Everyone loves a good story and when the story is easy to follow and is relatable, it’s not hard to keep the reader engaged; this is also true for resumes.
Your resume needs to communicate a crystal clear story—succinctly and transparently. Your reader should see distinctly who you are and where your aspirations lie. Taking a proactive approach to your career search means getting help from a professional and will be key to your job search. Before you connect with a professional, review your resume to make sure you stand out. Read on for some advice and tips that’ll make sure you craft a winning resume that will help you land a job.
Your resume is a marketing document.
It’s not just a timeline or history of your professional career. Focus on each job that you are interested in as a bullseye and each reader as a customer—send out resumes that highlight the accomplishments that are relative to that position. A one size fits all approach is not an effective strategy, however; keep a master list of all jobs and key responsibilities that you can refer to and pull over into your targeted resumes.
Focus on the upper third and zoom in.
All your best accomplishments and experiences should be housed in the upper third of your resume. This is what will be seen first and it will serve as a magnet to keep the viewer reading more. Put your first and most relevant experiences first. In your bullet points, zoom in on exactly what experience or skills are needed for the position you want. Are you able to align enough of your skills and experience to the job description that is posted. At a glance, you may have thought a particular position would be a great opportunity. But once you go through the alignment process, you see that, well…you may be a little off. Maybe you are too qualified or perhaps not qualified enough. Some professionals will recommend using the same keywords that are in a job description. That is good advice, but make sure that you actually know and understand what these keywords mean and when asked about them, you can provide an in-depth answer.
They can be optional, however; when using them effectively they can make all the difference. The objective statement should be located right after your name and contact information, right above your experience. Use this space to tailor your message to your reader – it’s what they see first. For example, if you are looking for a job as a staff accountant in a traditional type of Big 4 organization, with an advancement tract, located in Los Angeles, your objective should say exactly that. Conversely, if you are looking for a position as a staff accountant in a smaller more fluid accounting firm that utilizes your expertise, and you want to work a hybrid schedule then say that precisely. Tell your reader exactly who you are and what you are looking for in a company and in a career. Doing this in a few sentences can take some practice and self-reflection. A strong, experienced recruiter can help you put the finishing touches on your objective statement so that when it is presented to a potential hiring manager, you will be the perfect fit they are looking for.
Format your resume chronologically, structuring it anyway else is confusing—and may look like you are trying to hide something. Just like a great story in a movie, there is a timeline and order of events that need to be conveyed in a limited amount of time. Leave out old jobs and information that are not relevant or applicable, like a hostess job at Denny’s— a gap job you had after college. Your history should not go back more than 20 years and 10 years can be ideal especially if you made an industry career change.
If you want your reader to know more about you, beyond what is on the one-page resume, consider buying your domain name and creating a landing page that focuses on important projects that you’ve created or worked on. Traditionally portfolio pages and websites were only used by creative professionals—that’s no longer true. If you have worked on some amazing projects, a personal landing page is a place to document your part in those projects with applicable links. Another alternative to a landing page, is to link to your Linkedin profile and place project links in the Featured Section of your profile.
Keep the visual formatting simple.
Being creative may be important if you are in a design-oriented career where the recipient may appreciate it. However, everyone should have a simple, easy-to-follow resume. Keep it basic and modern, leaving a healthy amount of white space on the page.
Your contact information should be visible, updated and easy to read.
In addition to name, address, phone number, and email address, include your Linkedin profile address or other profile links. HOT TIP – Everyone has access to customizing their Linkedin URL. Simply go to “edit your profile” and in the top right-hand corner you have the option to “edit public profile or URL”. If your name is David M. Smith. For example, Linkedin gives you a default address https://www.linkedin.com/in/789898439882734 when you set up your profile on their site. You can change this to https://www.linkedin.com/in/David-M-Smith so it’s easy to remember. If your name is common, most likely your URL will be taken. Personalize it with a middle initial, maiden name, or some other differentiator and this will achieve the same result.
Make it easy to skim your resume.
Recruiters have a limited amount of time to get to know you. They are typically working on open positions and looking for keywords, industry-specific experience, and/or a certain types of background. Make it super easy for them to keep reading and wanting to learn more. A good way to relate to this is how you might skim social media. Too much information will detract—focus on quality and value add bullet points.
Company jargon and over-exaggerations.
Keep it real and understandable. Remember the first person who sees your resume may be a recruiter, assistant, or even a high-level executive. You want to make sure it is easy to read and relevant — leaving them wanting to know more.
Education and Certificates.
Unless you’re a recent college graduate with no experience in your field, the experience section should go first and be kept in chronological order. Keep in mind…continuing education is now the new norm. If it’s been years since you’ve been in college, you’ll want to refresh. A certificate program that shows that you have kept current or expanded your knowledge in your industry can set you apart.
Aside from your resume, be sure that you are using a quality job board when searching online, one that includes job descriptions that are specific and updated. The hiring company or recruiting firm working for the hiring company should be evident—no secrets, no masks. Many job boards include expired job opportunities or job postings that are used to get mass submissions. Beware! Those types of job boards are big black holes and you may be wasting your time.
No matter what your story may be, you are a unique individual with your own particular experience. Those who have had hiccups or bumps in their career tend to feel unsure about how to put their best face forward. Remember your best face is an approach that is transparent, succinct, and easy to follow. Undoubtedly, you have outstanding accomplishments and achievements in your career that demonstrate that you are a great hire!