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A Dying Read

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 13:14

Thanks to the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn, the recruitment industry is rebooting. Leon Gettler ponders the future of the résumé as we know it.

Is the résumé, the old-fashioned CV, dead? Many say it is but the debate continues. Google that claim and you will find 117 million results. Everyone seems to have a view on it. People have written white papers on it and blogged about it. Many say the résumé has been replaced by social media, particularly sites like LinkedIn. People these days also have personal web sites, videos on YouTube and blogs. And then, of course, you can always look people up on Google.

But it's not that simple. Recruiters say résumés are not completely defunct, they've just changed. Today's résumé, they say, has to be part of a broader package that includes an online presence.

There have been reports from overseas, for example, of people sticking CVs on their Facebook page. They might use a fun interactive video that is not just a rehash of the print résumé but one where viewers can click on words linked to an "about me" section, as well as sections for portfolio, skills, timeline and contact information and an electronic "pitch page" that lists accomplishments. The website to the video might even have a Q&A and link the viewer to the person's Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. According to social media journal Mashable, these are all techniques now being used by job seekers in America.

It is also important to note, however, that résumés are still used extensively for high-powered jobs at big corporates. No HR professional at those places relies on a LinkedIn profile - which could say anything. True, many recruiters and HR specialists look at LinkedIn profiles. But then, few would ask for anything in multimedia. The traditional résumé is still used by senior people when they apply for complex jobs. A résumé, after all, can contain more information than that posted on LinkedIn. Indeed, it's not uncommon for some résumés to run to 15 pages listing accomplishments, reporting lines and size of the business.

HR managers have told Mt the résumé also becomes important when you no longer have control over who is looking at it. That's what happens when you go for big jobs. The HR manager will send it to their superiors, who might run it past the office in New York or London. And many say that it's still a good idea to have a résumé on Microsoft Word as a back up for LinkedIn, just in case.

Pushing your profile online

The traditional résumé setting out all your achievements and skills is no longer enough. These days, people also need an online profile. The résumé is now being adapted and used with other media to get attention and open doors. The résumé is not dead yet. But it's likely to become less important as social-networking sites offer more targeted services that are expected to incorporate better CV-like functions.

It is already changing. More companies are now using social-networking sites to recruit. They are turning to LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as extensions of their databases. One reason for this is that it's cheaper.

Big accounting firms such as KPMG, Deloitte, PwC and Ernst & Young, for instance, use sites such as Facebook to recruit the best graduates. Computer-chip maker Intel reportedly saves millions of dollars a year in fees by ignoring headhunters and instead recruiting senior managers through LinkedIn.

A 2010 report commissioned by Microsoft found that 70 per cent of hiring managers said they had rejected candidates based on their online activity. And 75 per cent of recruiters claim their organisations had formal policies requiring them to search applicants' online trails.

Indeed, the online profile goes beyond social-networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. It could also include websites for gaming, classifieds, auctions, shopping, politics, photo sharing, blogs and more. For recruiters and employers, the opportunities for understanding who may be a good fit - and who may not - are almost limitless.

With 100 million potential employees using LinkedIn and nearly 800 million on Facebook, the recruitment industry is resetting. As a result, job hunting has been transformed. The Wall Street Journal reports that some job candidates are cutting through the noise and targeting employers by taking out their own ad on Facebook or LinkedIn. For them, the résumé is redundant, an invention of the baby boomers that's no longer relevant.

The Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Garone says job seekers of today need to think beyond the traditional Word document. These days, she says, they need online options to get their résumés in front of the eyes of hiring managers and recruiters.

Know where to be seen

Garone recommends making use of LinkedIn as a vehicle for getting noticed because it is a top tool used by companies to find quality talent. LinkedIn, along with Twitter, a Google profile, or even your professional blog or personal website, allows recruiters and managers to contact you with one click to your email. Some now say that if you're not on LinkedIn or Facebook, you don't exist. Social-networking sites make communication a lot easier than it would be through a traditional résumé. The online profile therefore becomes a valuable piece of real estate.

Paul Lyons, a director of financial services recruitment firm Ambition, says the résumé is not dead, it's just different.

"Essentially, it's your marketing document,'' Lyons says. "That makes it as relevant as ever. I don't think they're dead, I think they're becoming more sophisticated and there are many more ways to go to market.

"And even if you don't believe in them, the HR department from day one from a compliance perspective will want to know who you are. They will want to know where you have been, what your achievements are and all those sort of things."

In any case, he says, it could still be important for candidates to sit down and look at all their strengths, achievements and where they are going, then put that down in some document.

He says the important part is to keep all the profiles consistent, whether they are on Facebook, LinkedIn or on websites.

"There are more channels to potential employers these days,'' he says. "When I was entering the workforce, it was a paper résumé that you sent through the post. These days, you have employers looking in lots of different places. There might be 10 channels now whereas 20 years ago, there was only one. If you're serious about looking for a role, you have to respond to that."

The other new rule is that today's résumé has to get straight to the point. Companies and recruiters are bombarded with so many applications, they don't have time to look and analyse. "I look at a lot more résumés than I used to,'' Lyons says. "I have more access to them with websites, social media sites or just hundreds coming in by email. What I look for is a value proposition. I don't have time to read the résumé and spend five or 10 minutes trying to understand what the person is about."

Some say the résumé could disappear completely because LinkedIn has been developing a special CV feature that could work for big prestigious jobs. The résumé, critics say, will become less important. Either that, or it will have to be just one element of an even bigger package.

Steven Johnson, who runs recruitment agency ExecutiveSurf in Australia, says half the people on his company's books these days rely on just a LinkedIn profile. He says it is today's equivalent of the one-page CV - it's a 24/7 CV.

"Recruiters and HR teams these days have to look at so many job applications,'' Johnson says. "A résumé just looks like hundreds of others coming in. These days, you have to get noticed before you even walk through the door. It's easier for recruiters to assess what they see on LinkedIn, all the information they need is there. The LinkedIn profile is the door opener."

The 21st century résumé

Don't start with "Dear Sir/Madam". It's a turn-off. Find out who you are writing to. Look them up on the internet, check their LinkedIn profile.

Focus on the job. Today's résumé needs to target the position and what you can offer.

Most professionals go for the easy option of writing their work history in reverse chronological order, burying critical information. You need to serve the dessert first - highlight your achievements up front. If you have held increasingly important roles, or secured an MBA or some other qualifications, get it on the front page. List your achievements before your work history.

Use action words as keywords, and mirror the job ad's wording to create a search-engine-optimised CV. Examples: "hit all targets", "led a team", "optimised performance".

Link your CV to an online presence. This can include blogs, your LinkedIn profile, online examples of your previous work and a Twitter account. Make sure all these are professionally oriented.

Character development: UK newspaper boss looks to Twitter to eliminate hacks

British editor Alan Geere has used Twitter to take a shortcut to finding new talent. He wanted people long on ability but short on waffle.

According to The Guardian, the boss at the Essex Chronicle tired of sifting through long-winded CVs attached to equally wordy job applications.

So, he challenged job prospects to apply using Twitter. Keep it to 140 words, keep it snappy, get his interest and perhaps you get the job.

According to The Guardian, Mr Geere explained his frustrations in his blog:

"I'm fed up wading through turgid 'letters of application' and monstrous CVs outlining an early career in retail handling and a flirtation with the upper slopes of the Andes.

"I want reporters who can find stories that no one else has got and write them quickly and accurately.

"That's why in my latest recruitment ad potential recruits have to respond via Twitter. They've got 140 characters to tell me what they can do and why I should consider them."

Mr Geere continued: "I keep getting told there is an over-supply of qualified people wanting to do journalism. Well, maybe there is but there's definitely not an over-supply of people who are any good."

But not everyone agrees with Mr Geere's approach; Matthew Holehouse at the The Telegraph in the UK reportedly offered this: "Re Twitter job apps. Why would you want to work for someone who can't be bothered to open a CV?"

Mr Geere's reply? "You'll probably never find out."