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Forget the Traditional Resume.
Try These 5 Tips Instead!
Regardless of the job or industries I have served in, over the past fifteen years, a seemingly necessary part of my job has been recruiting and hiring. This requires a tremendous amount of time pouring over resumes, screening applicants and interviewing people. Through this time, I have honed in on several key factors that make one resume stand out against another as well as ways any job seeker can easily stand out from the crowd. Most recently, while screening resumes for a client, it dawned on me that there is a severe misunderstanding of the resume process by the general population, something that is limiting the potential of possibly millions of otherwise employable individuals.
Most people are missing the very basic fundamentals of job searching, starting with the resume. As we know, you never get a second chance at a first impression. In a job search, that’s just what your resume is… the first impression!
Although most people know the basics of a resume, it has become glaringly apparent that resume writing skills are lacking in our general society. Even people who can produce a general resume and/or have an otherwise strong work history are writing resumes that get discarded because of the lack of “presence” in the piece itself.
Based on my observations and experience, I have compiled 5 easy fixes to write a winning resume, all basic things you can easily implement when preparing for your job search!
5 Easy Fixes to Write a Winning Resume
1. Get Creative!
When posting an open position for my work or a client, we typically get 50-100 resumes the first few days. This is a tremendous amount of information to process for the hiring personnel, and your job is to make it as easy for them to choose yours as possible. Because of this, I urge you, for the love of all that is good and decent in the World, please stop sending generic Microsoft Word resumes!
In this modern, design-centric era, it is so important to have a resume that stands out. Not only will this increase the likelihood that your resume gets more than a slight glance, it creates a great first impression by telling the hiring person that you are creative, fun, and you go beyond the minimum expectation, something they are looking for in any new employee.
As you can see from the samples, there is a significant difference between the generic Microsoft Word resume and the more modern, design-centric resume. Which one would you pick from a stack to look at more thoroughly? Undoubtedly, the second option as our brain is wired to connect with color, shapes, and images.
There is psychological research on the effects of design and color usage and the emotions they invoke. Although we can’t delve into all of that here, this is a great article on the psychology of color when designing for print, which outlines what colors create which emotions.
Additionally, you may have noticed that the layout of the two resumes is quite different. One prominently displays your profile and contact information on the left-hand side while the other displays it on the top, very small with plain text. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic concept of highlighting your contact info as the impact on this is significant. By choosing to put your profile and contact information front and center, you are clearly saying, I’m available to chat!
Pro Tip: Canva.com is a great place to get free resume templates that are completely customizable!
2. Update, Change or Omit the Objective!
One of the most outdated components of a resume, in my opinion, is the objective. Typically, one will write something along the lines of, “To obtain full-time employment that utilizes my experience and skills….” or, they may try to get clever and write something more catchy, such as, “To work for a company that needs a go-getter, self-starter and for whom I can use my awesome skills to grow your business 100x.”. Although these are a little tongue-in-cheek, they aren’t far off from 98% of the resume objectives I’ve read.
These examples speak to the “what’s in it for me?” attitude, a guaranteed turn-off for any potential employer. Employers want to know what value and experience you bring to the table, not what you expect from them. At least not in the resume part of the process.
Even worse, most people will make their objective so specific, it’s useless for many positions for which they applying. As an example, I was recently screening resumes for a client who was hiring for a part-time production position when we received numerous resumes that had objectives that read like this, “To obtain a full-time nursing position that will utilize my education, experience, and love of people.”
When your objective speaks to a specific job title or industry for which you are not applying, this immediately tells the hiring manager one of two things, you are either looking to bide your time while you look for the job you really want, or you do not have the attention to detail an employer would be looking for when hiring, both of which are terrible first impressions!
Because of the things mentioned, I typically skip the objective section altogether when reviewing resumes. Instead, I look for a summary of experience, professional bio, or other interesting information about the individual. I want to know what makes them uniquely qualified for the position and why I would want to recommend them to the employer.
Pro tip: Often employers will advertise for one position when they are willing to hire for another, more advanced or higher-paying position. Putting your best foot forward will not only make you appear to be more of an ideal candidate, it may open the door to even better opportunities!
3. Only Include Relevant Work Experience!
Unless it is your current position or relevant to the position you are applying for, your future employer does not need to know what position you held fifteen years ago, nor do they need to know about the part-time job you had at the local fry joint to make some extra cash. These extraneous details offer no value and detract from the useful information the hiring manager is scanning for in your resume.
Instead, only include the last three positions (or ten years history, at most) and the most relevant work experience. This will help to quickly connect your skills and experience to the position you’re applying for.
So, what do you do if you’re trying to switch industries or just want to try something new? State that up-front in a profile or about section. Spell it out for the person who will be looking over the resume, do not expect they will just “get it” by looking at your resume on the stack of hundreds of others. Again, include the MOST relevant information and positions you can. There will be some cross-over in skills needed or responsibilities regardless of the industry, and a savvy hiring manager will see that.
Pro Tip: Only include the past three positions or ten years worth of work, and include only the most relevant job experience for the position you are applying. If you are switching industries or just trying something new, spell that out!
4. Clean-up Your Social Media
Although not necessarily resume related per se, this is an important tip when job searching. Employers want to know who you are outside of work, and are highly likely to Google you and/or look you up on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram. Having a page that is set to private, or contains inappropriate content is an immediate disqualifier for most employers.
Why does it matter?
Private pages are a wild card if an employer cannot learn more about you, there are likely to go with the candidate who has nothing to hide and is open about their online actions and posts.
On the other hand, if your social media posts don’t fit the value systems of the company, they are likely to pass as well. Whether you like it or not, as an employee of a business, you are an extension of that business even when you are off the clock. Don’t believe me? Read about these six people who were fired for their social media posts, and that’s just one article of the more than 121,000,000 search results on Google as of this post.
Pro Tip: Don’t post stuff online that could prevent you from getting hired or could result in you getting fired. We live in a far too connected World to ignore the implications of your online activity in your real life.
5. Go Beyond the Resume with a Professional Portfolio
I saved the best for last as this is perhaps the single most important tip I can offer you… Go beyond the single-page resume and provide all future employers with a professional portfolio that will tell a broader story about who you are and what skills you bring to the table.
You will immediately stand out from the crowd because no one is doing this!
Your portfolio should include:
- A flashy cover (use Canva to design this, too!)
- An introduction letter that talks about you and give a general overview of what you’re looking for in your next career move as well as highlighting your skills
- Your resume
- Letters of recommendation
- Certifications or special training
- Samples of work (if applicable)
Pro Tip: Keep your professional portfolio updated as you get new skills, attend new industry conferences, or add more experience.
Now, that you have a better grasp on standing out among the competition when searching for a new job, it’s time to get started!