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250 Years Later, Seeking a Permanent End to Bad Resumes

As early as the eighteenth century, letters of introduction were a part of polite society

As early as the eighteenth century, letters of introduction were a part of polite society. The practice spread to American shores from Europe.

They have changed over time. Letters of recommendation became self written, they became more detailed - listing everything about a person's accomplishments and background. But they remain a written introduction to a complete stranger, vouching for a person's credentials. That has not changed. These days we call them resumes.
In 250 years we've invented electricity. We've invented cars, airplanes and computers. Twelve of us have walked on the moon. (Unless you're one of the 20% of this population that don't believe that ever happened.)

Yet if one of those astronauts wanted a job forty years later, pursuing whatever field of engineering he first emerged from, he would need to sit down and write a resume.
Overall, I'd say that the recruitment industry and everyone involved in jobs and hiring have been largely unreceptive to alternatives. The only movement we've seen is in the idea of profiles - completed for social media sites and job boards - but these ideas only form earlier stages in the process that inevitably lead to the attachment of a resume.
We have simply settled on a level of comfort that has become unshakeable. It's resume to interview to hire. No account's been taken of the many possibilities that the online world has delivered, particularly the combination of home shot videos and social media. If you had seen someone answer a number of questions in a self shot video interview, which could be accomplished easily with pretty much any laptop camera or Apple device, would you not be prepared to complete the interview in person? Maybe, but I bet you'd still expect them to bring a resume on the day.

Personal websites have become very normal, but again they are not replacing resumes. Whatever a person's online community activity, they can still expect it to end up on a piece of US Letter sized paper, printed out, stapled neatly in the corner and left on a desk somewhere.
I got a headhunt call last week. (These are still infrequent enough to merit some attention.) Their client had seen the blog and wanted to know if I was available to discuss their vacancy. "Could you send us your resume?" was their main thrust. And I'm thinking, I've produced 40 something blogs. Maybe 20,000 words of detailed views on the marketing of recruiting businesses and the engineering and construction industry. And you want to see a two page resume that says I went to Essex University and I like tennis? I might stay where I am thanks.

In the final analysis, it may just be that the resume is a cockroach. A great survivor, neither popular nor pretty, but worthy of its place through pure evolution (unless you're one of the 46% of the population who don't believe that happened either.)

If we are to continue to use the resume to hire and be hired, surely we can come together to work out what a resume really should look like. There may be every reason to still be using resumes in 2012, but there can't be any excuse for using bad resumes. And all of us involved in staffing see so many bad resumes on a daily basis.
I'm calling upon serious people in my own industry and others to come together on this. We need to help each other to deliver a better standard of resume, a template - once and for all - that makes life easier for everyone in the hiring chain, from candidates to line managers, to employers and agencies.

Let's talk about it. What do we want to see in resumes? What do we not want to see? It's had 250 years to reach the ideal format by itself, maybe it's time we helped it along.
You can find more information on how to avoid the pitfalls of bad resumes by downloading our free white paper with resume advice.

More Stories By Richard Spragg

Richard Spragg is currently the Senior VP of Marketing for Talascend. Talascend is a provider of human resources in the engineering, construction, technology and manufacturing industries. Today, Talascend brings its clients the opportunity to fully staff projects from a single source, creating an opening for substantial cost savings and increased efficiency. Richard has 14 years of experience in marketing, engineering and construction, HR & staffing in both the UK and USA. Richard's specialties include marketing, recruitment operations, public realtions and business development. He writes on various subjects including global engineering jobs, staffing and marketing in the technical sector.