Unemployment is up. Job security is down. Even if you like your job and you don’t intend to leave, you should always keep your resume up-to-snuff because you never know when your boss will decide that it’s time for you to be, once again, on-the-go. Here’s a few tips to make your resume easily digestable.
If at all possible, keep it down to one page. Of course, this is your chance to toot your own horn. So make sure all relevant information for the kinds of jobs you are applying for is represented. But edit yourself ruthlessly. Eliminate extra words. Cull the heck out of the thing. Mention important accomplishments under each job and/or title you’ve held, especially financial ones. But keep it down to one page. No one wants to search for missing pieces of a faxed-over resume. Break it down to the bare facts. If you wish to elaborate, do so in your cover letter (see below).
Use buzz words for your industry. But you better know what you’re talking about. A knowledgeable individual can spot a fraud a mile away. The reason, however, that you want to use these buzz words is that many job agencies and even in house human resource departments these days use search engines to help narrow down prospects. If they’re searching for certain words, you want to make sure they find them on your resume.
Make it easy for a potential employer to do what you want them to do: Call. The top of your resume should broadcast your name and phone number. Try this test with your resume. Lay it down on a table, text facing the table surface. Now pull it up and look at it. If your name and phone number do not scream at you immediately, you should bolden it, make it bigger, whatever you’ve got to do to make your name and contact information easier to see than the next guy’s.
Education vs Experience
Of course, with building a resume comes the inevitable spin. If you’re new to your field, you may want to favor your educational achievements. If you’ve been around for awhile, highlight your real-world experience. Put yourself in your prospective employer’s shoes. Why should they hire you? What will you bring to the table. Then shine a spotlight on it.
To Cover Letter or not to Cover Letter?
The answer: Cover letter. Always. Cover letters are expected. Cover letters are also the only place you get to sell yourself outside of the fact-driven resume. Here’s where you can really spin yourself. Here’s where you can use a writer’s voice to project personality. Keep your cover letter to one page too. Start with an introductory paragraph where you will list what job you’re interested in and where you learned about it. Follow that with a brief paragraph that outlines in broad strokes your experience and abilities. Then use three bullet points to list why you're the ideal candidate for the position. Use another paragraph to highlight additional accomplishments or awards. Then briefly summarize and invite for further contact. As with the resume, make sure your contact information is easily found. It would be a terrible injustice if you were to actually convince them to call you but they couldn’t find your number.
Do What You’re Told
Different employers will have different application guidelines. Especially online, it can get extremely confusing. Monster.com will often have a one-click apply option, for example. But then some employers will ask you to apply through their own system. Or e-mail them a PDF resume. Or e-mail them a Word doc resume. Or link to your online portfolio or reel. You get the picture. Follow their rules, whatever they are and however divergent they might be. There isn’t a silver bullet, unfortunately. Prove to your prospective employer that you can follow directions. You’ll be surprised at how far it will get you.
He Who Follows Up Swollows Up (the Job)
Employers are busy people. In addition to hiring a new person, which admittedly they wouldn’t even have to do if they didn’t need help, they’re often trying to do their regular job as well. So follow up. Immediately after an interview, send a thank you note or e-mail. Give it a few days and place a call. Anytime someone asks you to send or fax them something, you have a great excuse to follow up and ensure that they received it. Each point of contact is a chance for you to shine. It’s a chance for those you interact with to get to like you. Maybe even envision working with you on a daily basis. So be cheerful but make sure you follow up. Remember:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”
– Calvin Coolidge
You may not have known where to start before. But if you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to zooming off in the right direction.
Paul Carhart’s book, Zooming Thru Life: Creative Tips To Bring Sanity To Your On-The-Go Lifestyle, will be available from your favorite online bookseller, Winter 2009. Stay up to date: paulcarhart.com.