Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.
Question: Due to the global pandemic, many sweeping changes have taken place. I would like to know: Will resumes, CVs and cover letters become a thing of the past? What will be the proper medium to apply job opportunities? – Anonymous
Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: We might be acclimated now, but remember: We jumped from record-low unemployment to levels unseen since the Great Depression. That’s unbelievable and a tragedy for the millions of hardworking Americans affected, so I hope neither you nor your loved ones are among them.
But even if you are, don’t get too down on yourself. After all, refreshing these items will keep you busy and get you back into the swing of things in no time.
Résumés, CVs, and cover letters are the bread and butter of recruitment and hiring, so most employers still take them seriously. And, yes, while the world of work is ever-changing, the reality remains this: They’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
Now, before breaking down why that’s the case, I want to quickly distinguish between the types of materials you mentioned.
Résumés are usually one- to two-page summaries of your experiences, skills, qualifications, and achievements. Resumes are more common in the world of work, but there are also CVs which is short for curriculum vitae. These serve the same purpose but are much longer (featuring your entire career) and are typically more common in academic and scientific circles.
Cover letters, on the other hand, can address common questions a recruiter might ask, such as why you want to work for them, what makes you the right fit, highlight how you’re unique, or, perhaps explain a gap in employment on your résumés.
Ultimately, these different documents aim at reinforcing one message: Why they should hire you. It might seem like a lot of work, but I promise you it will be a wise investment of your time.
If you decide to update your own, here are three things to keep in mind:
• Don’t list every job you’ve ever had to show “experience.”
• Be clear and concise.
• Your materials should reflect the job you want, not the ones you’ve had.
Best of luck!
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Q: I have been temping, as needed, for about 5 years for a government office. They recently posted a position that I would have loved to apply for, but because I was working for them in a stressful, overtime period, I missed the opportunity. This is totally on me, and a lesson learned.
Here’s where I’d love your perspective: The job posting said they’d use all submitted applications as a pool for future positions. When I emailed the HR manager, asking if I could submit to the pool, she sent me what felt like kind of a cold response that the position was closed and so was the pool. Is it just me or does it seem unfair that this pool, only advertised inside a specific posting wasn’t advertised on its own? Am I missing something? – Anonymous
Taylor: I’m sorry you missed out on the job you wanted to get, but I’m happy to hear you’re framing it as a lesson.
I understand how you might be put off by this response. After all, you’ve been putting in work as a temp for quite some time now. But I wouldn’t take it too personally. You mentioned it’s a government office, so it’s possible they can’t accept applications after a certain deadline.
Additionally, most governmental entities have an Affirmative Action Program (AAP) and/or Equal Employment Opportunity commitments requiring them to follow established guidelines in recruiting, interviewing, and selecting candidates. This is to ensure a fair process for all who apply.
If this organization hires often, try exploring other openings that might fit your skillset. Or, see if they save résumés for future consideration; some organizations have a system that alerts interested applicants when a new position opens. If possible, try signing up or submitting your application early so you don’t miss your next chance.
Lastly, you could consider tactfully asking the HR manager the best way to make it known that you are interested in a particular position. They may give you some helpful tips and guidance on applying for permanent positions at your organization.
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