What is the purpose of a resume?
Many people would say that the purpose of the resume is to get a job. And certainly, the focus of many people is to make their resume as nice as possible with the idea that the better it is, the more likely it is that they will get a job. But I’m here to tell you that not only is this incorrect and putting too much weight on a piece of paper (digital or physical), but also on yourself to have the perfect resume. Let’s demolish a paradigm!
The purpose of the resume is not to get the job. The purpose of the resume is to get an interview. The purpose of the interview is to have a conversation that will either greatly improve your chances of getting the job or show you (both yourself and the interviewer) that the job would be a poor fit.
Louder for the people in the back: The Purpose of the Resume is to Get an Interview. In other words, the purpose of the resume is to sell yourself as someone worth talking to.
What the Resume Actually Does
This may be a paradigm shift, but it doesn’t negate the importance of the resume, just shifts its priorities. A resume is a way to sell yourself as someone who a hiring person should talk to further about how the person behind the resume can help the business. It’s a selling tool and as a result, it has to really sell that person as someone who needs to come in for a conversation (ie, the interview). It’s still critically important to put the work into your resume, but we need to shift our thinking about the role it’s playing.
The resume is there to answer the needs of the employer in a way that entices them to want to learn more about you. Therefore, it has to answer the needs as set out by job posts, discussions with people at job fairs, or better still, your networking contacts in the hidden job market. Remember: if the job post (or discussion) is bringing something up, it’s because that thing has been a lack in their company. For example, if safety mindedness is specifically called out in the job post, it’s because they’ve been having trouble with safety issues and want to plug that hole. (Soft skills are where this really comes into play – these transferable skills are often overlooked until they are lacking and that’s when they are seen more in job postings).
It is still obviously very important then to use the job post/informational interview/discussions to target your resume specifically to that specific job with that specific employer. Yes, this means you could have hundreds of resumes, but that doesn’t matter. The more targeted you are to what the job actually needs, the more likely it is that you’ll not only bypass filtering software but also make the employer want to talk more with you about how you can address what they need from that role. Which yup, leads you to the interview!
The Human Behind the Resume
We have already talked about using AI to write resumes and where this has benefits and drawbacks. One of the hugest drawbacks of AI is that it doesn’t have the ability to create resumes that are specifically targeted to that particular job – it simply doesn’t have the ability to do this yet. Instead, it creates very generic resumes for the broader role. For example, if you plug in that you need a resume for a cashier position and simply plug in: resume for a cashier position, here is what Chat GPT gives you (er, well, me anyway):
[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State, ZIP Code] [Your Email Address] [Your Phone Number]
Objective: Dedicated and detail-oriented individual seeking a cashier position to leverage excellent customer service and cash handling skills in a fast-paced retail environment.
Summary of Qualifications:
- Proven ability to handle cash transactions accurately and efficiently.
- Strong mathematical skills with attention to detail.
- Exceptional customer service and communication skills.
- Familiarity with point-of-sale (POS) systems and basic computer proficiency.
- Ability to work in a team and adapt to changing work environments.
- Excellent time management and organizational skills.
Education: [High School Name], [City, State] High School Diploma [Month, Year] – [Month, Year]
Cashier | XYZ Mart, [City, State] | [Month, Year] – Present
- Accurately handle cash transactions, provide change, and process payments using the POS system.
- Greet customers, answer inquiries, and provide assistance in a friendly and professional manner.
- Maintain a clean and organized checkout area, including stocking merchandise and arranging displays.
- Collaborate with team members to ensure efficient operation during peak hours.
- Resolve customer complaints or issues promptly and escalate when necessary.
Sales Associate | ABC Clothing Store, [City, State] | [Month, Year] – [Month, Year]
- Assisted customers in selecting merchandise, provided product information, and offered recommendations.
- Operated the cash register, processed payments, and ensured the accuracy of transactions.
- Maintained knowledge of current promotions, sales, and store policies.
- Participated in inventory management, including restocking shelves and conducting periodic counts.
- Cash handling
- Customer service
- POS system operation
- Team collaboration
- Time management
- Attention to detail
References: Available upon request.
Note: Tailor the resume to your specific experiences and skills. Include any relevant certifications or training related to cashier responsibilities. Additionally, consider adding specific achievements or quantifiable accomplishments from your previous cashier roles to make your resume stand out.
So, I mean, not terrible, but extremely generic. These skills and work experience slots are extremely basic and are just the things that all cashier postings tend to have.
Let’s compare this to a job posting from Superstore. It’s fairly generic, doesn’t require special training, and is a big enough company that AI has probably scraped its job postings in the past. (This is a seriously truncated version of the post by the way).
What you’ll do
• Provide great customer service
• Scan products and process customer transactions accurately
• Support in the delivery of company-directed promotions and programs
• Handle cash and credit card transactions
• Keep the register area neat and stocked with essential supplies
• Assist customers with general inquiries
• Maintain a positive environment in the store
Who you are
• A team player with good communication skills
• Adaptable in a fast-paced work environment
• Resourceful and courteous when resolving inquiries
• Motivated to learn new things and delivering great customer service
Experience you bring: Good news! No previous experience is required. We provide you with training to set you up for success!
What you bring:
• Flexibility to work a variety of hours which may include days, evenings, and weekends
• Able to move 25lbs and remain in a stationary or standing position for entire shifts
All right. So if we compare what Chat GPT gave us and what the job post asks for, we can see a lot of missing information. For example, there’s nothing in our mock resume about being able to move 25lbs or remain in one place for a shift or to support company wide programs. There’s also nothing about being resourceful in resolving inquiries or being adaptable. Remember, if the job post is bringing up these transferable skills, it’s because they’ve traditionally had trouble with them and if you can’t address them in your resume, it’s unlikely they’ll give you the time of day, let alone an interview.
(This isn’t to dump all over AI, just to highlight how critical it is to use it as a starting tool, not as something that will do the work for you.)
Sell, Sell, Sell!
Let’s bring this back now.
The purpose of the resume is to sell yourself to the company as someone they should talk to; in other words, to get the interview. It’s meant to show how you can fill in gaps that they have and how you can address their concerns. In order to do this, it’s important to make sure you heavily target your resume to that particular job and company, as well as do your research on the company as a whole. Check out their website, even visit it if you have the ability, so that you can better understand what they need and how you can help. Do your homework in other words and then sell yourself to meet their needs.
The purpose of the resume is not to get a job. The purpose is to make it important that the company brings you in for an interview to learn more about how you can help their goals move forward, while of course supporting your own career path.
Make sure your resume is targeted, personalized, and showcases that you have done your research into the company and their needs. This is far more likely to get you an interview than blasting out tons of generic resumes all over the place! It’s a lot more work, but it pays off more in the end.