Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Making Your Resume POP

For those of you who do not know me, I love reading, writing, and editing. Big time. To the point where I offer a free service to friends and family to read papers and edit them. One thing I started to do in the workplace, to further enhance the nerdiness factor, was to offer co-workers or my associates the chance to have me edit their resume. At the time I was a hiring manager, and I was shocked to see very poorly written resumes being submitted. The people were typically well-spoken with the right amount of experience, but on paper they did not appear qualified and often seemed lacking in the writing department. After speaking with a few internal candidates, I offered to assist those applying internally. I only had a few people take me up on the offer, but I truly believe that there are certain things your resume should have, whether a format style or content, that will really catch the eye of perspective employers. Here are my tips:

Make sure that your NAME stands out
Your name should be at the top of your resume in a font larger than the rest of your resume. Before they see anything else, they should see your name. If your entire resume is in font 12, then your name begins to blend in and will be overlooked by a potential employer. I suggest using font 20 since it is larger without being insanely so. 

Lose the "Objective" and use a "Profile" instead
"Objectives" refer to a goal that you may have, while a "Profile" gives a brief summary of who you are. Objectives are supposed to start with a "To" phrase, but more often than not, this can be summed up in all resumes as "To get a job I enjoy. Please hire me!" Instead use a Profile, which you can use to highlight the major points of your experience, skills, etc. This can be especially useful for IT folks because you can list your major system knowledge here before the employer scrolls down. If you can describe in the first section what you can do, then your work experience only enhances what you know. 

Experience Highlights
Some may disagree with me, but I believe in using experience highlights versus your entire work history if you have worked many jobs. If someone is applying for a management position, I won't care if they worked as a dishwasher when they were 16. I will be more curious about their previous supervisory positions or how they have managed projects/budgets in the past. In many cases I have seen candidates that have moved up within an organization and worked 3-7 jobs for the same company; in this case, list out the major accomplishments that are the most meaningful to what you are applying for. You still want to account for the dates that you worked for a company, but you do not want a 3 page resume (or longer)!

Evolving Resume
This may be the most controversial tip I have, but your resume should be updated in favor of the position that you are applying for. Note: THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU SHOULD LIE! This simply means that you should focus upon the aspects of past positions that would be applicable or similar to what you are applying for. As an example from my own experience, I held a position that involved managing associates while also completing in-depth supply/demand analysis. Many jobs have multiple functions like this. So if I were applying to be a manager, I would focus more upon the management functions while touching briefly on the analytical side; on the flip side, if I was applying for an analytical job, I would go more into detail with the supply/demand forecasting that I did. In person I would touch on both sides in depth to show how I could juggle both, but on paper I could confuse my audience by detailing both sides. So choose one that best reflects your interested position and edit accordingly. Again, don't lie. This never goes well and it will catch up with you, either when they call your references, or when you suddenly show incompetence in a job that you should be qualified for. But update your experience to best show that you are qualified for the job. 

Use 5 Bullets or Less
First, always use bullet points when describing your experience. And you really should describe each position, since titles can be deceiving or vague. Paragraphs can appear too long and can show a lack of big-picture view if you are not able to give details in bullets. Also, many managers will not take the time to read a resume that looks like a novel, but a well-bulleted resume will get preference. That being said, when using bullets, stick to 5 max. When one job reference lists more than 5 bullets, you risk the chance that your experience may seem disjointed (way too many thoughts) or repetitive (same points just said differently). This will also save you from going over 2 pages. 

Keep your Skills & Awards Current
As much as a manager may love to read about an award from 1999, it just isn't current anymore. To me, if I saw an award with that date, I would wonder why a candidate has not been recognized since then, which could lead down a path you don't want. So if it isn't current, take it out. Leave it as a verbal discussion during the interview if you feel strongly enough about it. 

POP of Color or Style
Luckily, there are many example or template resumes out on the internet (Don't plagiarize!), which can be helpful to give a visually pleasing resume. Consider adding a professional picture of yourself in the corner (keep it small, no more than 3") or add a pop of color. In the past there was mention of using nice card stock for your resume, and this is still good advice. But I would be more impressed by a beautiful layout versus beautiful paper with boring content. You could add color to the paper via borders or watermarks, but be gentle. Use faded colors versus bright ones, and limit yourself to one or two colors that blend well. If your resume is too colorful, it will distract the reader from actually reading your beautifully crafted resume. 

Include your Achievements
For many positions that include financial impacts, it is important to be able to provide details to give support to what you say. A candidate may say that they saved the company $1 million last month, but unless I see proof, I will doubt it. Note: Check your organization's Intellectual Property policy before using items publically. If a candidate would be able to show me an executive summary (Google for examples) of a project without sharing the name or insider information of the company, I would be able to not only see the proof, but also see how they explain it. If I am shown an executive summary and the person is descriptive and passionate, I have learned many things: 1) This candidate knows the material and actually has experience, 2) This candidate is passionate and can work well with executives or managers, and 3) This candidate gets results. 

These are a few tips to get started. Your resume is the paper version of you, so make sure that your paper speaks well of you. You want your resume to intrigue the reader into believing you are a good candidate and also to seek more information from you in the form of a personal interview. 

Again, thanks for taking the time to read! Constructive criticism welcome!

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