Time to ditch your résumé?

Time to ditch your résumé?
Published: 
May 2013

Professional networking sites are undoubtedly a great way to stay in touch with business contacts, former colleagues and uni mates, but how essential are they to the job application process? Are the days of the paper résumé numbered? And what’s an online peer endorsement worth? As LinkedIn turns 10, we ask: is the résumé dead?

A recommendation from a client is obviously more important than one from a peer or a colleague.

The rise of professional networking sites has been meteoric. Sector leader, LinkedIn, announced its 200 millionth member in January this year, up from 100 million people in 2011 and ‘only’ 40 million in 2009.

Other key players include Viadeo, with around 50 million members, mainly in Europe, and Facebook’s BranchOut, which has attracted 25 million members since its 2010 launch.

In Australia, LinkedIn is currently the dominant option, with four million members, or around 17 per cent of the population. That’s almost every professional person in the country.

It’s also the market leader in the US, where 93 per cent of recruiters say they make use of it in their search for candidates, followed by Facebook (66%) and Twitter (54%), according to a Mashable.com survey.

“People are now using a suite of methods for job applications,” says Peter Langford, Board Director of the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association, Australia and New Zealand. “Having a profile on a networking site is helpful, but it won’t be the only key to success. It has yet to replace the résumé as the passport required for job applicants. I can’t see that a commercial product will ever replace that completely.”

Langford, who is also Managing Director of Horner Recruitment, says professional networking sites are useful tools for recruiters, but the traditional résumé is far from obsolete.

Aafke Abbas, Sourcing and Social Media Specialist at IAG, disagrees. Linkedin, she says, has revolutionised recruitment, reducing costs, and, in the era of big data, digital job applications allow for the harvesting and analysis of applicant information in a way that paper résumé could not deliver.

“It’s making our job easier. LinkedIn feeds a lot of information into our systems – and we’re able to look at a range of analytics, which we aren’t able to do with a résumé. People can also display more on a social media profile than on a résumé. For us, it’s about being competitive in the marketplace as well – and it’s cheaper than Seek.”

Some sectors have already replaced the résumé as the primary criterion when evaluating job applicants. Social media marketing agencies, for example, may place a higher value on the strength of someone’s personal brand than what’s written on their résumé.

Recruiters in the social media field are increasingly supplementing searches of professional networking site profiles with analyses of social media metrics through sites such as Klout.

Your Klout score measures the size of your social media network across multiple applications, and through that, their online reach and influence.

“Influence has really become the currency of the social web, and Klout is the standard measurement for that,” said the company’s CEO, Joe Fernandez, in December 2012.

The average Klout is 20; however, an expert in a particular field will generally register a score of at least 35. Global leaders and celebrities have the highest Klout scores. Barack Obama has a score of 99, with millions of followers on Facebook and Twitter and the readership of his Wikipedia page. Justin Bieber also has a huge following on Facebook and Twitter; however, his fans are less interested in Wikipedia, giving him a score of 92.

Having an online presence is essential if you’re working in an industry that relies heavily on contacts, such as media, PR or sales. But what about sectors like teaching or engineering?

“We’ve found that sites like LinkedIn have been useful to us across a range of disciplines – IT, business intelligence and even insurance,” says Abbas. “It’s a professional network. It gives us a sense of someone’s professionalism and certain traits about them.”

Langford and Abbas agree that peer endorsements, a feature of BranchOut since its July 2010 launch and introduced by LinkedIn in September 2012, don’t carry the same weight as the traditional reference, due to their lack of verification. Nevertheless, more than a billion have been awarded to LinkedIn users in the eight months since they were introduced.

“It’s clever marketing, but these endorsements can come from literally anyone,” says Langford, who continues to value the power of a personal reference over the ubiquitous digital endorsement. “Personal references are targeted, from people who can speak to the calibre and experience of an individual.”

“I think you need to be very targeted with your endorsements, to actually give them value,” says Abbas. “A recommendation from a client is obviously more important than one from a peer or a colleague. A [traditional] reference provides much more detail.”

She offers other suggestions for job seekers to draw the most value from social networking sites. “Treat your profile like a mini CV, but don’t give away all the information about yourself,” she says. “A recruiter still needs to be enticed to contact you to find out more.”

“The headline section on your profile is also a critical element. On LinkedIn, you’ve got 120 characters so try to use every one of them to create an impact. The more specific information you provide in your headline, the greater chance you have of turning up in search terminology.”