BY RICK RIDDLE
This is not your father’s workplace, and it will not be his resume. And it won’t even be Generation X’s resume either. Things are changing that fast.
If you are in the process of crafting your first career resume, then you have no doubt been online, and you have looked at templates and formats; you have spent some time making lists of experience, achievements, honors/awards, and a number of other things that may or may not make it into the final documents. Note, the word “document” is plural, not singular. This should be your first important clue. As you look to this critical task, and the application journey itself, here are six tips and a few “no-no’s” that should help.
- Accept the Fact that a “Robot” Will Probably be the First to See Your Materials
Not really a robot, of course, but something quite close. Your resume, which of course you will be submitting online these days, will be scanned electronically. That scan is looking for very specific elements, especially keywords and phrases that were used in the position posting or the job description or for the hard and/or soft skills critical to the position. This is just one reason why you will be crafting different versions of your resume.
- Your Resume will Get 6 Human Seconds
If you make it through the screening to human eyes, those eyes will “size you up” within 6 seconds, and the person behind those eyes will make a decision whether to move on or to read your entire resume. In order to make it easier to “size you up,” be certain that you have made good use of bold headings and sub-headings and bullet points. Putting a good amount of white space in between each section also helps. The key is to make your resume “scannable and snackable.”
- Open With the Briefest of Summaries, Not a Career Objective
Opening with a career objective used to be recommended. Over time, however, that has become less and less important to employers. What they are really interested in is what value you can bring to their organizations. They want to see you as the solution to a need.
If you have never heard of an “elevator speech,” do some research on the term. Basically, it is the briefest description of who you are professionally and what you can accomplish – a statement that can be made in less than 30 seconds. Read some examples. These will give you an idea of what you want to say in your opening summary. And, the more progressive the organization to which you are applying, the more creative you can be with that summary.
Depending upon the position and the organization, you may need different versions of your “elevator speech.”
- Place Emphasis on the Future Not the Past
You have probably had work experience. Some of it may be related to your career; much of it may not have been. As you list your work experience, spend more time on the career-related stuff and be very brief with the unrelated. But be careful about how you define related” and “unrelated.”
Let’s suppose you were a bit of an entrepreneur during school. The business you had was totally unrelated to your career, but you dealt with customers, or you may have had others working with or for you. You developed some “soft skills” that are valuable and that will be of benefit to an organization. This activity is related, so give it a bit more time than the one sentence you will provide for that year you bussed tables.
- Contact Information
You don’t need to put it at the top. Lots of applicants prefer only to put their names and then their summaries. Contact information can go along the side, on a rail, or at the end. You need your email address (many open a new Gmail account with a professional sounding user name just for their job searches or use their school email), and your cell phone – that’s all you need.
Now, you may have a website; you may have an online portfolio; and hopefully you have a LinkedIn page (if not, get a profile together now). You can link to these within your resume or add them as a part of your contact information – the blue color will make them stand out.
- Put Yourself on a Tight Word Budget
If you can get our resume down to one-page, you will make a reader very happy. Obviously, if it’s a CV, you’re in a different ball game, but resumes should not have full sentences in them, except perhaps for the opening summary.
- Bullet point everything
- Use phrases and dump terms like “task responsibilities” – no one really cares about the tasks. They care about what you accomplished
- Use action verbs: “Lead a team of 4;” “increased revenue by 30% over two years.” If your work experience was as a TA, what % of your students achieved 80% mastery or better? Think in terms of what you accomplished, not what you did. And quantify everything as much as possible.
- Do not create sections such as “Strengths” or “Skills.” These should be included in your achievements. Employers are smart – they can pick these out for themselves. And it is during the interview that you can expound on them.
- Use “Call Out” Boxes for a Huge Achievement
If there is something in your experience or background that so totally relates to the position you seek, you need to highlight it as much as possible, so that it attracts the attention of the reader. Put it in a box. This has been shown to be really effective.
- Think Very Carefully about Design
Every organization has a “culture.” When you walk into a bank, for example, you see people at least in professional dress, even though it may be “business casual.” The higher up on the “food chain,” however, the more formal the dress becomes. Banks are conservative institutions. Contrast that with the “culture” of a company like “Google,” where everyone is in jeans, shorts, T-shirts, and flip-flops. You get the difference.
The design of your resume will have to be a match for the culture of the organization to which you are applying, and, again, this may mean several versions of that resume. You want to stand out, but your design cannot be “counter” to the culture.
There are lots of templates out there that will give you examples of resume designs based upon whether an organization is conservative, moderately conservative, moderately progressive, or wholly progressive. Determine the culture of the organization and craft a design that fits.
And Now – the “No-No’s”
- Absolutely NO Typos or Grammatical Errors.
Have someone else review and edit your resume. You are too “close” to it, and spelling and grammar checkers will not catch everything. While this may seem a minor thing, to hiring managers it denotes sloppiness and lack of attention to detail.
- Don’t Exaggerate or Lie
Big mistake. Calling references and checking online presences can catch these. Don’t give yourself a title because it sounds better than the one you had; don’t exaggerate your accomplishments. Employment managers have sneaky ways of getting to the truth – it’s a risk you don’t want to take.
- Don’t Try a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
From the information above, you know that you will probably need several different versions of your resume, depending on the position. You will need to change keywords, possibly your summary and also emphasize different parts of your experience and background. The same goes for your cover letters.
- Don’t focus on Tasks – Focus on What You Accomplished
Employers want to see your achievements. Just listing your task responsibilities does not tell anyone whether you met those responsibilities successfully.
- Don’t Focus on What You Want – Focus on What You Can Offer
Yes, a resume is all about you, but as you create it, keep in mind always what you can bring to the table that an employer will find valuable. If you maintain this mindset, and put yourself in a potential employer’s shoes as they read it, your emphasis will be correct.
People believe that formula for the perfect resume exists, but if you take into account the unique characteristics of each position and the unique culture of each organization, you will design and write much better resumes.
About the author: Rick Riddle is an up-and-coming blogger whose articles can help you with self-development, career, entrepreneurship