“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Whether you’re having trouble getting interviews or you simply want to update your work history, the beginning of the year is a great time to refresh your resume. Understand that your resumé is the essential marketing document for your job search. Your resumé gives a snapshot of your professional, educational and personal skills and qualifications. It should generate interview requests and provide interviewers insight into the value you will add to their organizations. Although it summarizes your past, it is very much about your future. So, invest the time and energy in creating an interview-winning resumé that represents you well. Wondering where to begin? Here’s a list of pointers to guide your resumé remix.
1. Know Your Marketability.
For your area of expertise or desired career, build your resume based on the awareness of the hiring needs of your target companies and organizations. Understanding your most sought-after strengths and skills will help you shape a clear focus to maximize your marketability.
2. Be Clear About Your Brand.
Your resume only covers what is marketable and what represents your professional brand. It is not intended to get you a job. It is intended to get you the interview. Hiring managers look to make sure you have the “basics” for their open position. But, what sets your resume apart from all the others are the “brand attributes” — those qualities that distinguish you from other candidates. Are you bilingual? Do you have exceptional credentials? Are you a high achieving professional? Have you been certified in a specialty? Are you coming from a highly regarded competitor?
3. Carefully select a format.
The most successful resume formats are Chronological, Functional and Hybrid.
• Chronological format is the most traditional, commonly used format. It is preferred by many hiring managers and is used when you have no gaps in employment and are seeking a position requiring similar skills to your recent employment.
• Functional format is useful when switching careers. It lists key functional skills and related accomplishments by first grouping qualifications by skill headings and highlighting major areas of accomplishment, strengths and abilities in order of importance for a particular employer or job. Actual work history is minimized. A downside to this format is that it may raise a “red flag” to hiring managers in the case of employment gaps.
• Combination format combines the best of chronological and functional presentations. It also includes a longer qualifications summary section, highlights functional skills and emphasizes employment history results, instead of job duties.
Another formatting option typically used by individuals in scientific, medical, or educational positions is the Curriculum Vitae (CV). A CV is more detailed, longer and intended to be a full record of your career history versus a resume’s brief, targeted list of skills and achievements.
4.Keep the Common Components.
Resumes are typically comprised of five or more sections, depending on the format style and relevance for your background. They are:
Contact information – Heading
Career Summary or Profile
Technical Skills – Optional
Experience with Accomplishment Statements
Education & Professional Development
• Optional Components
Awards, Presentations, Publications
5. Make Your Contact Information Prominent.
Be sure to include your best phone number at which to reach you (with a professional voicemail message) and your professional email address (not your work email address). Skip your street address and add a link to your LinkedIn profile. Consider adding your Twitter handle, but only if it is suitable for prospective employers.
6. Object to the Objective Statement.
Unless you are making a significant career change and need to explain why your experience doesn’t match the type of jobs you are seeking, skip the objective statement and opt for a career or professional summary statement.
7. Introduce Yourself.
Use a career summary as the introduction for your resume. It is the written “Tell Me About Yourself” section. It sets the tone and organizes the information for the reader in advance. Use keywords, industry- specific terms and core skills to provide a brief, powerful statement of your professional brand, value and credentials. The career summary opens with a brief statement describing your functional expertise, and the industry in which you have the most experience, or in which you are most interested and identifies your top skills, strengths, knowledge areas and personal attributes that have the most appeal in the marketplace and fulfill the reader’s available job needs.
8. Make a Strong First Impression.
Be sure your strongest qualification statements and your best accomplishments are visible on the top third of your resume. Most reviewers spend 30 seconds or less screening resumes. The top of your resume should be engaging enough to draw them in to keep on reading. This top section is what the hiring manager is going to see first—and what will serve as a hook for someone to keep on reading. Taking care to use relevant words and phrasing will also help to keep your resume top of mind.
9. Clearly State Results.
Accomplishment statements need to describe the problem you encountered, what actions you took and the results you achieved. The best statements will include clear, quantifiable results that show the value you bring to teams and companies. Your accomplishment statements will provide specific examples of your work and impact on the company or organization helping the reader to see consistent patterns over time.
10. Keep It Relevant.
You do not need to include every job you’ve ever had. Your resume is not a comprehensive work history. It is the marketing tool to highlight you as the best person for the job you seek. As you send your resume to potential employers, tailor it to include relevant accomplishments and skills that clearly reflect why you are applying.
11. Manage Your Timeline.
To avoid raising any eyebrows about being too old or too young, leave off graduation dates and consider omitting non-essential work experience over 10 years old.
12. Use as Many Pages as You Need, but Not One Page More.
Resume page limit is an often-discussed topic. Two pages are the standard maximum length. However, the bottom line is you need to convey your marketable career attributes on as few pages as necessary while being as compelling a candidate as possible. If your relevant and critical experience, training, and credentials warrant more than one or two pages, proceed with caution. But, if you can say more with less, just do it! Note: If you are a recent college graduate or relatively new to the workforce, one page is likely enough.
13. Say More Online.
If you still have more to tell potential employers or you have a must-see portfolio or other work samples, consider including a link to your personal website, YouTube channel, Google Docs™ or other web-based content that helps provide insight into why you are the best candidate.
14. Make Sure It’s Easy to Read.
To be sure your resume gets a deeper look, align your dates and locations to the right, don’t justify your resume, pick either your roles or your companies to bold (not both), use all-caps very sparingly, use digits when writing about numbers, maximize the first few words of your bullets points, limit your use of industry jargon, and keep your resume formatting consistent. Write in the third person; do not use “I.” Use strong action verbs and use past tense. Use technical terms only if they are required to explain your work. The goal is here readability.
15. Carefully Consider Content.
Be completely honest. False statements are grounds for dismissal. Do not include references, salary history or salary requirements. Avoid pictures and do not include information such as race, marital status, gender, country of origin, religious denomination or political affiliation.
16. Be Aware of the Visual effect
Whenever possible and if page length allows, use larger-than-average margins to create a generous amount of white space. Use underlining and bullet statements sparingly. Use a readable type style and size. Keep it current and leave Time New Roman in the past. Helvetica, Arial, or Century Gothic are good font style choices. Use a font size between 10 and 12. Font or typeface for your name, resume headers, company names can be different fonts and sizes, but keep it simple and consistent.
17. Quality Matters
Use good quality white, gray or ivory bond paper. Print using a high-quality photocopy machine or laser printer.
18. Forget the Phrase “References Available Upon Request”
Human resources professionals will ask for references, if they are seriously considering hiring you.
19. Proofread Again and Again
Spelling and grammar checks are not enough. Ask a family member or friend to review your resume. Check it again for clarity and to be sure your resume is typo free.
20. Save Your Resume as a PDF
Always email a PDF to ensure your formatting stays intact.
21. Seek Professional Help
There’s no shame in getting help. If developing your resume is intimidating, consider working with an expert. This is the most important document in your job search arsenal, so it is worth getting right.
Deborah Biddle is the founder of High Performance Development Solutions, a consultancy focused on professional development and leadership coaching, as well as diversity and inclusion workshops and training. Deborah is also a career transition consultant at Career Momentum Inc. Deborah writes Mosaic Marketplace, a blog for diverse business enterprises in and around Madison and has been a featured blogger for Career Partners International.