Seth Godin Is (Still) Wrong About Your Resume

Seth Godin is one of my mentors. Everything the man says is pure marketing genius. He probably even orders coffee at Starbucks more awesomely than you or I do.

I have to disagree with him, however, on one of his posts I read recently, “Why Bother Having a Resume?” Four years, and several technological advances later, he’s still just wrong when he tells readers “you shouldn’t have a resume at all.”

Of course, my call out of my mentor isn’t epic like a Darth Vader vs Obi Wan “Now, I am the Master!…” showdown. For one, Godin is just a virtual mentor to me… I’ve never met him in person. And I have nowhere near his business gravitas.

However, telling internship seekers they don’t need a resume sends job and internship seekers in the wrong direction – perhaps to the internship search Dark Side? – and should be clarified.

Godin says:

A resume is an excuse to reject you.

Having a resume begs for you to go into that big machine that looks for relevant keywords, and begs for you to get a job as a cog in a giant machine. Just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve?

This opinion is quite simplistic. Until employment seeking evolves to a next level… “job search 3.0” we’ll call it, perhaps… the resume is still necessary.

It’s a tangible summary of your skills… an accessible list of your accomplishments… a prognostication of what you will do for the employer, not just what you have done. Your resume and your accompanying cover letter must be concise, targeted to the position and in every way, perfect.

Contrary to Godin’s assessment, sending a resume doesn’t mean you’re average or destined to toil in the black hole of a giant corporation. There are thousands of fantastic startups and non-profits that would love to review resumes from intern candidates, hire them, mentor them and help them to excel! Many of these are far above average internships at far above average companies… and yes, you deserve every bit of that!

That’s where Godin’s opinion becomes part metaphor for most of us.

Godin says:

If you don’t have a resume, what do you have?

How about three extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows or respects?
Or a sophisticated project they can see or touch?
Or a reputation that precedes you?
Or a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up?

Without saying it directly, Godin seems to infer that job and internship seekers may not need to forego the resume entirely, but they certainly should not rely on it solely. Networking both online and IRL, personal branding through social media and blogging are far more powerful means through which most people get hired than simply sending resumes.

He encourages readers to go beyond the resume:

If you don’t have those, why do you think you are remarkable, amazing or just plain spectacular? It sounds to me like if you don’t have those, you’ve been brainwashed into acting like you’re sort of ordinary.

In Godin-land, the resume seemingly becomes secondary… that a resume automatically makes you “ordinary”. The real-world reality, however, is that the resume is still THE introduction mechanism used by 99% of recruiters and hiring managers – and without one – it will be hard to get a foot in the door, whether we’re spectacular or ordinary.

Another fine post, Obi Wan Godin. I disagree with your opinion and felt clarification was required… but you are still Mentor and Master.



About the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Community Manager and Content Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s overall “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn, and follow him on Twitter!



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  • Tom Bolt

    I don’t think you are really disagreeing with Seth (a hero of mine as well). If you consider the average person (ordinary?) who blankets the world with the traditional CV then he is right. Why bother because that doesn’t get you a job. But some things are necessary. Just as you wouldn’t think of going into a job interview totally stark naked, you need to add bits of traditional “‘clothing” to your search as well. As bad as it is the resume is a necessary tool, but it is only one part of the equation. You are absolutely correct when you say that sending resumes works. Add networking as Seth suggests and you have become extraordinary and have a marketable YOU.  

    •  Well said, Tom.

      The resume by itself is not going to cut it. Searching without it also not ieal. One must combine forces for a truly successful job search. Anything short of that will result in a lengthy job search… much longer than it has to be.

    • Steve Weathersbee


      I agree completely. If your skills are truly in demand, and you’re being courted – then you probably don’t need a resume. For the other 95% of the employees out there, not having a resume will be perceived as not serious and get you disquailified from consideration.


    I think this goes back to the idea if we should give into
    the robots and allow them to rule the earth?

    The ATS system wants
    keywords and structure and uses a systematic approach to acquiring talent. They
    don’t interpret or analyze, and they are only as intuitive as the person that
    programmed it. And since we’re not going back to typewriter days and sending
    your CV through snail mail, smart job seekers will make the resume they submit
    electronically robot-friendly.

    Knowing when to show off the bells and whistles and when to
    use notepad for formatting is a necessary skill in this market. Personally, I
    have 5 different versions of my resume from txt only to a PDF masterpiece. And the
    content for each differs greatly based on my career trajectory and the position
    I am applying to. Even when you work with a recruiter, you should supply them
    with 2-3 versions of your resume to ensure that their hiring managers see what
    they require.

    It’s tedious to say the least, but it won’t be changing
    anytime soon.

    •  Hi Jessica,

      “I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.”

      I agree with you that job and internship seekers should make their resume “robot friendly”. For those who don’t know what Jessica refers to, there are thousands of posts out there on how to format your resume so it can be read by an ATS… an automatic resume screener… so I won’t go into detail here.

      Happy to hear that you have several versions of your resume and that you tailor it to the position. Generic resumes never (as in .01% chance) get anyone hired.

      For now, the resume isn’t going away… even when job seeking steroids like networking and informational interviews are employed.

      Perhaps someday we’ll submit resumes to our new robot overlords to apply to work for them?

  • Great article, Dave. I’m also a HUGE fan of Seth’s but unless you are 100% your own boss, chances are you can’t get away with not having a resume, even at the most senior level. You still have to delight the hell out of your audience, and dazzle your potential employer with your accomplishments. The tried and true form of presenting your accomplishments is via your resume or CV…I’m not sure the employer community is ready for replacements yet. 

    If you aren’t looking to be a ‘cog in a giant machine’ you can always apply to smaller companies, start-ups, or boutique firms that don’t use keywords to select candidates. 

    Thanks for sharing. 

  • Would be nice to think you could have an avatar instead (better-dressed, natch) that would pitch you flawlessly, adapting to the employer & the opportunity.

    Of course, then the employer would have an avatar as well, rejecting yours..hmm..

  • In my experience, the jobs you really want, or should want, are obtained without the need of a resume. The jobs initiated with a resume are just filler in between the really good jobs. Companies that can recognize potential without the formality of an application process are more capable of finding better fits for their organization’s work culture. 

    •  When you trying to pay the bills until you get one of spectacular jobs, you’re going to need a resume.

      • anon

        Never tell an employer you want a job to just “pay the bills”. These “in-betweener” jobs require a good dose of lying and ass-kissing to land them.

  • Jobseekers need a career marketing strategy – with a very clear idea of what value proposition you are offering, what evidence you have to demonstrate that value, solid research on who needs that value, and clear understanding of the buying motivators of your target audience. Without strategy, it doesn’t matter what marketing collateral you use, and a resume is going to be no more helpful in your job search goal than any other piece of junk mail. With strategy, your resume will be one of the most important career marketing tools you’ll use, and people who neglect it do so at their peril.

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  • TJ

    I think both you and Seth are right.

    For 99% of people you absolutely need a resume.

    But for the 1%, those who Seth talk about, a resume is redundant. I’ve seen time and time again that for exceptional candidates, they let their Google brand be their resume. In all fairness to Seth, he’s talking about a different caliber of people and not us average folk, the 1% will never need a resume, people are going to them for work.

    But alas, I’m with the average 99% and I’ll get working on my resume.