The first rule of resumés? There are no rules of resumés.
That may sound contradictory to much of what you’ve heard, but stop for a moment and think about all the different things you’ve heard you MUST do in a resumé. There’s too much disagreement for there to be any real agreement on anything that matters. Start your resumé without rules – beyond what you what your resumé to achieve!
Role of the Resumé – Required Results
Ask many people what their resumé is supposed to do and they may answer “the role of my resumé is to get me the job.”
If that were true, nobody would ever go on interviews. Companies would simply review your resumé, decide that it makes you right for the job and hire you. Nice dream, maybe, but it would also lead to a lot of disappointment and outright firings. No piece of paper, or electronic document, can present the full multi-dimensional picture of who you are and what you can bring. Only you can do that. Only you.
The role of the resumé is to present you as being highly qualified for the position you’re seeking. It documents you. It annotates you. It delivers facts about you. It markets you.
Yes, your resumé is a marketing document, marketing you to potential employers. As with all marketing documents, there are no real rules. There are, however, smart things to do, and smart things to avoid doing. The smart things YOU do will make the difference in the effectiveness of your presentation, but here are some classic fails to avoid.
A Dozen Ways to Wreck Your Resumé
Don’t waste prime space
As a marketing document, the top third of your résumé is the headline, above the fold, the most valuable real estate of the entire document. Hiring managers are confronted with stacks of resumés at a time, so if your headline isn’t a grabber, it’s a goner. You only have the first sentence to “hook” their attention. They will be more than glad to reject your resumé and move on because it gets them closer to the bottom of the pile.
Remember that you are working to convince them that they will benefit by hiring you. Drop the “I’m Great” headline and lead with “Here are the bottom-line results I’ll bring your company.”
Qualify From Word One
Stating your “Objective” used to be ‘standard’ on resumés, but they only talk about YOUR objective, what YOU want out of the deal, and that’s not what a marketing document is about. Focus on the results you will bring, the contributions you will make to their company’s bottom line.
Nobody mails anything anymore, so don’t waste space on a postal street address. Provide a respectable email address. If your current email address describes your physical attributes or what you like to do at a bar, replace it.
Are You a Typo?
Proofread your resumé, then proofread it again, then have someone you trust proofread it. Many hiring managers will tell you if a candidate isn’t careful enough to avoid errors in their own resumé they will be just as incautious in the work they do for their company. No thanks.
Typos should be considered a “death flag” that sends your resumé right to the refuse pile.
Not stating what you want to do
Be smart and start by stating what you intend to bring to the hiring company. Be specific about the position, role, or job title, but be sure to translate everything into a benefit for the hiring manager and their company.
Trying to be everything to everyone. Being too general
As with many IT salespeople who try to remain “flexible” when pitching a new customer, many candidates try to leave themselves lots of latitude. Mistake. Instead, be clear. Recruiters and hiring managers WILL NOT GUESS where you belong in an organization just from reading your resumé, though they may after meeting you. It’s much easier to get a hiring manager to buy into something that’s crystal clear and specific.
Ban the “can”. That is, ban the word “can” from your resumé. You do things. You have skills. Not you “can” do things. “Can” introduces doubt, which can be the death knell for your job search. If you can’t decide on jobs you should apply for and describe why you are an excellent fit for each one AND show excitement about each opportunity, you will not be hired. No great marketer ever succeeded with “either/or.”
Forgetting to add keywords to your resume
Just as we’re living in the age of social networking, we’re also living in a world dependent upon search engines. Put yourself in the head of the hiring manager. What keywords will they use when searching through the resumé database? Make sure those keywords appear on your resumé. KEYWORDS ARE CRITICAL to your visibility.
Listing what you did in past jobs, instead of what you accomplished
Every hiring manager hires people who will achieve results for them. They don’t really care what you did in previous jobs nearly as much as they care about what you accomplished, how your past employers benefitted by having you aboard. Metrics matter. Numbers matter. Results tell the hiring manager what they should expect from you.
Words matter too. Use the most active verbs you can. “Supervised” a team may generate significant yawning, but “Drove” a support team to exceed expectations captures more attention.
Failing to include training as “Experience.”
There are plenty of pretenders out there who learned “on-the-job” and that experience is certainly valuable, but only when it’s coupled with investments you’ve made in yourself. Investments of time, energy, and funds in getting yourself the kind of training that makes the difference between the competent and the professional. If you have been trained in a new field or have volunteered to gain experience, it COUNTS. Unpaid work is still experience. Include it.
Using the same resume for every job application
Unless you are only qualified for one position, you should maintain multiple resumés, each one tailored for different types of positions. Be prepared to modify one any time you’re pursuing a new position. You may focus on different positions you’ve held, different skills, different keywords, different active verbs. Hone your personal marketing for greatest effectiveness in each environment.
A one-page resume
The reason many people recommend keeping your resumé to one page is because hiring managers, like everyone else, have no time and might be tempted to pass by a resumé that is too long. This takes us back to the first suggestion – make the first section of the resumé the grabber. If you’ve got a lot of great experience to share, share it, but make sure the hiring manager has everything they need to fall in love with you before they get halfway down the first page. Make them WANT to read the rest.
Resumé Gone Wild: Too crowded and over-formatted
Some professional resumé preparers are aware that their products need to look different than what you would do yourself. The problem is that many of them go overboard with fancy formatting, callout boxes, curly frames, cute fonts and other nonsense that doesn’t add any value. Like everything else about your resumé you want the format to project your professionalism. Keep it simple and respectable. Use bold-face to call out key points. Consider highlighting your job titles rather than the companies, unless the companies are just so impressive that you need to highlight them
Play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. That’s the way to produce an excellent marketing document for yourself.
Resumés in the Social Networking Age
You will hear many people advise you that resumés are no longer needed, that they’re outdated. That’s not fully true, but here’s some closing food for thought.
Networking is everything. Everybody is on a network, or many networks. We live in the age of social networking. Many of the people who say resumés are no longer needed may be forgetting the importance of providing documentation of history and achievements which companies still like to keep on file. But here’s what they’re trying to tell you when they tell you to skip the resumé:
Ask yourself which you would prefer, having someone learn about you from a document that lists what you’ve done, or have that person learn about you from someone who knows and trusts you? Which do you think can represent you more accurately, and more impactfully?
Of course, people trust people they know more than they trust any document they receive. When you network with friends and associates to seek new opportunities and they speak to their other friends and associates on your behalf, your message is much more powerfully delivered. You will still very likely be asked to furnish a resumé for the sake of required documentation, but the traditional primary function of the resumé will have been accomplished much more effectively by your friend.
Network constantly and keep your well-prepared resumes handy for next steps. Good hunting!