For decades, job seekers have been told the importance of having a great résumé. Rules and guidelines abound. Your résumé should be no longer than one page, attractively formatted, include the right keywords, and display a sense of your individual personality.
If that's not enough guidance, there are thousands of books to help you write one. But that's nothing compared to the info that's available online. A Google search of the phrase "how to write a résumé" returns a whopping 37 million (!) results.
Your résumé is said to be so crucial to your career that it's become a proxy for job hunting itself. If you make a mistake at work, for instance, you should "update your résumé." If you "send out 1,000 résumés" and don't get a job offer, why, there must not be any jobs out there.
As with any business skill, there are secrets that only a very few people know, and in this case the people in the know are the corporate recruiters to whom those résumés are targeted. Surely the recruiters know what really works when it comes writing a great résumé, right?
Well, it turns out that the big secret about résumés isn't how you describe yourself or the jobs you've had or your accomplishments. The big secret isn't about the kind of paper to use or whether to include your hobbies, or anything else like that.
No, the big secret about résumés is that almost nobody reads them and that they're almost entirely useless as job hunting tools. As Macy Andrews, Cisco's senior director of human resources, recently put it in a CNN Money article: "The résumé has probably gone from about 40 to 35 percent of the hiring process to less than 10 percent."
What's replacing the résumé? Well, partly it's LinkedIn, which is now the go-to place to find out what a person is doing and has done in the business world, as well as whom that person might already know. And, contrary to popular belief, your LinkedIn profile isn't an online résumé, any more than your Facebook page is an online version of an Xmas newsletter.
But even LinkedIn is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, because corporate recruiters are now using big data both to locate qualified candidates and to vet candidates who pop onto their radar.
According to a recent Harris poll of more than a thousand hiring and human resource managers, fully 58 percent consider it a top priority to search for information that supports a candidate's job qualifications. And one out of five actively looks for "a reason not to hire."
So what's crucial now isn't your résumé or even your LinkedIn profile but the entire collection of data about you that's available on the web ... including everything you've ever tweeted or posted and even, increasingly, the sites you've visited and the stuff you've bought.
The idea is patently absurd that a paper résumé would have any relevance whatsoever in a world where virtually everything about you is accessible to virtually any company that's willing to pay for it. Writing a great résumé is a skill you need about as much as quill-pen calligraphy.
If you want a great job, here's what you must do:
Create an online presence that reflects the job you want to land. And that very much means cleaning up anything and everything that might conflict with the image you want to present.
Network, network, network. Not just online but in person. Maintain and cultivate every business contact. Take every opportunity to extend those contacts. And then turn contacts into relationships.
Here's the good news: Both of the above are a heck of a lot more fun than trying to cram who you are and what you can do into a stupid piece of paper.