Traditional Resumes Are Worthless

In almost 30 years as an executive recruiter, I have looked at at over 100,000 resumes and through our candidate university coached/instructed hundreds of candidates with their job search. One consistent theme in all of this is that candidates receive a lot of mixed messages on resumes. Too often candidates lose sight of the real purpose for this document or overemphasis its importance.

In a previous article,”Resumes Have Only One Purpose,” I wrote the only reason for a resume is to get an interview. That is all it is good for. It isn’t to get a job. Candidates forget this. As a result, they want to include a lot of unimportant and sometimes irrelevant information on the resume. You only need enough information on the resume to get an interview. Everything else is over kill.

This is why, “Traditional resumes are worthless.”

With all this extra information the important and relevant information is lost in the clutter. Most people only spend between 10 and 20 seconds on the first screen. If your resume doesn’t catch their eye in that time it is discarded.

We believe for this reason the important and relevant points have to stand out so they don’t get overlooked. There can’t be a lot of useless information cluttering up the resume.

The fact is every resume is simply a marketing document. Its purpose is to catch the reader’s attention, get to the reader’s underlying motivation, have them read it and invite you in for an interview. Sounds similar to any advertisement or marketing brochure.

Marketing whether in print or electronically doesn’t try and attract everyone with one advertisement. Companies well know as “marketing” companies, Nike, Coke, McDonalds, Apple have multiple ads each with a specific purpose to reach a specific customer. They are very targeted with the listener’s or reader’s motivations in mind. They rarely if ever assume one-size-fits-all.

Candidates resumes on the other hand often assume a one-size-fits-all. Most candidates put together a generic resume, all about them, with what they think is important and relevant, then cross their fingers and hope it gets to the reader’s underlying motivations. It rarely if ever does.

Change your paradigm about your resume. Begin thinking of it as a marketing document. Ask yourself, “Is this relevant to the specific needs of this hiring manager or company?” Have you targeted the reader’s motivation rather than yours? Do the bullet points hit the target like a bullet or more like a shotgun? Do the important and relevant points stand out? (Without highlighting or gimmicks). Are you helping them with their pain? Do the bullet points help them solve their problems? Is your resume about you or them?

For all those wondering, yes this means you may have more than one marketing document (resume). Just like companies do. There is no law that says you can’t. There is only one rule regarding resumes, everything on it must be completely honest and verifiable. That is it.

In summary, target your resume. Make it a marketing document instead of a resume. Get away from the generic traditional one-size-fits-all. Build a marketing document with the reader’s motivation in mind.

For help with your resume we offer a complete resume development system. The CDs, templates and examples will ensure you have a marketing document. To review our “Complete Resume System” CLICK HERE. Many charge as much as $500 for the generic one. Our complete system is less than 10% of that.

You can also download for FREE on our website our, “Job Search Self Assessment Scorecard.” Take the assessment and see how effective your search is and what you can do to improve in the areas you aren’t excelling.


About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.


  • By Jeffrey M. Tilton, CFE, September 16, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

    Please check out my profile on linkedin and let me know what you can do for me as far as a resume ids concerned?

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, September 16, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

    Have you downloaded our 8 Matrix Linkedin Profile Assessment Tool. This is the place to start. Compare your profile to what it should be based on this matrix. It is free. Click the link below

  • By Jim LeDoux, September 17, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

    I have been a hiring manager over the past 9 years and have looked at hundreds of resumes in that time. There are several things I look for in a resume.

    1. A summary page as the front page that tells me what the candidate is looking for, a brief summary of positions held and the companies they were held at, a list of tools used relating to the role and education/certifications.

    2. One or more pages attached to the front ‘summary’ page that gives details in chronological order of companies worked for, describing positions, responsibilities, accomplishments and technology used.

    3. A final page showing any outside accomplishments, books written, papers published, etc.

    The primary elements that would cause me to toss aside resumes were:
    1. Obvious misrepresentations of the facts.
    2. Not enough information to determine if the person might fit.
    3. Lack of contact information.

    The main item that would cause me to set aside a resume was there not being enough information to determine if the person would fit. Long resumes didn’t bother me as long as the information was pertinent. One page resumes drove me crazy as they seldom gave me enough information to make an informed decision.

  • By Barry Deutsch, September 17, 2009 @ 2:02 pm


    Great points about what to look for in a resume.

    I think the issue that many hiring managers and executives miss in looking at a resume is NOT having a great definition of success to start with before looking at any resumes. If you’ve NOT developed a comprehensive definition of Success in the job. We call this tool a Success Factor Snapshot. It’s almost impossible to accurately judge whether or not a candidate will fit your job – either in looking at the resume, phone screening, or when you meet the candidate face-to-face.

  • By Sky Opila, September 18, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

    I think this is great advice. I wonder what your thoughts are on interactive online and video resumes. I, myself, created a Web site that housed my portfolio, my printable resume and more information about me. It helped me get an interview in a position where over 1,000 people has applied. Do hiring managers have time for things like these.

    This new service I found, they’re still in beta, called offers an easy-to-use merger of online and video resumes so no coding is involved. Like when I built mine.

    My question for you on this is, do you think Hiring Managers and Recruiters care? Will they even take the time to look at things like this?

    As a job seeker, I’m hoping so because it’s a great way to differentiate. But do you think this is the future of resumes?

  • bradremillard

    By bradremillard, September 18, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

    Since it worked it is a good thing. I have two thoughts on your question.
    1) I think they will look at these but only after they have an interest from your resume. I doubt many hiring managers, HR or recruiters are going to take all the time to go online download the file, view the file, etc. just to see if they are interested. I takes too long to do all that.

    2) The technology is relatively new and has not really become main stream yet. It may in time.

    I would never use these alone. First send a resume and cover letter with the URL so if they choose to look they can. Don’t substitute a resume for one on-line.

  • By gwyneth holland, September 22, 2009 @ 5:57 am

    As a UK CV writer with over ten years experience, it’s very refreshing to find somebody who is giving the same advice as I have been giving for years.
    I can’t count how many times I’ve said that a CV is not an autobiography. Neither is it an opportunity for you make exaggerated claims about your perceived good points. Just because you tell somebody you’re wonderful they won’t necessarily believe you.
    Stick to the facts and make sure that the claims you make in the profile section are then verified by the information in the rest of the CV and you won’t go far wrong.
    Information about real skills backed up by real achievements are what is required in an effecive CV.

  • By Michael, December 2, 2010 @ 4:11 am

    Hey barry, just wondering what your thought are on two page resumes? My resume was a full two pages in college. All guidance counselors told me that was an issue, yetit never once held me back from interviews.

    Perhaps you’d have to see that it could not be cut down! Haha

  • By Colleen Coyne, April 11, 2011 @ 11:32 am

    Great points, Brad. Initially, I thought we were going to be at odds (we just posted this recently – but we have 2 different angles re: “traditional” resumes. Your point is well taken.

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