To take a look at even the most advised of resume writing guides is to take a step back into the history of web page design; everyone writing a resume is being taught and encouraged to create a website circa 1999.
While such designs look prettier than the old text-laid-out-on-a-page, in thinking about a resume as a webpage (the look and feel of that single document so critical to your career), it’s impossible not to think the resume is still stuck in headlines, text, and keywords that make hiring managers *sigh* with boredom.
To understand why resumes suck one might start by appreciating how the internet caused the way we work to entirely change in the span of 20 years.
Thanks to the Internet, Your Resume Sucks
HRTech (innovators and startups working in human resources) tends to be solving for the wrong problems in workforce development.
That, what I just wrote, is a mouthful of buzzwords; so let me explain.
20+ years ago, we still sought jobs through many of the traditional means: newspaper listing, visiting a company website, working through recruiters, or asking managers directly if they were hiring. As such, at that time, a resume that concisely conveyed what you’re capable of doing (your skills, experience, and objective) was sufficient. Employers were matching a job description to a handful of candidates.
I want you to take a step back for a moment and picture how the work of a hiring manager or recruiter is rather like a sales funnel.
In order to fill a job (close a sale), what we call the top of the funnel is where awareness is created, of the fact that an opportunity exists. The larger that end of the funnel, the more candidates (or customers, in the case of sales), make it through each level of the funnel, ultimately taking an action with the business.
With this in mind, we can appreciate how decades ago, businesses had a top of the funnel challenge… there were few methods of reaching people and creating awareness of a job; the top of the funnel was narrow and as a result, fewer came through the process.
As the internet dawned, early instances of “HRTech” (which, is loosely how we refer to technology built to serve Human Resources / HR), focused on addressing this top of the funnel.
That’s what startups do; uncover the big problem and create value by addressing, through innovation and marketing, that most notable of problems.
Monster, HotJobs, and other job boards, were websites and experiences to help guide people seeking jobs while supporting companies’ need for talent. They expanded the top of the funnel, enabling employers to post and reach everyone, everywhere.
These Job Boards were analogous to other innovation going on at the time thanks to the internet:
Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Craigslist… these were all the 3rd generation of the internet, if you will; designed to aggregate opportunities and enable audiences to broadly engage with more opportunities.
Why the “3rd Generation”?
Before these “directory” like experiences, the internet was a loose connection of web sites and web pages (2nd generation) and before that, bulletin boards and computers into which we connected to chat pre-html.
If you were online at the time, perhaps you recall that while exciting and refreshing to experience those changes, it was also a frustrating time… we couldn’t find everything we wanted, we couldn’t easily filter or refine our exploration, and the experiences were limited just such that the businesses involved could only do certain things. Those limitations kept a lot of value and opportunity out, while prompting businesses to focus on doing specifically what was needed to get the most out of those experiences (understandably).
That gave rise to the era of the search engine.
We might call that the 4th generation of the internet.
The search engine, e.g. Google, tackled the problems left behind by the previous innovations. Namely, that we should be able to find any specific thing we want (thanks to keywords) and that that one site should be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible.
HRTech and the experiences for employment evolved along with it, and we witnessed the rise of job sites like Indeed; essentially, search engines for jobs.
Unfortunately, the 5th generation of the internet is probably best characterized as Social Media and the rise of the social network. And it’s unfortunate in this case, because that’s when innovation for employment went off the rails.
LinkedIn brought us the social network for jobs but what was needed as an evolution from Search Engines. Social media was new experience online; a deviation from search oriented logic as a completely new model was born online.
Search engines weren’t replaced by social networks as the directories previous were replaced by search engines. The progression of search drove website design optimization and that’s where the resume stopped progressing.
In parallel with the rise of the social media, we also witnessed the explosion of the CMS (Content Management System) and innovation in website management and design, so as to improve the experience people on search engines have with the sites on which they land.
Landing Page Optimization
The process of improving elements on a website to increase conversions
We created the social network for jobs but we never really fixed the fact that websites in the early 20th century were pretty crappy, that so too were resumes. No one focused on the fact that a resume is a terrible website.
This matters because while search engines DID create even more volume for employers and made it easier for job seekers to find companies hiring, the difference is that search engine ranks web site results and sends more qualified and limited traffic to websites… job search engines don’t – they still send every willing candidate at every job posted.
The rise of search engines in employment prompted the seemingly logical reaction by resume advisors and consultants: focus on keywords.
We’ve been trying to “SEO” the resume.
Make sure your headlines are keyword rich and compelling. Make sure you include the words that trigger the engines and screeners to favor your resume.
We improved the quantity of traffic but the engines didn’t really improve the quality.
Search Engine Optimization
The process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines.
If you look at the history of the internet and lay it parallel to the progression of the employment process, you can see how we evolved the resume to go “Black Hat” SEO on the job engines; to do whatever it takes to make sure your resume ends up on an employer’s desk.
The thing is… that wasn’t really the problem that needed to be solved. HRTech capably fixed the top of the funnel problem, created all the volume, and then it as an industry screwed up; expecting Social Networks might be our savior. Confirmation bias led employment oriented innovators to try solving for why people weren’t getting hired sufficiently to meet their expectations and everyone missed the fact that the real, new problem in employment was that the resume was still stuck a decade behind. The problem wasn’t optimizing words to get on someone’s desk, the problem was, and remains, that a resume is just noise.
LinkedIn Didn’t Improve Employment as it Should Have Next
The Content Management System was an innovation online that made it vastly simpler for businesses to build better websites. Thanks to innovations such as WordPress and Drupal, businesses were able to improve their design, experience, and easily offer more pages that provide evidence and validation of their capabilities.
Thanks to the CMS, businesses were able to start changing their sites, quickly. Favoring what converts customers and launching new pages for specific purposes. We call this Landing Page Optimization.
With that grew a focus on design and conversion; the webpage of today looks completely different than the webpage of 2005… so why does the resume look the same??
Landing Page Optimization was a critical innovation for websites because our early generations of the internet work so well: Sending more and more volume to businesses meant that businesses could focus on creating experiences that sell and close business automatically.
Peter Drucker, noted economist from the 1970s, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself… The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.”
Thanks to the CMS and Landing Page Optimization, websites were able to improve so greatly that we starting seeing Drucker’s notion come to life… that we didn’t need Sales to talk to and convert the customer, the site sufficiently accomplished that task.
We neglected this idea in employment.
We neglected the fact that a resume, so well designed and optimized, could (should) sufficiently convert itself. Why do we need recruiters and HR professionals sifting through candidates?? Because they’re our Sales people of Jobs… because we never improved the candidate’s landing page beyond the look and feel of the early 2000s, and as directories and search engines threw more and more candidates at employers, employers got overwhelmed with volume, often irrelevant, as resumes were tricked to merely trigger the right keywords.
Take a look at this landing page for Lyft; a design largely considered a great example of a page that converts.
That looks nothing like the first website I built. That looks nothing like keyword stuffed webpage designed to trick Google into ranking it prominently. That’s a landing page that convinces people to buy.
Could a resume not look like that? Should one not look like that??
Of course, you have to do some creative and outside the box thinking to picture how a resume could accomplish as that page, but appreciate HOW it works to accomplish the goal of closing business.
Do you not want your resume to just close the business of getting you a job?
As someone who hires, appreciate the challenge of hiring people, from my point of view: A job posting easily gets an employer hundreds of candidates. Hundreds. Imagine that. Merely looking at each for a few minutes, takes DAYS just to screen them.
No one makes decisions in days. In our twitter-verse world, you have 140 characters to get my attention before I move on to the next tweet. I don’t have days to look through potential candidates.
Imagine a Marketing Job and Let’s Rewrite that Landing Page
Online Marketer vs. Someone Who Can Run Facebook Ads
John Doe has driven 30% month of month growth via the internetVisit my website for proof
Reach me on Twitter or LinkedIn because no one does calls anymore
(and you need an online marketer anyway)
I work in Austin OR I love working remote
Not sure I’m the best hire?
Let’s try it out for 3 months
Available part time, I can probably do all the work in half the time …. Keep in mind though, I can do everything online and most can’t …. How about a project? I’ll fix your Analytics for you in an hour
Now, we’re just spit-balling of course, but a resume like that would get my attention. I’d likely hire that candidate, sight unseen, over the hundreds of resumes that follow the same format and just try to tell me about their ambitions while dropping in the same keywords that every resume now uses.
Imagine how much more compelling that would even be if you sent that as a website and not just a piece of paper…
How to Optimize a Resume to Convert
- No buzzwords. Don’t give me lingo like “SEO” “Specialist” etc. Just SAY in normal language what you do.
- Prove it. I don’t care about years of history. Show me that you do it.
Then work history…. Then objective. Your skills…. education… community involvement… awards… wow, I’m bored just writing that out.
Just SHOW me you will do the job better than anyone else and let’s go!
Akin to web design circa 2020, you have to convert me “Above the fold;” meaning, on the first screen of content we see before we scroll down the page. Landing Page Optimization means getting that top 1/3rd of the resume to sufficiently close me, and then uses the rest of the page as I scroll (like a website) to offer more information that might matter.
And keep in mind that the rest of the information only might matter because what was up top failed to be sufficient.
Most resume guides, builders, blog posts, and advisors, are still fixated on the unfortunate fact that companies use keyword screeners (HRTech) to search for whether or not your page has the right stuff on it.
That’s TOP OF THE FUNNEL. Right? So you “SEO” your resume so that you show up on all the right queries.
But employers are done sifting through nearly identical pieces of paper that use the same words, nothing but words, and lack what really matters to the job: CAN YOU DO IT?
I don’t want everyone. I can’t deal with hundreds of resumes. That helps no one.
Rather than SEO, and since social media missed the mark, it’s time for resume *landing page optimization*
You want me to convert. I want to **glance** at your page and convert.