What if career services didn’t do resume reviews?

Results from an informal survey from the Career Leadership Collective which asked career services professionals: Which of the following do career teams spend way too much time and energy on?

Here’s a career coach confession: I hate resume critiques. This attitude was wildly inconvenient during my days as an MBA career coach in university career services. At the beginning of the school year my days were filled with helping students revise resumes. As the year progressed many coaching sessions slipped into tiny requests for additional reviews. Few people enjoyed the resume critique experience, me included.

Resume writing is a niche skill that few people master in the course of their career. The process is fraught with frustration. Students spend hours trying to get it right while career coaches spend hours telling them it’s not quite right. All of this so a recruiter can spend 6 seconds reviewing it. And now it’s no longer guaranteed that your resume will be reviewed by a human, as algorithms are increasingly being used to analyze candidate resumes.

The unpleasant experience of resume reviews is usually a student’s first exposure to career services. It’s a lame first impression for a department whose goal is to help students. Worse yet knowing how to write resumes does little to prepare students for a future in which 2.5 million new job types will be created. If career services exists to prepare students for future careers, resume reviews shouldn’t dominate staff’s time.

There’s plenty of advice about the need to rethink what career services can offer students. That advice needs to include rethinking resume reviews.

What if career services didn’t teach resume  writing? 

The resume of the near future will be a document with far more information—and information that is far more useful—than the ones we use now. Farther out, it may not be a resume at all, but rather a digital dossier, perhaps secured on the blockchain (paywall), and uploaded to a global job-pairing engine that is sorting you, and billions of other job seekers, against millions of openings to find the perfect match. – The Resume of the Future

Telling career services they should stop teaching resume writing and avoid resume reviews isn’t a popular opinion. I raised the idea once at the beginning of the year in my last job. My bosses both looked at me like I was crazy. They promptly ignored my question. I meant it as a thought exercise. I also meant it as a way to interrupt the autopilot that each MBA career office kicks into at the start of a new school year.

When I’ve raised the issue with colleagues respond, they often respond with “But who will teach resume writing?” A quick answer might be YouTube. Another option is VMOCK and jobscan.co, two platforms which are using machine learning to give resume feedback and guidance at scale. Both platforms provide immediate, visual feedback, including language suggestions, at a scale no career coach can match. 

Resume feedback by jobscan.co

Resumes aren’t dead. But in a world of resume reviews by algorithm, LinkedIn networks, and personal websites, they sure don’t hold the key to a successful job search and career like they used to. Career services should cut back on resume reviews now while focusing on the skills that better prepare students for the changing nature of work.

Below are a several focus areas to fill the space of resume reviews and better prepare our students for the future of work. These skills prepare students to adapt to the new workforce, succeed in the college job search, and every job search after.

Upskilling and lifelong learning

It’s something that has been a bit of a mantra in the educational field. Everyone is going to have to be a student for life and embark on lifelong learning. The fact is right now it’s still mainly a slogan. Even within jobs and companies there’s not lifelong training. In fact what we see in corporate training data at least in the United States, is that companies are spending less. As we know right now people expect that they get their education in the early 20s or late 20s and then they’re done. They’re going to go off and work for 40, 50 years. And that model of getting education up front and working for many decades, without ever going through formal or informal training again is clearly not going to be the reality for the next generation.” –How Will Automation Affect Jobs, Skills, and Wages?,

A bachelor’s degree is no guarantee for future job security. Students need to plan for lifelong learning beyond university. That includes understanding options for learning new skills. From online courses to bootcamps to nano-degrees, students need to training on how to identify skill gaps and match them with programs that close that gap. Whether it’s trying out virtual real-life projects, such as those at QLC, or pairing their studies with a coding bootcamp, students benefit from exploring these learning opportunities before they are on the open job market. This goes double for career services that serve alumni populations

Strategic Research and Data Collection

From LinkedIn and Quora, to Glassdoor and AngelList, students are swimming in public data about companies. Students need to be taught methodologies for identifying and evaluating opportunities using a variety of sources. Let’s reframe informational interviews as a tool for learning and a method for collecting qualitative data through in-depth interviewing. Teach students how data helps them investigate a company to gain insights they can use to outsmart their competition, negotiate well, and plan their next career move. 

Digital Marketing

Clean Google search results, LinkedIn profiles, and personal websites are must-haves in today’s job search. Newer HR technology, like Entelo, analyzes a job seekers’ digital footprints to determine if they’re a fit for a role. Students need to create an integrated online presence that shows off their skills as they move throughout a lifetime of multiple career changes. Since the majority of a job search is done through email, students also need to be taught how to write concise, impactful messages to diverse people they’ll interact with in the job search. In a crowded world of emails, texts, and Slack messages, students must learn how to capture a contact’s attention and make the right ask to reach their goals. 

Conversation and persuasion skills

“We face a flight from conversation that is also a flight from self-reflection, empathy, and mentorship.” – Sherry Turkle, author, Reclaiming Conversation

Emotional intelligence and communication skills are top skills for the future of work. For the job search, they’re essential. Yet the ability to have face-to-face conversation is on the decline thanks to increasing use of digital technology in in our professional and personal lives. We must ensure students know how to have authentic conversations with all the people they’ll meet in the job search. Then we need to build on those skills to teach persuasion. Persuasion touches so many pieces of the job search, from informational interviews to negotiation. To persuade effectively, students must identify what they offer and choose the right message and method to communicate it to their audience. 

Creative Storytelling

Ditch the elevator pitches. Elevator pitches imply that students will always be pitching in the same context each time (you’ve only got 20 seconds to impress the CEO who’s probably checking her phone in the elevator anyway). They were designed for a time when access to important people was limited – a time before Twitter and LinkedIn allowed anyone to reach out and be seen by executives and founders. Moreover, pitches are static. Today’s job seekers  are multidimensional with changing interests and goals over the course of their career. By teaching storytelling, students learn creative tactics to adapt their message in any context and stage of their professional life.

Virtual Presence

Students interact in virtual spaces like Snapchat and YouTube regularly. Let’s teach them to polish their virtual presence so they can present and collaborate in remote environments. With virtual interviews and interest in remote work among college graduates on the rise, students need to learn the skills to succeed in virtual teams. Let’s teach them how to work and build relationships in remote environments, where often their only connection to the team is Slack gifs. 

So, to all the career services staff who dream of spending less time on resume reviews, I challenge you. At your next staff meeting, ask the question:

What if we didn’t teach resume writing or conduct review resumes? How  might we teach students instead? 

You might just come up with a new model for the future of career education.

Like this? I speak on the future of work, jobs, and career services