Nobody gives a final yes to a resume. But they do give final no’s. What to do instead.

Joshua Spodek’s (PhD MBA) book, Leadership Step by Step, launches in February. He is an adjunct professor and coach of leadership and entrepreneurship at NYU and Columbia. His courses are available online at and he blogs daily at

A well-placed woman, “Jane,” who saw me speak on a panel began the process of offering me a job. To put me in touch with her boss, Jane asked for my resume.

I told her I preferred not to send it.

Why did I decline?

The role would complement my personal projects and had autonomy, leadership, and the opportunity to grow. My resume looks great and fit the role.

The problem with resumes

I avoid sending resumes because people don’t approve resumes. People reject them.

At best a resume can get you an interview.

If you can get an interview any other way, get it one of those ways. Then you don’t need the resume.

They are a relic of the past, when we didn’t have dozens of ways of communicating.

Employers use resumes to categorize. You become a commodity, devoid of your personality and unique value. You’re lucky if they categorize you into what they want.

80% of success is showing up.

In person you can talk, which you can do before, during, and after an interview. Talking in-person creates a dialog to learn what they want and tell them your relevant background and skills.

What to do instead of sending the resume​

Again: If you can get an interview any other way, get it one of those ways. Then you don’t need the resume.

Develop your skills to talk more in-person.

In my case, I led Jane to email a personal recommendation instead of my resume. Jane’s boss got a personal message from someone she knew — in fact, someone she hired — instead of an impersonal resume from someone she didn’t.

How did I lead Jane to send the recommendation? I said to her, “This may sound unusual, but I only send resumes to jobs I don’t care about.”

Then I told her my reasoning. She told me she hadn’t applied for a job in years and didn’t update hers either.

In other words, I spoke to her. I created more dialog. She learned more about me. We connected meaningfully, which led her to send a more vibrant recommendation to her boss.

Her boss asked for my resume when we spoke on the phone, which I declined to send, but we still scheduled an in-person interview, which was all I wanted. Jane’s referral counted for more than enough.

Jane’s boss’s assistant also asked me for the resume (they were persistant!). The interview was already scheduled, so I risked sending it, feeling I was risking the opportunity, but less than not sending it after they asked three times.

I got the offer and took the position. I don’t think the resume made a difference. It could have hurt but I got lucky and it didn’t.

When to send resumes

Sending resumes for cattle-call positions makes sense, like a free lottery ticket, as long as you don’t spend much time on it or invest too much hope.

But for jobs you care about, building relationships and getting in-person interviews without a resume gets you a human interaction they can say yes to.

Another time I used a resume to filter an employer. I wanted to volunteer at a non-profit. When I interviewed, they told me they needed leadership work and would value my training.

They then told me about how mismanaged they were. Now, no matter how much I loved the project they were working on, I’ve learned “people join good projects and leave bad management.”

I didn’t want poor management to squash my enthusiasm for something I cared enough about I would volunteer for. So I sent my resume. If they valued what I offered and were well-managed, I’d expect to heard from them. If not, I didn’t want to volunteer.

I never heard from them, which I chalked to mismanagement, and put my time to better use.

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