Are paper resumes obsolete?

While paper resumes are no longer the standard for job seekers, they haven't yet been replaced by increasingly popular alternatives.

Paper resumes were once the standard, if not only, form of sharing work experience, educational history and professional achievements. That's no longer the case.

While the format of the resume is still roundly recognized and used, it's increasingly common to see employers request digital resumes during the hiring process. There are some obvious advantages, from making it easier to keep a copy on file to avoiding the potential for damage or loss.

As you look to take the next step forward in your career, it's important to consider how resumes have changed since the rise of the digital era and the role of the paper resume in the hiring process.

A woman sitting at a table at a job interview.

Are paper resumes truly obsolete?

The short answer is no. However, when looking at two common definitions of obsolete from Merriam-Webster, there's an important distinction to be made:

  • Job seekers shouldn't consider paper resumes to be "no longer in use or no longer useful." As long as some hiring managers, HR teams and other stakeholders in the recruiting process continue to ask for these hard copies, they play an important role in securing your next job and shouldn't be minimized or ignored.
  • On the other hand, a paper resume can be considered "of a kind or style no longer current" or, similarly, "old-fashioned." The digital resume is common and offers many benefits, from permanence to ease of updating, that make it more attractive to employers and prospective employees alike.

Whether due to established processes, personal preferences or other factors, some companies continue to request a paper resume as part of their talent acquisition workflow. And even organizations that request digital versions from applicants may print out those resumes for in-house use, such as group sessions to review potential candidates. You can't ignore the potential value of a paper resume.

"Even in this digital age, it is still good practice to bring a paper copy of your resume to an interview," says Robert Colombo, Recruiting Manager for Beacon Hill's Technologies Division in St. Louis. "First, it shows the hiring manager that you've come prepared. Second, and practically speaking, it can save time if you have a resume on-hand. I've seen firsthand when hiring managers become frustrated because they have to go into their inbox to find a resume. Bringing a copy to the interview demonstrates that you respect the interviewer's time."

Understanding different resume types

There are a number of different types of resumes, both in terms of how they're organized and how they're submitted. This guidance can help you understand what each means.

Types based on submission

  • Paper resume: A paper resume is printed out and shared with prospective employers and other interested parties - such as a friend or colleague reviewing and providing feedback. A hard copy of your resume, as with any format, should be carefully reviewed before submission. You should also consider using a heavier paper stock for a sense of professionalism. The Cornell University College of Human Ecology recommended using off-white, 32lb resume paper infused with cotton for strong presentation.
  • Digital resume: A digital resume is shared via email or another file exchange system. These resumes might include additions like videos and links to past work, which isn't possible with a hard copy of a resume.
  • Electronic resume: An electronic resume is a plain-text file that strips out ornamentation and advanced formatting. These are generally read by computer programs as opposed to individuals, as TechTarget explained. Simplicity is key in this format.

Types based on organization

The Balance defined three common resume formats, among many others:

  • Chronological resume: This format lists relevant work history from the most recent position held to the least. It's a common approach and may be preferred or required by many employers.
  • Functional resume: This style highlights relevant experience, skills, knowledge and other attributes instead of using a chronological format.
  • Combination resume: A mix of the other two formats, the combination resume highlights both relevant skills and work history.

Beacon Hill is here to support your efforts to move forward in your career. To learn more, get in touch with our team today.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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