Your resume is often your first impression on a potential employer. Learn how to get it to the top of the pile rather than the bottom of the circular file.
If you’re still using the first resume format you learned in school, no wonder you’re not getting call-backs. The rules have changed, and you may have been doing it wrong all this time. You’re competing with more people than ever before, and your resume is the employers’ first contact with you – make it count. Present the information they want in an easy-to-read format, and the hiring manager is more likely to read the whole page instead of skimming and tossing.
Customize the resume to the field
Bankers should stick with formal black and white, but creative fields generally prefer to see a bit of… creativity. Showcase your talents right there on the page. You have to make your resume stand out from the other thousand in the pile, some of which are better-qualified than you. This is not an ad for a nightclub though, so keep it tasteful and somewhat subtle. Make it reflect the corporate climate of the company you’re sending it to.
Customize the resume to the job
If the job listing focuses more on skills than education, put your skills section first. If education seems more important than experience, lead with your Education section. Objectives are no longer necessary unless the job listing specifically asks for one. Make sure the skills and experience you highlight, match the skills and experience listed in the job ad – use the same words.
Digitize your resume
Internet-based job applications generally require you to upload a digital resume. Don’t use the same file you print your hard copies from – use a web-optimized font like Georgia, and increase the space between the lines to about 120% to keep it readable. Don’t use indents on a digital resume, but keep your margins well-defined and clean.
Use your Work History section to highlight specific skills you developed or showcased at each job, and any accomplishments or awards you earned. Be specific – don’t say that you’re “intelligent and efficient,” offer examples of things you’ve done that prove it.
Scrap the “Hobbies and Interests” section
For the most part, employers are concerned about how you’ll benefit them – your comic book collection doesn’t figure into the equation. Clear your resume of all references to your cat, your favorite movie, or who’s going to win the Super Bowl. The only time your hobbies should make an appearance is if they directly relate to the job in question. For example, if you’re applying for a job with a non-profit pet-welfare organization, by all means mention the many weekends you volunteered at your local shelter.
Put your name at the top
It sounds like a no-brainer, but people sometimes get carried away with the creativity and treat the resume like letterhead. True, your letterhead may be beautiful with the contact information at the bottom or down the side, but imagine this: the hiring manager remembers your resume, and wants to show it to her boss. She leafs through the stack on her desk, scanning the names at the top… and doesn’t see yours. She assumes it was lost, and moves on to the second-best candidate.
Don’t list references
For better or worse, the internet is your reference now. You will be Googled prior to the interview, so maybe take the New Year’s Eve pictures down from your Facebook page. If you have some truly impressive references, print them out and bring a hard copy with you to the interview.
Still, no matter how perfect your resume is, there’s an awful lot of competition out there. Apply only to jobs that you are qualified for – don’t waste your (or the hiring managers’) time shooting the moon, because there are applicants out there who actually are qualified. You won’t get that job at NASA with a high school diploma, no matter how lovely your resume is. But keep networking, keep applying, and stay relevant. You’ll find your perfect fit yet.