Is the Resume Dead?

Last Updated May 18, 2011 4:14 PM EDT

The internet is full of advice for making your resume better. People hire "experts" (who may or may not really be experts) to write and revise resumes. We fill them with key words so that we'll get plucked out of obscurity by a computer. And what if all of this is a big waste of time? Michael Margolis argues The Resume is Dead, The Bio is King. He writes:
Gone are the days of "Just the facts, M'am." Instead we're all trying to suss each other out in the relationship economy. Do I share something in common with you? How do we relate to each other? Are you relevant to my work?
These are the types of things that belong in a cover letter and more and more that cover letter is getting people the job. Management guru and cover letter writer extraordinaire, Alison Green, recently published an email she received from an entry level candidate who scored two job offers after changing her cover letter to be, well, more like the biography Mr. Margolis writes about. The successful job seeker writes:
I started sending out letters that sounded more like me (I had been writing letters specific to each job already, thanks to your advice). It felt like a pretty big gamble, but I wasn't hearing anything back from my generic-y, extremely formal letters so I figured I had nothing to lose.

I've only had the chance to send out two, but both of those yielded interviews and then offers! I'm an entry-level out-of-towner applying for jobs in New York, so getting two offers in less than a week is extra-amazing.
People who get selected by the computer due to their ability to guess what key words the recruiter is thinking are almost all going to have the necessary knowledge, skills and ability to do the job at hand. What sets you apart is you. And sometimes, the person who gets the job doesn't have as much experience as the other candidates. They get selected because of who they are.

Take for example, Kimberlee Stiens who chose to highlight her fast food experience in her cover letter and got a job from the same Alison Green above. Ms. Stiens writes:
I found myself as a Team Leader at a (fast food restaurant) a year and a half after graduating. I didn't initially want the position, but once I took it (to appease my manager, who has been a wonderful mentor to me), I decided to dedicate myself to doing it right. I have seen too many managers make too many mistakes to allow myself to learn only from those in the industry. I found some excellent resources that I've come to depend on, including Bloomberg's Businessweek, Rosetta Thurman's blog (especially the 31 Days to a Brand New Blog project) and the Ask a Manager blog (which may or may not be written by you, Alison Green is a pretty common name).
Most people would have just lamented privately how they weren't able to find "real jobs" and were stuck in fast food. This woman took the opportunity to do it right, improve her skills and be a great team leader. And (most important part here) she took the time to explain that she did this, in a very biographical cover letter.

I'm not entirely convinced that the resume is completely dead. It's still a necessary tool. But, I am utterly convinced that Mr. Margolis right on the second half: The Bio is King.

For further reading:
Photo by Ryan Vaarsi, Flickr cc 2.0

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