It seems all job-seekers these days are looking for an edge. Can you really blame them? There is so much competition out there that applicants will consider almost anything just to get themselves noticed. But getting noticed is not that easy. Every job candidate knows why he or she is qualified and in many ways, unique.

But how easy is it for an employer to feel this uniqueness when all the evidence is imprisoned within the confines of a small set of 8 by 11 printed pages sitting in the middle of a pile?

To an increasing extent, many job applicants have started thinking like smart advertising agencies. Make a TV commercial that catches the eye and grabs the audience’s attention instantaneously. Tout the product, sure, but above all be sure to put something in that commercial that makes it stand out.

Advertisers pay big bucks for ads that can capture the immediate attention of their marketing targets. And now advanced technology has allowed job applicants the opportunity to do the same kind of thing. No longer are jobseekers confining themselves to the traditional printed-page resume. The advent of the “alternative resume” is indeed upon us!

So what exactly are these alternatives to the old-fashioned resume? And how effective are they, really? Does a high-tech approach always yield that much-coveted advantage? Or is there a hidden price to be paid for getting noticed?

These are all good questions. Let’s take a closer look.

Alternative #1: The Multimedia Resume

To a growing extent, job candidates are creating personal advertisements of themselves, somewhat akin to TV or radio commercials. The jobseeker becomes the “star” of a video or audio production, which is presented to the employer on some form of digital media (e.g., DVD, CD, internet download, etc).

Advantages:

  • The flexibility that comes along with advanced technology allows applicants to maximize their creativity and come up with a novel presentation in any format they choose. The presentation can be rehearsed, scripted, and structured in a way which highlights the candidate’s strengths and downplays his/her weaknesses.
  • Employers are able evaluate the job-seeker in a setting convenient to them. They can see the applicant and/or hear the applicant’s voice without being required to travel or fly the applicant in.

Drawbacks:

  • From an equal-opportunity employment standpoint, many companies could find multimedia presentations unwelcome. Being able to see the candidate (or in some cases, even hear a voice) may result in a perception of bias regarding race, gender, age, etc., when it comes time to make hiring decisions.
  • Many recruiters have become accustomed to dealing with printed resumes and have developed a process where they parse information – isolate pertinent components, highlight, mark, and compare. All of these things can be much more difficult and time-consuming to do from an audio-visual resume and for this reason, some recruiters may not want to be bothered with them.

Alternative #2: The Presentation Software Resume

Some job candidates like to make power-point (or equivalent) presentations. The technology to make a high-quality resume in this fashion is becoming easily available and relatively inexpensive. Several online tools are currently on the market.

Advantages:

  • Slides can add a whole new dimension to a resume as compared to printed words on a piece of paper. Graphics, pictures, diagrams, etc, not only look better, but convey more information per square inch than words alone could ever do.
  • Like the multimedia resume, a slide presentation gives applicants an opportunity to project themselves in the most flattering way possible. A high-quality, well- designed presentation can not only be a great selling tool, but also a terrific ice-breaker during the candidate’s first interview.

Drawbacks:

  • Technology can be your friend, but it can also be your enemy. Software or computer incompatibilities can make it impossible for a recruiter to successfully install your presentation or incorporate certain video file formats (e.g. wmv, mp4, flash, etc.)
  • The cost and time of continually revising a presentation to make it suitable for different employers could be prohibitive.

Alternative #3: The Personal Website

A growing trend is for job applicants to create customized websites on which they can post all kinds of information about themselves. Very often these websites are named for the candidate (e.g. “www.johndoe.com”).

Advantages:

  • Employers don’t need to mess with printed paper, disk files, DVDs, CDs, or any other form of external media. Instead, they can merely access the candidate’s website and find out the information they need. Not only that, but potential employers can “reach” the candidate anytime they want simply by doing a computer web search for the candidate’s name.
  • Job seekers can use their personal websites to convey attributes that they could never get across nearly as well with a traditional resume. Things like intelligence, personality, communication skills, and passion can be communicated easily and effectively.

Drawbacks:

  • Like any permanent structure, a website needs continual attention. A site can easily lose its effectiveness if not regularly maintained and updated.
  • Some employers still prefer a tactile resume of some sort. Just having a link to a website instead of something in hand is sometimes viewed as a cold way of doing business, or even worse, a sign that the applicant is afraid of providing a tangible foundation for an interview.

Alternative #4: The Professional Network

Many job applicants are now taking full advantage of websites, such as LinkedIn, to post their professional profiles. In some cases, this is done not as an alternative, but as a supplement to some other form of resume.

Advantages:

  • An increasing number of potential employers are now expecting job candidates to have their professional profiles posted online and are relying on LinkedIn and similar sites to give them the additional information about job applicants that they seek.
  • A professional network site gives job candidates visibility and access to employment targets they would not otherwise have reached.

Drawbacks:

  • Increased visibility can also mean increased access to unwanted sources. Postersmare often targets of spam, or of strangers looking to take advantage of a poster’s network of contacts.
  • Information on a network site is not so easily tailored to a particular employer. Personal profiles on a professional site by nature tend to be more general and less likely to be a “snug fit” for that certain employer that the candidate is targeting.