal, I think, should be to be in a position where you never have to *look* for a job, because people are actively seeking you out. Or failing that, to be in a position where you can call a contact at Company X and say "get me a job with you guys" and feel pretty confident that they’ll be falling over themselves to hire you once they know you’re interested.

    And even if you fall a little short of that ideal situation; taking those steps will still be good for your career and job prospects.

  20. Greg Paskill says:

    The problem with resumes is they only speak about what you have done.  They do not convey well what you can do.

    Resumes exacerbate the erroneous focus on background that many employers have.  They then cry that no qualified applicants are to be found because no one has done what they need doing.  Well, they’ve only got themselves to blame, because they really don’t encourage themselves nor candidates to explore and document what the CURRENT job entails.  (Many times in a fast changing world, past experience is useless!)

    If you really want to see candidates in action, ask them to write something else besides a tombstone resume.  Ask them to produce an engaging document that says what they’ll do for you if hired.  That’s what entrepreneurs do, they put together business plans hoping to find buyers.

    As a hiring manager, I’ve learned to stop accepting and submitting resumes.  To me, it is orgasmic to land a job without a resume.  And candidates I’ve interviewed tell me they like it when I say "I’m not interested in your past, I’m interested in your present and future with us."

  21. HeatherLeigh says:

    Greg – employers will never stop wanting to know what a prospect has done in their past. The interview is when prospects can show what they *can* do. It’s not an either/or thing. You need both and the resume is what gets you the interview. And I am not trying to be contrary just for the fun of it, but a VC is not going to give an entrepreneur money without knowing their background. I graduated from the Entrepreneur Program at USC and I know this.

    You have a lot more time to interview unqualified applicants than I do! I’m sorry but I can’t believe that you don’t care at all what a person has done in their past and rely on a document about what *they* think they can do. Why not just post a sign outside that says "free job to anyone that thinks they can do it."

    Sorry, but I just don’t buy that as an effective way for companies to hire people.

  22. sfpoppy says:

    Thanks for the level-headed response to Seth’s post. "Hubris" is right on. In the “old days,” the image of an accountant under fluorescent lights was shorthand for "cog" and "soulless corporate sad sack sellout." I guess that’s been upped to anyone who sends out a resume. Of course, that’s ridiculous. There is no “everyone else” and “ordinary people.”  I’d like to watch all these fabulous people wield their fabulousness to never land any job whatsoever, because that’s not how it works. No one likes a 21-year-old snothead, period. My advice? Augment the resume. Duh. But curb that sense of entitlement.

  23. HeatherLeigh says:

    sfpoppy, right on!

  24. Greg Paskill says:

    Focusing on the present is indeed an effective way to hire because it gets both employer and candidate to concentrate on the one thing that matters:  the job!

    Many candidates tell me they’re sick and tired of going to behavioral interview after behavioral interview where all they talk about is what they did for somebody else.  Then little time is spent on what they’ll actually be doing if hired.

    Have you ever asked people from the false world of resumes and interviews why they really want to change jobs?  Many people are sick of doing the same old, same old.  Their past employers have pigeonholed them and they refuse to let others do that to them too.

    No, I don’t have "a lot more time to interview unqualified applicants,"  Heather. I never see the unqualified because what I hold paramount is competence.  If you, the candidate, want to see us, you must demonstrate competence from the start.  Whether or not you’ve actually done the job before doesn’t matter; we all have to start somewhere, and some of us employers are over our fear of making hiring mistakes.  If you’d like to show us in terms of what you’ve done before, that’s okay.  If none of your employers gave you the chance to succeed and you can do so with us to your benefit, it’s to our benefit.

    If you demonstrate competence in terms of what I need done now, I’ll make time for you.  If you haven’t even taken time to understand the job, understand our company, and understand your role in it, I gladly release you to waste time with our competitors.

    And for all this to happen, the employer must know what it takes to do the job.  Reality is many employers don’t know what they want.

  25. Greg Paskill says:

    Incidentally, is today’s system that great?  Why must machine or man wade through countless resumes?

    Today’s resume system doesn’t separate the really great candidates from the wannabees.  The Internet has made it worse, where any job hunter can mindlessly submit 100’s with mere copy-and-paste.  At least with snail mail, you had to really think where to invest your postage.

    An employment proposal, however, can’t be duplicated across 100’s of employers and 100’s of positions.  An employment proposal is used for a specific company and a specific opening.  It need be only 2 pages at most, beginning with an explanation of how you will do the job.  If I as the manager know what it takes to do the job, a candidate can’t use halo effects, mirroring and other persuasive techniques to pull one on me.  (Employment proposals were once suggested by John Crystal.)

    I’ve given this to applicants, and it’s interesting how more than 80% eliminate themselves.  They either don’t really know how to do the job, or they see it’s not the job for them, or they don’t want to bother.  Less work for me, then, because I then only have to schedule time for the truly committed.

  26. HeatherLeigh says:

    I think what you are missing, Greg, is that employers pick behavioral interview questions that are relevant to the job opening. They aren’t just picked randomly for fun. They are derived from a deep understanding of the *relevant* competencies associated with the job.

    Anyway, it sounds to me like you are arguing both sides of the fence (I’m still not sure whether you like th resume or not) without really articulating what the solution is. Am I missing something? What should the process look like in your ideal situation?

  27. HeatherLeigh says:

    And I gotta say, that it’s amazing that I am posting this comment 3 hours in the future. Blog control dude, where’s my blog settings?

Skip to main content