Legend has it, that in those long lost, pre-internet days, companies couldn’t hire enough people. In fact, during the industrial revolution, rail-road tycoons had so many job openings and so many people trying to get those jobs that they didn’t know what to do. So they devised a way of boiling a worker down into a single page of paper. From that paper, they could quickly discern who would fill what position. This paper, you might have guessed, was called a resume.
This legend of the origins of the resume implies that the document we rely so heavily on to show off our skills, is really a dinosaur from the industrial age. In a way, your resume is a necessary evil. Or, what I like to tell audiences for a rise, your resume is your obituary. It tells employers what you did, not what you can do for them.
So when a potential employer asks to see your resume, what they may actually mean is, “provide me with some kind of documentation which I can pass on and validate my opinion about you.” They want an opportunity to get to know you better. And just sending them worn out resume could be a mistake.
Here are the functional purposes of a resume in today’s white collar workplace.
- Occupy a place-marker, a paper voodoo doll of you, on a person’s desk
- Fulfill some kind of process requirement with a company’s HR software
- Allow a hiring manager to quickly assess your skills and abilities
- Provide an easy way to differentiate you among a stack of other candidates
- Allow a corporate recruiter to find a reason NOT to hire you
So what do you do to make the whole resume thing work in your favor?
The trick is to pay careful attention to the real reason why you are being asked for a resume and then respond according to the actual need. At the end of the day, “Send me your resume” doesn’t always mean you should send them your resume.
Consider sending the following documents instead.