Unconventional Resumes – Love or Loathe

The Australian job market is currently largely in the employer’s favour. Candidates are up against a large amount of competition, so the aim is to differentiate yourself against your peers. With this in mind, more and more candidates are using their imagination and creativity to showcase their talents and create a point of difference through their resumes. Employers and recruiters are increasingly receiving alternative and sometimes eccentric resumes. As a recruiter, you will no doubt have come across these from time to time.

What are your thoughts on unique, unorthodox resumes, which are supposedly designed to stand out above the rest? While some employers either like or loathe them, others are simply baffled and not sure what to make of them. Recruiters are surely simply looking for the best candidates in the shortest amount of time so are these types of resumes effective or just a pain? If you’re one of those recruiters who feel bewildered or downright annoyed by the sight of an unusual resume, the following may help.

What sort of unconventional resumes can I expect to see?
While it is entirely appropriate in the digital age for applications to be no longer limited to paper – applicants may attempt to video stream, chat, use websites, brochures, or multi-media presentations to present their resume or CV whether it has been asked for or not.

• Videos – The video resume which has begun to take off on YouTube and Facebook is currently being extolled by some employment consultants as the best way for applicants to showcase their unique skill sets and be seen by hirers – without necessarily meeting them in person. Although still early days, job board recruiters have also begun to develop technologies to support video formats.

• Brochures – The brochure resume is meant to enable an applicant to highlight chosen aspects of their normal CV e.g. job skills and experience, education, successes and accolades – leaving the hirer to extract the specific things they are interested in. Additional information about qualifications, achievement graphs, papers and a business card may also be inserted.

• Personal Websites – The website resume is designed to function as a digital achievements portfolio using graphics, copy and video, with online links to other relevant information and resources. The hirer then has to search for what they are looking for themselves.

• PowerPoint – A resume reworked as a ready made presentation enabling the applicant to reconstruct their CV with graphics, photos, and related data that can be used and expanded on, if the applicant is invited to interview.

• Video Chat – Essentially an online opportunity that may or not be accompanied by a written or digital portfolio, that invites the hirer to talk live with the job applicant at a mutually agreeable time, using an instant messenger utility such as Skype, Facetime or iChat.

How to deal with unconventional resumes
It seems undeniable enough that applicants with unconventional resumes deserve at least some additional brownie points for extra effort. With an increasing number of individuals being persuaded to risk more creative methods to attract attention – where should the line be drawn however?

While some resumes may be impressively unconventional and make positive impact, others may simply strive for attention in an over-the-top manner and miss the prime purpose of communicating clearly what you – the hirer needs to know. You may be interested in seeing evidence of creative and imaginative thinking skills, but if the medium is too complicated you may not have the time, the inclination or dare we say the personal digital skills to view it – and so end up reading another applicants’ more traditional resume instead.

The key to dealing with unconventional resumes is simply this – where do you the hirer want to draw the line? If you have asked for more than just a standard resume – or it enables you to filter out the mundane and predictable – then fine. Each employer will be different. Some will have more patience or time than others, and some will relish ‘a breath of fresh air’ approach that suggests a high quality candidate or an acceptable indicator of skills that can put to good use.

Another consideration is the fact that more and more recruitment agencies require that prospective resumes are sent out to clients in their own resume format with branding and contact details etc. This means PDF, video, website and other formats other than Word documents can’t be reformatted easily by consultants. With hundreds of resumes to review each day, consultants are likely to simply disregard resumes in ‘alternative’ formats, having the exact opposite effect to the ‘stand out from the crowd’ aim by the candidate in the first place.

What to watch out for
Just like any traditional resume look out for the overblown and the flamboyant at the expense of clarity, precision and relevance. Some applicants may be simply trying to disguise what is otherwise an insufficient or weak resume – hiding experience gaps amongst the creativity, masking meaningless content, or drawing attention away from personal weaknesses. A non-chronological approach, for example, may be covering up timeline gaps.

If the unconventional resume helps to make your evaluation process easier, then go ahead. Video CV‘s – for example – are becoming more common, and can mean less bulk reading by you or having to ‘read between the lines’. They can provide more than just one photograph enabling you to see the applicant as you might in an interview. You can tell a lot more about an applicant this way than through just a piece of paper. On the other hand, employers can simply look up candidates in the public domain online (Google, LinkedIn or Facebook) if they want a more personal view of them, and this approach will surely be more telling than an edited video CV!

At the end of the day however, your reaction to any unconventional resume will rest on the answers to two questions – does it make communication clearer or more obscure and does it make the process easier or harder for me? Employers and HR departments may receive unconventional resumes more positively than recruitment consultants as there are less restrictions and processes at the end of the line. Candidates however should tailor their resumes to the recipient company/organisation and remember the basics before spending too much time on something wildly creative that misses the point completely.

Simon Wright is the Director of Recruitment Marketing Group.

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