Should You Have a Resume?

Seth Godin, as he reviews applications for his college-student summer internship, says:

I think if you’re remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular, you probably shouldn’t have a resume at all.

He goes on to comment on the dismal self-marketing skills of college students looking for a job. I agree with his larger idea here — anytime I look through resumes or try to hire someone, I’ve shocked at how poorly people present themselves.

But this doesn’t mean you should hang up the resume. Seth concludes with:

Great jobs, world class jobs, jobs people kill for… those jobs don’t get filled by people emailing in resumes. Ever.

Agreed, but how many college kids are looking for a world-class job, a job people kill for? Most students or recent grads are just looking for a job. Opening an interview with, "I don’t have a resume, because I’m an A+ kind of guy" isn’t going to work out too well.

Have a good resume, but also have a personal web site with a custom domain (seriously – do you have your own domain and web site?), have a blog, do something remarkable. Follow the rules and change the rules — at once.

So I agree that true all-stars don’t send out resumes to find a job. Those people work within a trusted network of contacts, and there’s a body of public information about their work that’s more useful than a resume can ever be. Yet most college students are not all-stars and shouldn’t, in their quest to be remarkable, just ignore all existing hiring conventions.

12 Responses to Should You Have a Resume?

  1. Anonymous says:

    There is something to be said by not having all your thoughts, opinions, and views shared with the world on a blog or personal website. People will google you when you apply for a job, and when they stumble upon these things, they will immediately be wary or prejudiced if they find things they would not otherwise have found. Be careful of making yourself too public of a figure.

  2. Justin says:

    Actually Ben, building on the last comment, I wonder if you’d be willing (if you haven’t already) to share you thoughts on privacy, blogging, and the job-hunt.

    It be interesting to hear what you have to say on the matter.

  3. Brian Reese says:

    Regarding the “anonymous” comment, I too am amazed at what most people display about their lives as public information. Drunkenness, parties, scandalous pictures, etc—where is the censorship regarding people’s private lives?

    Obviously, I wouldn’t not hire someone based upon a picture of them holding a beer, but some people have crossed the line on websites like MySpace and Facebook. I agree that you must convey your individuality and personality, within the constraints of mainstream society.

    On the other hand (like you said, Ben) most remarkable people seeking high-end jobs don’t submit resumes—they don’t need too. These jobs find them, not the other way around. However, I wouldn’t view this as a “life’s not fair” type of thing. Although we live in a “who you know world,” most people spend a lot of time building and creating these relationships. However, they don’t see it as work—they see it as fund and inspiring because creative and independent thinkers seek each other out and feed off of each others energy.

    Should everyone still have a resume on hand—yeah, I think they should. However, the resume should be a snapshot rather than a “why you MUST hire me” mantra.

    Hope you are enjoying college!

    Best,
    Brian

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  5. Ben Casnocha says:

    All depends on the person, but I think being transparent — and giving up privacy — offers meaningful benefits. We often focus on the costs (what if an employer sees me?!?!). My marketplace commentary has more:
    link to marketplace.publicradio.org

  6. Ben Casnocha says:

    looks like link got cut off:

    link to marketplace.publicradio.org
    /web/2008/02/14/privacy/

  7. Shefaly says:

    I think this applies mainly and in a big way to college students or fresh hires. Anybody not gunning for a bread-and-butter/ starter job has to have a resume, if only to ‘play’ the game. These resumes have to be highly tailored and are time consuming to write, even if the only thing all this demonstrates to the hiring manager is your commitment. So one may network and almost get given the job but to have ‘HR’ process the hiring papers, a resume will be needed. From their perspective, all the paperwork is mainly to comply with various laws related to hiring, discrimination, fair process and so on. In the UK, a candidate can legally ask to see the interview records and other documents held on him/ her. So employers tend to be very careful about paperwork. So process and bureaucracy – the twin towers to keep the resume alive and kicking.

    A blog in such cases can be an asset or a hindrance depending on what one has been saying on it. :-)

  8. I started my career Back In The Day when having gaps in one’s resume were bad, very bad indeed.

    So, imagine the reaction of potential employers to my spending so much time traveling around America by bicycle. Very few were receptive to my adventures. I guess I just wasn’t a good little cog in their machine.

    For years, I suffered from a massive case of hurt feelings. After all, I was a very bright and talented person, so why didn’t those employers want me? Then I discovered entrepreneurship through publishing a book about my biking experiences. And that little book venture was profitable!

    Eventually, I realized that entrepreneurship was a much better place than employment, and here’s a little secret: Very few clients are looking for resumes. They’re more interested in what you can do. Resumes don’t usually show this as well as blogs, websites, etc.

  9. Gunnar Wentzel says:

    Greetings, I stumbled upon Ben’s profile in a MSN’s article and was astonished by the individuals that were covered and their achievements. I saw that you had a blog, so I decided to check it out and found this particular post.

    I am a late goer, and at 22 just started putting a resume together. Completing a degree in Economics I realize the best two thing for me to do is continue my education even further (argh, here I thought I was done with college) to attract employer’s eyes. Also applying for low-paying or no-paying research assistants jobs seem be the other unfortunate option.

    As for the whole transparency in blogs or other similar tools, I have to disagree. I believe in the anonymity of the web because without it, everything would just be censored (on purpose or unconsciously). Furthermore many people have been fired or pushed out of their jobs because of what they say about the company or other employees. They have a right to say what they want, just not publicly or under their real name . There has to be a barrier between us and the employer. Of course we could all just lie to ourselves and start two blogs, public one for favor-direct views and another for how we really feel (Jerry Mcguire anyone?). Seems to be to much of a hassle.

  10. I too am often shocked at the lack of care taken to present oneself well via a resume. Often careless, with typos, and a complete lack of visual appeal. Lazy looking. It’s a turnoff.

    Let me say this – I would never hire someone based purely off a resume, but at the same time, I have no hesitation in *not* hiring someone based solely on their resume.

  11. Matt Keegan says:

    Blogs can be a great substitute for a resume, but I prefer to have a paper copy handy just in case. I think we’re still about five to ten years out before the old definition of a resume — hard copy, tombstone order — will be dead.

  12. MArty Nemko says:

    Godin’s guilty of the classic fallacy: assuming that if it worked for him, it will work for everyone. Fact is, the vast majority of people aren’t as smart or driven as Godin. So, as Ben Casnocha says, they need to compete within the vast middle–which requires a resume.

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