From Lou Adler to Seth Godin: the future of a traditional resume

Published on: 17 January 2017 Last updated: 16 September 2020

You’ve probably heard comments like: “the resume is dead,” “dying”, “being transported to the emergency room”, or any other variation. It seems to be kind of a trendy topic these days. In a way, it’s correct: the traditional resume has been dying at a slow pace for a while now. Currently, it still remains in the same, outdated format with no significant changes over the past 35 years. After all, it’s still a simple list of your experience, skills & education.

About 2 years back, I co-founded a resume building platform – Enhancv. Over those years, I’ve seen countless, “soulless” resumes that pretty much guarantee that you’re not getting called up for an interview. In an attempt to shed some light on the topic, I’ve gathered seven points of the best resume advice I’ve ever heard. Advice that will help you ditch the traditional resume and create something truly special.

1. “Submit a proposal not a resume to get a job interview” – Lou Adler

Lou Adler is one of LinkedIn’s top 20 Influencers. He is currently the CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting firm helping companies implement performance-based hiring.

If you look at it from the company’s perspective, your traditional resume just doesn’t work for them. They want to see who you really are but most importantly – what you can do for them. So don’t submit a typical resume. Rather, provide a solution for their problems.

Before even starting with your resume, think what you’re most proud of, and write down 5 of your biggest achievements. It could be anything – winning a school competition, speaking three languages, studying abroad, or even living a balanced life. Any major part of your lifestyle or personality is worth to mention.

That, coupled with why you’d want to work specifically for the company you’re applying for and how you can contribute to the company, would hardly ever get you rejected for an interview. For example, here is Nina’s resume for Airbnb. It went viral for a reason – the resume says a lot more than “Worked at X company for Y years and did Z.” It actually showcases Nina’s personality, skills, achievements and directly mentions how she can contribute to the company.

Don’t be afraid to ditch the old-fashioned way of applying for a job. Call it a resume, cv, lebenslauf, online profile or a summary. But your application should solve someone’s problem. The resume shouldn’t just be a list of experience, education, and skills. What it should be is a proposal: a glimpse into your personality, a showcase of your personal achievements, and a unique solution to the company’s problems.

Enhancv From Lou Adler to Seth Godin: the future of a traditional resume

2. “Share a point of view. Invite people into a relationship” – Michael Margolis

Michael Margolis is a TEDx & SXSW speaker. He is a founder of Get Storied and author of the most shared resume article on 99U.

If you already have a resume, open it up and read it slowly. Ask yourself – “Does this really describe who I am?”.

Then google someone else’s resume. Read it and ask yourself again – “Do I have anything in common with this guy?”.

Sadly, in most cases, the answer to both questions would be a “no”. The traditional resume does not show the human being behind the resume, neither does it help to build a relationship with the person reading it.

Companies don’t employ resumes. They employ people. Yes, they care about your previous experience and education, but what they really want is to hear your story. They want to hear your point of view.

Don’t be afraid to share more personal details about yourself. Mentioning your favorite books, for example, shows your interests and passions. In special cases, this may even be a huge boost for your resume. Think about Elon Musk. Before he became the legendary entrepreneur we all know and love today, he wasn’t the best of students. What put him ahead of everyone else, however, is the vast quantity of highly complex books he’d read.

By mentioning such details in your resume, you will show that you’re more vulnerable. That is more human, approachable and relatable. Yes, your resume would be different from the rest. The person reading it, however, might find something in common with you. And at that point, you’ve already established some rapport – you’re no longer a piece of paper.

3. “Quantify Your Impact – Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]” – Laszlo Bock

Laszlo Bock is the SVP of People Operations and author of Work Rules!. During Bock’s tenure, Google has been named the Best Company to Work For more than 30 times.

There are many reasons why an application can get rejected – from not being found on Google to having blatantly lied on the resume. The most common mistake, however, is surprisingly neither one of those. According to Laszlo Bock, the biggest reason resumes get rejected is because they’re filled with responsibilities instead of accomplishments. Traditional resumes show what people had to do for a certain position – which is something that the HR already knows. Rather, you need to show them how exactly you executed your tasks, and what were the results you received. This empirically sets you apart from all the other applicants.

For example, if you’re a Social Media Marketer, everyone would know that you have to maintain the profiles of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. So, don’t waste space on your resume saying something as obvious as that. Instead, write how you improved the social reach and user engagement on either one of the channels, and what results did these metrics bring to the company. Be as specific as possible, including numbers and tangible results.

Don’t hesitate to rewrite every single sentence on your resume using this formula. Take a look at the following example – which one do you think is more believable and useful?

“Raised engagement on Facebook by 140% over 2 months, by creating team video ads.”
“Managed the company’s Facebook page”

Keep in mind that finding and then explaining your accomplishments or skills is not an easy task. Most people give up by just adding some buzzwords – team player, critical thinking, problem-solving, etc – or just completely skipping that part, thinking that they’ve achieved nothing.

If you can’t think of specific accomplishments, or it’s hard for you to define your Top Skills, go ahead and ask your friends and colleagues. Think about the last time you executed something successfully, the way you did it and the results you drove. Consider what skills helped you make all that happen. In addition to that, when writing about your achievements, make sure to mention the competition. If you won an entrepreneurship challenge, say exactly how many people competed. It sounds a lot better if you were #3 in a competition with 100 participants, as opposed to #1 and keep the number of participants unknown.

So now that we’ve got all that covered, make it all come to life in your traditional resume: Mention the competition in your achievements, the results of your actions and the significance of your accomplishments.

4. “Try to understand the job you’re applying for” – Lily Zhang

Career Development Specialist at GECD and writer at “The Muse”.

Thirty years ago when people looked for a job, they needed only one resume. Today, unless you want to apply for only one company, you need a couple.

Don’t just make one black and white resume, send it to a couple of companies and then pray to receive an answer. Don’t try to cheat and craft 10 resumes, filling each with buzzwords from their respective job descriptions either.

Instead, try to understand why you want to work for that specific company. Go ahead and read a bit about the organization, check out the reviews on glassdoor or their profile on Linkedin. If you still don’t have much information, focus on the position that you are applying for. Read the job description and ask yourself – “Am I motivated enough to start working for that company?”

Most unsuccessful hires are not because they lack the skills, but because they didn’t fit the company’s culture. If you’re not truly motivated to work at either of the companies, don’t even bother sending in your resume. It won’t be worth it either for you nor the company.

In addition to that, a successful job search does not include sending your resume to 10 companies. It’s much better if you shortlist 3-4 companies, the ones where you really want to work and concentrate all of your efforts on learning about them and impressing them with your knowledge & enthusiasm.

5. “You don’t need to have had good jobs in order to have a good resume” – Penelope Trunk

Penelope Trunk is an American businesswoman, author, and blogger. Her work focuses on the intersection of work and life.

I have seen a lot of skilled people who are too scared to apply for major companies because, having only worked for the smaller organizations, they think that they’re just not good enough. The same applies to college students, who don’t dare to apply for their dream internships because of the lack of work experience.

I’ve met Eastern European students who traveled all the way to the United States, worked the jobs no one wanted for over 100 hours a week, just to pay for their tuition. Those same students don’t realize how valuable that kind of experience can be for organizations. True, it’s not directly related to a job as a banker, for example. But then again, how many students have the experience of working in a bank?

While the experience may not be as relevant to the job itself, it proves that the student is hardworking and determined. If you’ve washed dishes for 100+ hours a week, you wouldn’t be dismayed by working 80+ hours in an office for a bank. When thinking about your experiences, always ask yourself whether you’ve learned anything important working a seemingly irrelevant job. If the answer is yes, it definitely belongs to your resume.

Most recent graduates don’t get their first experience by working in big and famous corporations – but through internships, part-time jobs, volunteering experiences and so on.

Exactly this type of experience is what employers are looking for. The world has changed – having a lower GPA at the university doesn’t mean you’re a worse hire than someone with a 4.0. The GPA was never a good predictor of career success, to begin with. This also goes for your work experience. Working for three months in a failed start-up can boost your skills way more than three years in a big corporation.

Remember you DO have experience, but it’s up to you how you are going to sell it. Being aware of your own skills and experiences is the first step to success.

6. “A resume is an excuse to reject you” – Seth Godin

Seth Godin is an American author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker.

90% of the resumes get rejected. There’s only one position after all, and unless you can differentiate yourself, it will end up in a trash bin with the rest.

If you want to increase your chances against the statistics, ask yourself: “Why do I need a resume?”. If the answer is “I have to show the facts about me”, according to Seth Godin that won’t show what you HAVE. It will rather show what you MISS. Creating something just to show what you miss is really an excuse to be rejected.

According to him, sending a traditional resume like everyone else and pretending that you are remarkable would make people ask themselves – “Ok if you are that special, why can’t I see that through your resume?”.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t send a resume at all, nor that you should follow all the standards and requirements you find on the web. It means that a traditional resume doesn’t reflect who you really are and why you’re special. The requirements tend to restrict you in a lot of ways, making concrete statements on what should and should not be done.

The first step is to stop thinking of your resume as “just a resume.” Don’t even call it a resume, when it can be something much more. Your personal story was written down. While there are some best-practices to follow, you should have complete creative control over all the content in the resume. After all, who knows more about your personality than yourself?

Feel free to write something creative and against traditional resume standards. You’re not just a bunch of bullet points. Nor are you a combination of work experiences and education. Show people like Seth that you are special, that you are living your eulogy, not your resume.

7. “The best hire might not have the perfect resume” – Regina Hartley

Regina Hartley is the Director of Human Resources at UPS, the largest logistics company in the world with over 10,000 employees.

In 2015, Regina gave a TED talk about the candidates who are not all that good on paper but turn out to be some of the company’s best hires.

She called such people “Scrappers” – people who don’t have the best resume but have grown up constantly faced with adversity, resulting in a life filled with both passion and purpose.

“Take this resume. This guy’s parents give him up for adoption. He never finishes college. He job-hops quite a bit, goes on a sojourn to India for a year, and to top it off, he has dyslexia. Would you hire this guy?

His name is Steve Jobs.”

Some of the most successful people can seem pretty inconsequential on paper. They may have not been the smartest kids in school, some of them have never even attended school. Such trivialities, however, don’t stop such people from founding million dollar companies.

I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t apply for the jobs they truly want, just because they don’t think they have a good enough resume. Regina’s talk proves pretty much the opposite. If you’ve survived hardships in life such as poverty or violence, you might be more valuable to a company than someone who’s life was engineered for success since birth. After all, if you’ve survived poverty and violence, business challenges are nothing but a minor setback.

Regina finished off her talk with a study done by DiversityInc, showing that the top 50 companies for diversity outperform the S&P 500 by 25%. So, the next time you’re competing with 4.0 Ivy League graduates with near-perfect resumes, stand your ground and prove yourself.

To top it all off, if there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s this. Even when faced with adversity, focus on being you, focus on telling your story, and you’ll get the job you deserve.

To read next: Check out our resume examples section that got people hired at their dream jobs.

Volen Vulkov

Co-founder & Harmonizer-in-chief at Enhancv. Helping people achieve work-life harmony. A firm believer in Bulgaria, Liverpool supporter, ego-fighter and young Ving-Tsun padawan.

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