The evolution of the first impression

Paper resumés haven’t died – they’re still a valuable step in recruitment
By Kelly Dixon
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/17/2012

There has been a lot of talk about the future of the job search and how the traditional resumé as we know it may be on its way out. The theory is resumés will be replaced by online branding strategies such as video resumés, online portfolios, infographics and social networking profiles.

In one sense, this is true. New technologies are constantly giving people fresh options for connecting and sharing information. Generation Y uses the web differently from previous cohorts. Social networking sites are how members of this generation interact and how recruiters need to reach out to them.

And this is true beyond just gen Y — new tools are constantly expanding and accelerating the reach of everyone’s connections online. It is now easier than ever to meet more people faster. In that sense, the resumé is being replaced by many as the first point of contact between an employer and candidate.

The first impression many recruiters have of candidates is often their online presence, followed by their resumé . (Although most employers also admit to Google-screening potential hires after they’ve already been sourced through other methods. So, even when candidates don’t intend to make a first impression online, they often do.)

Online infographic resumés such as those found on Pinterest or and other branding options such as video resumés and online profiles aren’t so much examples of resumés being replaced as they are of resumés evolving. All of these new formats can provide snapshots of a candidate’s career and creativity to catch the eye of employers.

But these new branding options, even as evolutions of the resumé, don’t actually replace the traditional resumé . Once an employer has become interested in a candidate via her online brand, the first thing it’s likely to do is to ask for a resumé . Employers want to see how a candidate’s work history and accomplishments can be tailored to its business needs.

This is why it has become necessary for professional candidates to maintain both their web presence and conventional resumé with the perspective of potential employers in mind. While new technologies offer people more ways to connect online, most recruiters won’t interview candidates without asking for their resumé first. They want to have that clear and concise career summary in front of them.

Resumés versus online profiles

It’s not just because of custom or habit the resumé remains essential to the hiring process. It has distinct advantages over infographics, videos or online profiles.

For example, a profile on LinkedIn most closely matches the traditional resumé . But the trouble is the profile is a generic, one-size-fits-all document. Recruiters want to see a resumé that tailors a candidate’s skills and experience precisely to the job they post and demonstrates what the candidate can do for their business needs.

A strong resumé also contains a candidate’s key accomplishments and backs up these wins with numbers, such as the size of the marketing budget he managed, the number of people on a sales team she led or individual revenue results from last year.

Once you’ve read the business card, you want to see a resumé

While online profiles, videos and social media can be very useful for connecting with people, they serve as only a potential first step in actual recruiting. It is rather like trying to target someone’s skills and experiences (and how they can solve your business needs) in a crowded convention centre filled with people intent on swapping business cards. You’re going to meet a lot of people but you won’t be hiring any of them on the spot.

These online personal branding strategies can help spread the word about top candidates and interesting opportunities. But, once you’ve read the business card, you still want to see a resumé .

Career sites such as Workopolis are more like online career fairs where employers have their jobs on display and interested candidates show up with prepared (virtual) resumés.

But none of this means the paper resumé is dead. While most applications take place online, and most resumés are submitted by email or over the web, recruiters still like to have a hard copy in front of them during the interview to refer to and make notes on.

Kelly Dixon is president of Workopolis in Toronto, provider of Internet recruitment and career transition solutions. For more information, visit

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