by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Web-based resume-building services like VisualCV and Emurse have been around for several years. In fact, as far back as 2001, a site called 10MinuteResume offered Web-based resume-building (10MinuteResume has morphed into Pongo Resume, which also offers a resume builder, as well as a cover-letter builder.)
Additional sites have jumped into the resume-building game. This article offers an overview of some of them, as well as thoughts on the value of Web-based resume builders compared to engaging a professional resume writer or preparing your own resume unaided. I did not build a resume on any of the sites but explored each of them enough to form an opinion of the products offered. I welcome other opinions from users or the folks behind these sites, which we'll publish at a later date.
Most of these services offer free basic products, with some also offering the opportunity to upgrade to gain access to additional services. In some cases, additional costs are not readily apparent and are discovered only through digging through the site or signing up.
Web-Based Resume Builders
Pongo Resume offers users the ability to create a free resume, with the option to "upgrade to a monthly or annual subscription ($9.95 monthly; can be canceled anytime; $59.95 annually) for unlimited access to printing, distribution, and tracking." The service offers live-chat and toll-free phone support. Pongo also offers a cover-letter builder with several types of letters; the letter I generated was highly formulaic and dull. The cover-letter builder might help those who are filled with angst at the idea of writing a cover letter, but the cover letter generated is unlikely to impress employers much.
Connect CV offers resumes with an "interactive format" and "packed with features that ensure you stand out during employer searches, candidate reviews and interview short-listing." Creating a resume is free; several add-on services are available for a fee. The sample resumes I viewed were decent basic documents, but they violated some of the guidelines for effective resume writing.
The product at Talentag is referred to as a profile or social CV rather than a resume (see a sample here). Says the site: "Tags and badges you send and collect over time form social resumes for you and your friends or co-workers." Profiles consist of badges, a bare-bones work history, and a log of recent actions on Talentag. Talentag's special twist on resume-building is the ability to ask friends for feedback. "Get to know yourself and your friends by their answers about you," the site suggests. Talentag is completely free with no add-on or upgrade costs; co-founder Juri Kaljundi notes that services will remain free for private users, but future versions will require fees from corporate users ("related to recruitment and finding people").
Innovate CV, a UK site, offers attractive online resumes with multimedia capabilities (see a sample; I found it very similar to VisualCV's product). In the words of Innovate CV: "An Innovate CV is a new-generation online tool. It incorporates a Multimedia CV builder that offers a range of functionalities including video and audio capability and space to upload samples of work, certificates, qualifications, references etc." An account with Innovate CV is free. The site also offers a Career & Training Centre with fee-based courses.
The Brazen Careerist Social Resume describes itself this way: "A one-of-a-kind, interactive showcase of your top ideas from around the web." You can see a sample, as well as a video explaining the concept here. On their social resumes, users can highlight, for example, imported blog posts, network conversations, content created elsewhere, guest posts, freelance gigs, and portfolio projects. The concept of "top ideas" is at the core of the Brazen Careerist Social Resume, and these ideas kick off each resume. Other sections include "About Me," "Work History," and "Education." The Brazen Careerist Social Resume is free and users get their own URL.
BriteTab differentiates itself from other Web-based resume-builders in that it "allows users to blend short video clips into their existing text resumes online, meaning viewers don't have to sit through long-form candidate videos. BriteTab also offers the ability to upload portfolio contents so hiring managers can have access to your entire professional portfolio all in one place." BriteTab has a free basic level and a free 30-day trial of its $7.99/month subscription service. It's only with a premium subscription that users can add video and documents. The premium service, the site notes, enables users to "choose from many more templates and themes. ... The premium subscription also allows for an unlimited number of resumes." You can see samples here. I found the BriteTab sample resumes decent, but no better than those on VisualCV, which offers more options -- such as adding video -- in its free version than BriteTab does (VisualCV premium accounts are available for $59.95 annually. See VisualCV samples here). I asked a BriteTab representative to describe how BriteTab is distinguished from VisualCV: "BriteTab offers more control over the design and layout of your resume," David Rogers said. It is a true free-form layout tool. VisualCV is not this. It is far more templated and generic. Our tool was built to help job-seekers create a unique representation of their resume." Rogers, director of product development, also notes that BriteTab "is designed for the presentation of text and video together. Our floating video design creates resumes that follow a traditional text format that includes short video clips to supplement the content."
The very expensive ($499) Executive Preview enables users to upload a resume and then shoot an accompanying video message in a professional studio. The video is then silhouetted so it floats in front of the user's resume and delivers the user's message. Since the resume is the user's own creation, the samples I saw were rather conventional (although they contain a photo of the user in a top corner), so the big draw is the floating video (which viewers can turn off by clicking an X).
Slideshow Resumes are a growing trend, and while I haven't seen a site exclusively dedicated to slideshow resumes, myBrainshark touts resumes among the narrated slideshows (myBrainshark refers to these as "video presentations") that users can create on its site. myBrainshark is free. Arguably the best known slideshow site is SlideShare, which offers the same capabilities as myBrainshark, including the ability to add audio narration to presentations. On both myBrainshark and SlideShare, if you conduct a search of "resume," you can see a mix of presentations about resumes and presentations that serve as resumes (some have audio narration; some don't). Both myBrainshark and SlideShare offer free basic levels of usage, (on SlideShare, the slideshows carry ads at the free level), as well as paid, premium levels with more features.
Are These Web-Based Resume-Builders a Good Idea for Job-Seekers?
Since a strong Web presence and "findability" by employers is a major asset in today's job search, these services -- especially the free versions -- are worth considering. "I recommend using as many avenues to get your name/resume out there," says professional executive resume writer Kim Little, Charleston, SC. A resume built on the Web and residing online should not be the only version of your resume. You need a more conventional text-based resume that you can customize for each position you apply for. But you might consider some of the resume products discussed here as a supplement to your resume and a way to raise your visibility to employers who are trolling the Web for candidates.
E.M. Lysonge illustrates this multiple-resume idea with his own experience: "I've had many positive responses to my Visual CV," explains Lysonge, who is vice president, regulatory and government relations, at Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY. "No one has ever complained about clutter; however, I do not use the VisualCV as my formal resume submission. Instead, I use the Visual CV to expand and define my online existence. Having a presence in cyberspace allows recruiters to more readily find you online."
Further, as Stephanie Welder points out, "Web-based resume services are a place to start if you haven't written a resume before or haven't updated yours recently." Welder, who is owner/counselor at Access College and Career Consultants, LLC, in the Philadelphia area, observes that "they provide templates that let you see how resumes are created and formatted."
But these sites don't write your resume for you. They organize it into a compelling format with some bells and whistles, but they can't strengthen content that is weak to begin with. "Without the right content," Little notes, [such as] strong focus on achievements and overall verbiage/presentation, using those sites may not serve you well. You have to start with a very compelling resume." Tom Hamann, "resume guru" at Advance Yourself Career Services in Queensland, Australia, agrees: "It's the content that counts, not whether you use a certain technology." (See the sidebar to this article, Case Study in Using Web-based Resume Builders.)
"Online apps can make a resume look nice," says resume writer Howard Earle Halpern, Toronto, "but most candidates want to work for people who value content over glitter."
Several experts suggested that if you intend to build a resume online, the best place to do it is LinkedIn. The well-established and favorably reviewed VisualCV, for example, will never provide as big an audience of employers as LinkedIn will, notes resume writer Darrell Z. DiZoglio of RighteousResumes.com, Providence, RI. "Visibility is key for job-hunters and LinkedIn wins hands-down with over 135 million members and international visibility, too," DiZioglio says. "Take my advice; make Linkedin your first priority for an online resume/CV/profile."
In fact, perhaps recognizing that many users deploy LinkedIn as a resume builder, the professional network has initiated LinkedIn Resume Builder. "Turn your LinkedIn Profile into a beautiful resume in seconds," the Resume Builder portion of LinkedIn states. "No more messing around with multiple Word and PDF documents scattered all over the computer. Pick a resume template, customize the content, and print and share the result to your heart's content." I tried the application, and it certainly is fast. My LinkedIn profile is not very resume-like to begin with, so the resume created from it is flawed. The LinkedIn Resume Builder enables users to reorganize resume sections, instantly switch to a different resume design, edit their LinkedIn profiles so they work better as resumes, control privacy, share their resumes on various social-media venues, and print out resumes.
The opinions that really count, those of hiring decision-makers, tend to be negative about these new resume products (granted, I talked to a very small sampling of them). "First-pass review is of a printed, paper resume -- in black and white," says James Bupp, a contract electronics design and project leader. While pretty on the screen, these multimedia resumes don't print well and take up a lot of page space. In other words, such a resume is a negative."
Cheryl Roshak, president of recruiting firm Cheryl Roshak Associates, New York City, viewed samples from ConnectCV and VisualCV, concluding that these were "cookie-cutter resumes that not only wouldn't pass or get read, they contain information that is not needed today." She also looked at the sample Brazen Careerist social resume, which she said "had way too much information and was confusing." Roshak asserts that "an employer does not need all this information, and it shows a lack of independence, confidence and ability on the candidate's part to write his or her own resume with the tools that are available today."
"I'm not a fan," agrees Debby Afraimi, senior recruiting consultant at Collective, a media and technology solutions provider. "The purpose of a resume is to introduce yourself to a potential employer," she continues. "It should be concise, yet detailed enough to demonstrate career progression, skill set, and education. In my opinion, multimedia resumes are like bringing in all of your friends to introduce you. There's too much noise that ends up watering down the information that I'm actually interested in seeing."
"A resume is a very personal statement by the candidate that represents the candidate's abilities to think, write, design, and position and brand himself," Roshak says. "Going to an outside source, such as a resume writing service, is always obvious, and so are these emerging sites. These services tell you nothing at all about the candidate. Th y are just bells and whistles and are most y made-up nonsense ... No on has he time to peruse such complicated overloaded interactive resumes that say nothing."
Dean Da Costa, blogger and staffing professional at Wirestone, Redmond, WA, points out that many of these new twists on resumes cannot easily be entered into the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that many employers use. Hiring decision-makers also aren't necessarily inclined to click on links to resumes hosted at these sites. "If a person sends me a link to a resume with no other info," Da Costa says, "I do not click on it -- could be spam or a virus. If they provide background info that shows they actually are applying, then I will click on the link. If you are going to provide link to a resume, you better at least send a cover letter or have some information explaining to me why I should click on the link."
To sum up the value of these Web-based resume builders:
- If you can create resumes using the free level at some of these sites without shortchanging higher-priority job-search activities (such as networking), the online visibility these resumes provide can be useful. The resume may be especially valuable if you have your own Website, where you can display either the resume or a link to it.
- Don't make one of these resume products your only resume but a supplement to a compelling traditional resume.
- Web-based resume-builders can provide a boost to neophyte resume creators because they offer guidance in how to organize and format a resume.
- Understand that effective, persuasive resume content is more important that a cutting-edge format.
- Be aware that hiring decision-makers may not view these resumes especially favorably.
- Be sure to include a LinkedIn Profile among your online visibility options and consider trying LinkedIn's Resume Builder.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. .
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