Tech & Work

Is the traditional resume about to be outdated?

Since the way employers look for candidates is changing--with sites like LinkedIn and movements into Big Data, are traditional resumes a thing of the past?

Although IT pros make their livings from technological innovation, you have to admit that it has also disrupted employment in different industries many times over. From travel agents to telecommunications, it has cut out the middlemen in numerous fields and has eliminated some of the most traditional forms of communication.

With the progress of Big Data, some are predicting the demise of the traditional resume. But are these predictions going to come to fruition, or will the age-old resume format survive despite technological progress? Here are my thoughts.


Many have trumpeted LinkedIn as the biggest challenger to the traditional resume. While there are advantages to LinkedIn, such as being its content being easily searchable, interactive, and consistently formatted, there are drawbacks as well. First, LinkedIn isn't customizable. It's impossible to tailor your LinkedIn page for all the possible jobs to which you'd like to apply.

One of the key advantages of resumes is that you can change them and customize them each time you send them out so that if you are applying to different industries, you can tweak them to appeal to each employer separately. Second, endorsements and recommendations can often be juiced-job seekers can engage in a quid pro quo game of writing recommendations and endorsing others. Some of the drawbacks of LinkedIn make us convinced that paper resumes (or PDFs if you prefer) are here to stay.

Big Data

Companies like TalentBin and Gild use analytics to scour the web for appropriate candidates for jobs and recommend them to employers. Google has a "people analytics" department that analyzes data online to find appropriate employees. This emerging field of workforce science seems to be taking over, especially at large technology firms, allowing companies to scan for tens of thousands of candidates, rather than just passively accepting hundreds.

Yet despite all the hype, I believe that Big Data will only serve as a complement, and not a replacement, to the traditional resume. While companies may be able to find suitable candidates through scouring data online, submitting a resume to a company that is tailor-made for that specific company is an indication of enthusiasm and a signaling mechanism. Even if an algorithm magically pulls you as a candidate for a job, recruiters and managers are always going to want to see a resume because it's the easiest way to gain a rapid understanding of a candidate's work history and skills. Until machines are actually conducting interviews, the traditional resume is here to stay.

How to prepare your resume for the machine age

Despite my claim that the resume format won't change, there are still tweaks you can make to increase your chances of getting selected for an interview. Many of the algorithms that employers use today are applied to resume submissions. These algorithms scan for keywords, so it's important to know what an employer is looking for and to tailor your resume for the job. Here are a few quick tips to make your resume stand out when a computer is reading it:

  • Find the most important skills listed in the job post and make sure to use the same wording in your resume. Try to use each keyword more than once.
  • Use standard fonts so that you can be sure that computers can read your resume easily
  • Focus less on pedigree and more on accomplishments-algorithms are trained to spot unlikely candidates that would normally be missed by human HR representatives. Therefore, they usually do not put too much weight on undergraduate and job prestige.

While we may be entering a Brave New World in the hiring field, resumes remain an important component of hiring, so ignore the hype about LinkedIn, Twitter, and Big Data. Focus on upping your game where it matters.

Harrison Smith is a co-founder at

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