by Alexandra Samuel
Now that LinkedIn has become the standard place to present your professional history and credentials — not to mention the fastest way to check somebody else’s — the humble résumé has lost its once-hallowed position as the canonical version of your professional identity. Your LinkedIn profile should be the most-viewed and most current version of your professional life. That has many people asking: Do I even need an old-fashioned résumé anymore?
The answer is a highly qualified “yes”.
The Value of LinkedIn
In the past, résumés have served several functions:
1. Applying for a job: When you’re applying for an advertised position, you almost certainly need to submit a résumé as part of the application process.
2. Job hunting: Even if you’re not applying for a specific job, you may still use a résumé as part of your search process, as a way of introducing yourself to people who may be interested in your skills.
3. Professional credentialing: Résumés act as a way of establishing your professional credentials in many circumstances, like grant applications, requests for proposals, and conference or speaker submissions.
4. Professional memory: Your résumé is your own professional memory. Keeping it up-to-date is a way of ensuring you don’t forget the professional accomplishments or qualifications you may want to highlight during your next job hunt.
In the world of LinkedIn, blogs, and professional landing pages (a.k.a. “nameplate” sites), however, most of these functions can be better accomplished through your online presence. If you are job hunting, send people to your LinkedIn page instead of sending a PDF of your résumé. (Unlike a résumé, a solid LinkedIn profile includes not only your self-proclaimed qualifications, but testimonials from colleagues, clients, and employers.) If you need to establish your professional credentials, sending someone a link to your LinkedIn page will often be the most efficient way to convey your relevant experience. And for maintaining a professional memory, LinkedIn is unbeatable, precisely because it’s easy to update, and because you’re likely visiting the site on a regular basis.
To serve any of these purposes, however, your LinkedIn presence must be well-crafted and up-to-date. Even if you aren’t sending people to your LinkedIn page, it is likely to be one of the first results for anyone who Googles you to find out about your professional qualifications and experience. That’s why you need to ensure it’s accurate, compelling, and current; unless you’re updating your LinkedIn profile monthly or at least quarterly, you’re not putting your best foot forward. Setting up a memorable short URL for your LinkedIn profile, and including that URL in your email signature line, is a good way to remind yourself that this is something people are going to look at regularly.
Blogs, Websites, and Landing Pages
For all its merit, LinkedIn has limitations: you have to fit your career story into its structure, and you have only minimal control over formatting. That’s why many professionals use their own blog, personal website, or professional landing page to craft a more strategic online presence. For many professionals, the best bet is to maintain several presences, customized to different purposes, so that you can point people to the presence that is relevant to each specific scenario. For example, you might maintain:
• A speaking profile: Professionals who do a lot of speaking or conference submissions would do well to create a specialized presence on a speaker directory like ExpertFile (formerly Speakerfile), a nameplate site like about.me, or even on Slideshare.
• A services profile: If you offer services as a independent contractor, whether that’s as a web developer, a designer, a coach or an accountant, setting up a landing page for your contract work can be an efficient place to point potential clients.
• An author profile: If you have a book, blog, or publication file, you will want to profile yourself for readers or future writing assignments with an author page on Amazon, a writing marketplace like MediaBistro, or a web presence for your book.
Why You Still Need a Resume
When you are actually applying for a job, however, neither LinkedIn nor a professional landing page can replace the résumé. A strong résumé is still the gateway to an interview, and with more and more employers relying on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) — software that screens résumés to determine which applications warrant human review — you need a résumé that you can upload to those systems. Nor can it be the same résumé for every application; since an ATS typically screens for specific qualifications and keywords, you need to customize your résumé for each job (or type of job) that you apply for, and optimize it for ATS screenings.
Even when you are reduced to creating a résumé that is an old-fashioned printable document, LinkedIn can still make your life easier. LinkedIn offers a free résumé builder that converts your profile into a draft résumé which you can format, tweak, and even download as a PDF. Don’t rely on the résumé builder to do the work of résumé creation on its own, however. When I compared LinkedIn’s automatically-generated résumé with the latest version I authored myself, the handcrafted version got an A+ from the résumé evaluation service RezScore, while the LinkedIn version only got a B-. And that was after I gave up on the PDF, and turned it into a more scannable Word document that I then cleaned up.
While it can’t eliminate the job of editing and formatting your résumé for specific job searches, LinkedIn and its résumé builder can and should change the way you think about and maintain that résumé. The standard wisdom — treat your résumé as a living document that you update anytime you have a new accomplishment to record — now applies to LinkedIn, not to your résumé itself.
Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, along with any professional landing pages or blogs you choose to maintain, and most of the purposes of your résumé will be well-supported. And at the moment that you’re actually applying for a job and need an old-fashioned résumé, LinkedIn’s résumé builder will give you a strong head start.
Alexandra Samuel is Vice-President of Social Media at Vision Critical, a market research technology provider. She is the author of Work Smarter with LinkedIn (Harvard Business Review Press, June 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @awsamuel.