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Is the resumé passé?

Not so fast. It’s still an important marketing tool.

Person holding a resume

The answers to many of life’s great questions are often contained in the question itself, at least as far as Google is concerned.

Ask the search engine “Do I need a resumé?” and in seven seconds you’ll get 500 million suggestions for writing a resumé that will pop.

But type in “ditch the resumé,” and in four seconds you’ll get five million reasons why they’re no longer viable in today’s job market (although many suggested alternatives sound suspiciously like resumés by any other name, and product pitches to boot.)

The one thing to keep in mind when you’re weighing what kind of resumé you need, or whether you need one at all, is your audience. If you’re just starting out, your resumé needs to speak for you – using the language employers want to hear.

Yale and Harvard, ivy-league law schools that turn out graduates likely to head for Big Law firms, or high-level government jobs, don’t even question the need for a resumé.

Yale Law School recommends a one-page resumé containing basic information (name, address, education, activities and experience, itemized in reverse chronological order).

“Are you writing to a law firm, small non-profit organization, large government agency, or judge? Find out as much as you can about the types of projects in which you would be involved if hired,” the Yale website advises, adding that you might want to have different resumés geared toward different types of employers.

Harvard Law School says your resumé is a marketing tool and should reflect your strengths and accomplishments in a visually pleasing way.

“Employers often spend less than a minute looking at each resume when they first receive it – so a well-organized, informative document is critical to your job search.”

The takeaway: if you’re going for a traditional job in what is acknowledged to be a conservative profession, don’t colour outside the lines.

But that’s not the only approach.

Think of your resumé as one part of your overall package, which includes everything from your online profile to your body language, suggests Gary Burnison, author of Lose the Resumé, Land the Job.

Lawyers Financial suggests keeping the resumé – but keeping it short and to the point. Its job is to give the employer enough information to schedule an interview.

“However, your LinkedIn profile does so much more! It provides a much richer picture of your experience, capabilities, and personality. It’s your very own ‘sales brochure’ complete with testimonials, and multi-media capability.”

Another site suggests creating a “pitch deck” – essentially a PowerPoint presentation introducing yourself – which might be just the thing if you’re applying to an edgy startup firm – or if you don’t exactly fit the mould of a white-shoe firm lawyer, and don’t want to pretend that you do.

“Pitch decks are used by professionals to present information and to tell stories about companies and products,” says a blog on the website of Praxis, which facilitates start-up apprenticeships.

“The pitch deck worked well for products and start-ups because it allows a founder or a sales team to not just present the information one would find in a business plan but to also tell a story. Great pitch decks tell a story of a customer and of a product while simultaneously presenting the important nuts and bolts like tech, business plan, sales plan, and traction.”As a resumé, the theory goes, a pitch deck tells your story in a way the potential employer will find engaging. Above all, the blog says, it forces you to reflect on what you have to offer.

Top resumé tips:

  1. Keep it short
  2. Tailor it for the opportunity and the firm
  3. Don’t lie
  4. Avoid buzzwords
  5. Polish your online profile so that it compliments and enriches the information in your resumé.