Are Resumes Dead?

Marketing Your Resume for Results
Image by freepik

You have heard it before: “No one really cares about resumes,” “My accomplishments speak for themselves” or my personal favorite: “Resumes are dead.”

These sentiments echo through LinkedIn forums and networking events.

The belief that resumes are merely administrative tasks has taken root in the minds of many seasoned professionals, senior-level executives and certainly among the ranks of technophiles who pride themselves on being ahead of the curve. For career-driven job seekers, this perspective raises three fundamental questions:

  1. What is the true value of a resume in today’s job market?
  2. Is it really worth the time, or could this task be outsourced to a bot?
  3. How can a resume be used differently to get ahead of the competition?

By peeling back the layers of popular assumptions, exploring the impact of technology, and re-examining the role of resumes, we will confront whether the resume is an antiquated artifact or a critical piece in the puzzle of professional success.

Why Resumes Are Dead and the Role of Technology

Resumes were once seen (albeit a long time ago) as a meaningful way for candidates to share their unique experiences and to think through their career objectives.

However, with advancements in technology, the increased use of automation and a rapidly evolving job market, there has been a shift toward speed and volume over personalization.

Driving this shift are three pivotal developments:

  • The widespread implementation of applicant tracking systems (ATS)
  • The surge in conversational artificial intelligence (AI) tools
  • The rise of online application processes

ATS and “Filter Fear”

Approximately 95% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS to manage candidate applications.1

For employers, ATS is revolutionary. It allows them to automate screening by using algorithms to scan resumes for keywords, skills, titles and other targeted criteria. This enhances efficiency and cuts costs. But, for applicants, it encourages a formulaic approach, emphasizing compliance with machine-readability.

A study by Harvard Business School has been interpreted across the internet as indicating that 88% to 94% of recruiters believe ATS systems reject qualified candidates because their resumes lack the proper keywords or are not formatted correctly.2 3 Other sources cite that 75% of resumes are discarded due to readability issues.4

Source: HQ Hire5

The fear of being “filtered out” on a technicality has created confusion for job seekers and spurred the use of AI tools, such as online resume builders and chatbots, to create resumes focused on formatting and keyword optimization. As a result, resumes often lack originality and personal differentiation, failing to highlight the candidate’s unique personal brand, career narrative and primary value.

Chatbots and AI: A Blessing or a Curse

In an era where leading news outlets highlight how AI chatbots outperform humans and visionary leaders like Elon Musk secure $6 billion in funding to boost AI model development, it is only natural that job seekers would turn to AI for resume assistance.6 In fact, a survey from ResumeBuilder found that half of job seekers use ChatGPT for generating resumes and cover letters.7

The quality of AI models has increased with such rapid speed that an impressive-sounding resume can be produced in minutes. While on the surface this is a good thing, using tools like ChatGPT involves certain risks:

  • They depend heavily on the input quality (“garbage in, fancy garbage out”)
  • They might deliver inaccurate or fabricated details
  • They can result in similar-sounding resumes

Excessive reliance on AI tools without a) tailoring the inputs, b) applying savvy chat prompting or c) carefully assessing the results may dilute the impact of a resume as chatbots can overlook the nuances of a candidate’s career trajectory or personal circumstances, missing out on more unique and meaningful achievements.

The Double-Edged Sword of Online Submissions

According to Zippia, at least 45% of job seekers apply for positions online, attracted by the speed and accessibility of online submission tools.8 However, the widespread adoption of this technology comes with drawbacks, notably:

  1. Increased competition: The volume of applicants skyrockets almost immediately.
  2. Fleeting opportunities: Job postings appear and disappear in the blink of an eye.

Another disturbing phenomenon is that of “phantom jobs” or fake postings.9 Some listings are left open after the position is filled. Others exist for less innocent reasons, including:

  • To fraudulently obtain personal information
  • To trick candidates into sending payments for job-related expenses, like background checks
  • To give the appearance of company growth or to collect a pool of future potential talent

Feeling rejected, left in the dark and late to the game, job seekers are compelled to submit applications quickly—and to as many openings as possible. This urgency is further exacerbated by automated systems that prioritize digital profiles and early submissions.

One prime example is LinkedIn’s “Easy Apply” feature, which lets candidates apply with a single click using their online data. This is convenient but encourages a quantity-over-quality approach and reduces the incentive to tailor resumes for specific roles.

Convenience Over Personalization

The intersection of technology and a fast-paced job market has lured candidates toward speed and efficiency—often accompanied by an impersonal, uniform approach to job applications.

The unintended outcome, in many cases, is a generic resume that falls short of communicating the depth and complexity of a person’s professional capabilities, stripping away the personal touch of a resume crafted with intent. In this aspect, resumes are like The Walking Dead, seemingly alive but fundamentally lifeless.

To reawaken their potential, we need to take a step back, look at things holistically and recall the resume’s intended purpose and value.

Revival Part I: The Resume as a Marketing Tool

Your Resume Is Not About You or What You Want

Your resume is often the first impression a recruiter or hiring manager will have of you—and you only get one first impression.

The research—heightening the stakes—indicates that a judgment about a candidate’s resume is made in just 7.4 seconds.10 Studies further cite that the top reasons recruiters reject candidates include a lack of customization on the resume (54%) and failure to personalize content for the hiring manager (84%).11

As such, the resume is a marketing tool: You are selling your value, benefits and features. The resume is about you but not for you. Everything you do is for the potential employer—and this requires thinking like a marketer:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is their primary need?
  • How do I meet that need?
  • How do I differentiate myself from others who can meet that need?
  • How can I communicate my worth in a way that resonates?

With this in mind, the goal is to sell yourself quickly and convincingly. The resume should a) spark interest, b) prove that you are a strong fit, c) demonstrate your potential, d) establish credibility and e) present an “X factor” to propel you forward.

A Five-Part Gut Check for Results

Marketing is hard. It is even harder when you are marketing yourself. So how does the average person ensure that their resume sells them as an attractive solution to an employer’s needs? Start with the five-part check in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Five-Part Resume Checklist

Marketing Your Resume for ResultsSource: Natfluence, Jon Estreich, CAMS-Audit, CFE12

Don’t Forget About the Robots

Not all ATS are created equal. Each system has its own set of algorithms and capabilities, which can affect how a resume is parsed and rated.

To enhance your resume’s performance with ATS software and machine-led screening, consider these best practices:

  • Keywords: Examine relevant job postings to pinpoint recurring terms related to skills, qualifications and experiences. Weave these keywords into your resume authentically. They should fit within the context of your background and reflect your actual expertise—misuse may result in your resume being marked as spam. Incorporate synonyms and industry-specific terms to boost your resume’s discoverability in semantic searches.
  • Formatting: Use a straightforward format with conventional headings (e.g., Education, Experience, Skills). Fancy layouts, including columns and tables, can lead to parsing errors. Important details should not be placed in headers or footers, as ATS often ignores these areas. In addition, save your resume as a .docx or .pdf for broad compatibility. Choose a simple file name that includes your name and the word 'resume.’
  • Design: Stick to standard, professional fonts, such as Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman or Helvetica. ATS may falter with unusual or highly stylized typefaces. It also typically cannot process text within images. If you plan to include visuals, be aware that ATS may disregard these elements. Unsure how to create an ATS-compatible and visually engaging resume? Play it safe; omit graphics or consult a professionally trained resume writer who understands the nuances.

Revival Part II: The Resume as a Career Management Tool

Your Resume Is All About You and What You Want

As Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”13

If a resume does not produce immediate results, it is easy to lose hope and think, “This document is worthless. I just need a job.” But remember, a resume is a vessel. It is our responsibility to infuse it with life, meaning and direction. Crafting a resume requires intention, strategy and purpose. This includes:

  1. Clear career goals: Career goals encompass the type of work that you want to do, including the factors that contribute to your vision of a fulfilling and successful life—whether that be financial gain, professional growth, job satisfaction or work-life balance. Your most important outcomes should guide your job search and networking efforts, optimizing your time and energy. Understanding your career aspirations is also a key step in shaping your personal brand.
  2. A defined personal brand: Your personal brand is the unique blend of skills, experiences, actions and values that you want the world to see in you. It is the narrative you create about yourself and how you communicate it. A distinct and recognizable brand is a powerful asset for generating opportunities. It involves shaping others’ perceptions of you through decisive movements, including highlighting your strengths, accomplishments and career objectives.

Unveiling the Hidden Value of a Resume: The Creation Process

While resume writing is often perceived as a mundane task, its true value lies in exercising the following:

  • Clarifying your career goals
  • Identifying who can assist you in achieving these goals
  • Crystallizing your unique value proposition
  • Spotlighting your most relevant and impressive accomplishments
  • Articulating a cohesive personal brand narrative that pulls everything together

These steps are meant for you to reflect on where you have been, where you want to go and how to bridge gaps that prevent you from getting there.

Why Branding Is Important

A brand narrative that consistently and convincingly presents your achievements and professional ethos helps you to:

  • Showcase your expertise
  • Distinguish yourself within your industry
  • Attract opportunities aligned with your career objective

Therefore, it is crucial to start with a strong understanding of your brand, connect it with your primary career aspirations and curate a professional image that communicates your most compelling skills, experiences and values.

It Is What You Make It: Paperweight or Launchpad

A resume without strategic thought is like a ship without a rudder—likely to drift aimlessly and miss potential opportunities.

The important thing is to have realistic expectations: A resume is a tool, not a guarantee. But it can ensure you have a strong starting point and a better understanding of what you are moving toward. It facilitates a focused, targeted strategy, which helps you achieve your goal. The true value of a resume lies in the process, which includes:

  • Defining specific career outcomes
  • Understanding your target audience
  • Assessing and quantifying accomplishments
  • Supporting your market value
  • Developing a professional brand

These steps inspire a proactive approach to career management that taps into critical modern-day skills, such as marketing, branding and sales.

With proper planning, the resume will guide your career trajectory and serve as a launchpad for other aspects of the job search, including networking, interviewing, obtaining referrals and establishing a digital footprint. This empowers you to intentionally design your career path, rather than simply document your past.

Jonathan Estreich, CAMS-Audit, CFE, award-winning four times certified career strategist, founder, Natfluence (Career Growth Fuel), New York, NY, USA,,

  1. Sydney Myers, “2023 Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Usage Report: Key Shifts and Strategies for Job Seekers,” Jobscan, October 2, 2023,
  2. Joseph B. Fuller, Manjari Raman, Eva Sage-Gavin, et al., “Hidden Workers: Untapped Talent,” Harvard Business School, October 2021,
  3. J.R. Johnivan, “Applicant Tracking System Statistics (Updated for Q2 2024),” Select Software Reviews, May 2, 2024,
  4. “19 Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Statistics in 2024,” HQ Hire,
  5. Ibid.
  6. Nilima Marshall, “Chatbots ‘able to outperform most humans at creative thinking task’,” The Independent, September 14, 2023,
  7. “3 in 4 Job Seekers Who Used ChatGPT to Write Their Resume Got an Interview,” ResumeBuilder, February 13, 2023,
  8. Jack Flynn, “23 Recruitment Statistics [2023]: What HR Professionals and Hiring Managers Need To Know,” Zippia, February 23, 2023,
  9. A.J. Dellinger, “Job boards are still rife with ‘ghost jobs.’ What’s the point?” BBC, March 19, 2024,
  10. “Eye-Tracking Study,” Ladders, 2018,
  11. “CareerBuilder Survey Reveals Five Common Job Seeker Pitfalls That Will Hinder Any Career Search,” CareerBuilder, July 28, 2016,
  12. “Job Search & Career Guidance – Cheat Sheets,” Natfluence,
  13. Quote from Steve Jobs, Goodreads,

Leave a Reply