Boy time flies when you’re not writing. It’s been a couple of weeks since my guest writer, Jordan Corn, posted his very astute piece, and its high time I get back to it!
This brings me to my next section, and it involves what is usually the first impression you will make to a prospective employer. Your resume literally becomes your calling card, and you want them to call you back.
Now, there have been plenty of in-depth articles written a great deal about resume-writing. I don’t intend to provide that level of detail; there are others who are much more qualified than I am to provide that. However, I would like to provide some high level pointers on the traits of a good resume. And frankly, each year what looks good on a resume changes. Remember that short time when applicants put small headshots of themselves on resumes? Thank goodness that era is gone!
And now, in no particular order, some pointers on your resume.
- Minimize the colors. I’ve recently been the recipient of resumes that were a Calliope of colors. Reds and yellows and blues. Kee your resume to black and white, or at worst case two muted colors. You should be going for maximum readability and not vibrance.
- Drop your street address. Nowadays, all you need on the resume is your email address, your phone number and the city/state where you live. Keep it simple. They’re not going to mail you anything!
- Use an email address that is professional. I covered this in a previous part. Given that it’s so easy to create a new email address, pick something with your name on it, or something benign. “TheDogPound@aol.com” is probably not a message you want to send. Is that your rap name? Are you a fan of the Browns? What does it mean? You don’t want it to mean anything, if possible. Also, avoid mail domains that may reveal your age. “@aol.com” says “I got an email address in the early 1990’s and never looked back. Avoid “hotmail”, “aol”, “myspace”, “earthlink”, “*.rr.com”, “msn.com”. Stick to gmail, icloud or yahoo.com.
- List no more than about three or four previous employments. Unless your vocation lends itself to short engagements (e.g. consultant), keep the number of previous employers short. If you’ve held multiple positions at the same organization, perhaps group those under a single name. Also, list years as the start and end date. It’s not necessary to list months any longer.
- Leave certifications, education and accomplishments to the end. Your experience is the most important part of your resume.
- Simply put “references available upon request”. You should already know this one.
- No more than 3 pages. Honestly, two should be sufficient, but three should be the absolute maximum length. There may be some exceptions if you are applying for a C-level position.
- Spell and grammar check – and do it again! Use the tools of your word-processor to spell and grammar check your resume. Then have someone else read it. And then someone else. So many resumes I’ve received over the years have typos and incorrect punctuation. Here you’re pitching that you’re detail oriented and then you provide a resume where you use “your” instead of “you’re”. Bad.
- Stay serious. Unless you’re applying for a job as a comic writer (and maybe even if you are), avoid funny quips, images, sarcasm. The resume is supposed to be a professional discussion of your experience.
- Optimize your resume for job scanners. Most organizations put your resume through an online scanner to do a quick review of it. It’s vitally important that your resume is easily scannable. JobScan will scan your resume for you and provide feedback http://www.jobscan.co I would recommend using this or a similar organization to make your resume as easy to process as possible. Below is sample output from a resume scanning site.
- Customize your resume for each job you apply for. As noted in #10 above, your resume is likely to be sent through a resume scanning service. This is then used to see if your skills match the job requirements. It’s very important that you put words in your resume that meet the skill requirements of the job.
- Be honest on your resume. Most people tend to stretch the truth on their resume because often it’s difficult to tell whether an applicant actually has the depth of experience that is being sought. However, if you start adding experience that you don’t have, you may asked a question in that competence area. You don’t want to sheepishly have to answer that you really don’t have that experience. Instead, keep your resume as honest as possible.
- Do include a cover letter in most cases. It can’t hurt to have a cover letter and in some cases it can help. Often a recruiter will scan the cover letter to determine whether the applicant has the appropriate level of writing skills. Sometimes you can explain certain extenuating circumstances by using a cover letter. But usually it’s just consider professional to include one. You can actually create a very simple cover letter template that you can re-use. Make sure though that you customize it to include the date of submission, the name of the organization to which you are applying and the position for which you are applying.
- No headshots please. That practice has thankfully died out.
- Drop the “Career Ambitions” section – or whatever you call it on your resume. List a description of your strengths in a few sentences and let your experience reinforce those skills. The days of “Looking for a whatever at a great place where I can show my whatever skills” are gone.
- Pay a company to write your resume. This is well worth the money.
Other non-numbered points:
Do not despair if you don’t receive any feedback. In the olden (golden) days, you would usually at least receive a rejection letter in the mail (or an email). Nowadays, you may not receive anything. Or you may not receive anything for months. Part of the reason for this is that the application process has become so easy that a job opening may have hundreds of applicants. Organizations typically can’t respond to each one. Another cause of this is that the relationship between organizations and employees has degraded over the years and the modicum of effort required to provide a professional response to every applicant has been deemed not important enough. In either case, log in your Job Search Log (see previous article) that you applied for the job and, if you don’t hear anything in a month, go on the job site and see if the position is still open. If not, then you can assume that you will not be contacted about it. Note: in one case I received a response back three months later. I had to go back to my job log to remind myself what position I had applied for.
Print out copies of your resume and bring them to your interviews. Always have spares in case someone forgets to bring one with you. Make sure it’s printed on nice paper, though you don’t have to use expensive parchment any more.
The perfect resume won’t get you hired. It doesn’t matter how good your resume is. The thing that will get you hired is your interview (coming to a new Part of this series soon). The resume is just supposed to open the door for you to get a chance to speak to someone where you can use your charm, wit and job experience to convince them that you’re the person they should hire.
You may have the perfect resume but still lose out to someone with a lesser resume but better experience. Your resume is not a substitute for experience.