Are you still clinging to the old fashioned resume rules? Read on as I rewrite the olden days rules to fit this modern world of job hunting!
I remember when I first learned to write a resume there were a few "rules" I was taught that I must adhere to in order to secure that interview - but I can tell you after screening tens of thousands of resumes over the past 15 years that many of those "rules" are completely false. And the worst thing is that I still see them recommended all the time now. I want to use the experience I’ve gained plus the knowledge gained from industry professionals to reframe these old fashioned rules to fit into our modern day.
Each year brings new updates and changes, so I'm revisiting this article to add some 2019 updates!
1. Resume Length
The standard for so long now is 1-2 pages, but that standard was created back in the day when a recruiter or hiring manager had to go through paper resumes. But now? Most resumes are only looked at online so scrolling through the pages is nothing. That's not to say you should submit a 10 page resume if you are a new grad! But it does give you a little more flexibility. I think of it in terms of level of career. If you are new to your career then stick to that 1-2 pages, if you are experienced you can go up to 2-3 pages, and if you are an executive or seasoned professional than 3-5 pages is completely acceptable and in fact would be preferred.
The key here is to make sure the resume gives a good picture of who you are and how you match the job requirements - you don’t want it to be too short (or too long) where that message is lost.
2019 Update: according to a large Randstad recruiter survey, 71% of recruiters want to see a resume that reflects the person's career.
2. Need a strong "Objective" statement
Now I'm not opposed to the objective statement, but 80% of hiring managers or recruiters do not read the objective or professional statement, me included. When I’m advising clients I advise them to include a shot succinct and tailored objective statement giving an overview of who they are as a professional. What I like about the objective is it gives the resume writer a focus to grow upon. To be honest thought, the main reason I like it? It isn't for the content but more for the layout and look of the resume!
The key here is to include one that makes sense for who you are and what job you are applying to but don’t spend more than a minute or two on it!
2019 Update: The formatting aesthetics plus giving a great overview of who you are still the main reasons why you should include this!
3. Resume must be black and white.
This is another rule from the old fashioned job search era. But now, a little bit of colour goes a long way in getting your resume noticed, especially if the role is creative or there is anything in the posting about looking for innovative, thinking outside of the box, or creative problem solving. There are a couple of ways I've seen color used right - in the formatting (blue lines, coloured headers) or in the content (name, position titles, company titles in colour).
The key is to use the colour sparingly and in an intentional way to ensure it, and therefore you, will really pop!
2019 Update: Strategic use of colour is the way to go!
4. Two Resume Types - Reverse Chronological or Skills Based/Functional
There is only one choice - the reverse chronological. I have a strong dislike for the Skills Based/Functional and toss it aside when one comes across my desk - a sentiment shared by many hiring managers and recruiters. We typically spend 10 seconds for an initial review of a resume looking at the following:
The key here is simple, use the reverse chronological resume format! If you have gaps of employment, don’t worry. If you work experience doesn’t contain your relevant experience, there are other ways around that (posts for another day!)
2019 Update: this will never change UNLESS you are in Academia.
5. Your Resume gets you the Interview
Yes, in some cases you resume alone does get you the interview. But in this modern age of job hunting chances are there are some other factors at play. A lot of hiring managers and recruiters check out your social media accounts. So please check your Facebook - what is the privacy, do you have a "professional" profile pic and cover photo (make sure they are appropriate, something you be comfortable with your grandmother seeing!), same with your Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat feeds. If you have a lot of inappropriate posts then make your feeds private.
Also update that LinkedIn! Include a really nice photograph of yourself, just yourself, no one else. Most importantly, make sure it lines up with your resume! I have gotten a resume that fit exactly what I was looking for then went to their LinkedIn only to find a completely different story, that raised a major red flag. Needless to say those people do not get the interview.
Don't forget the leg work you did before applying, search LinkedIn to see who you may think the hiring manager is and if they are in your network maybe have someone introduce you to them. If this is a targeted company you have been interested in then I hope you have already made some contacts with the hiring managers so reach back out with a separate email to your application with your resume reminding them on your initial conversation. In these cases it is your networking that gets you the job interview!
The key here is to take your job search seriously. When clients and I work together to develop their job search strategy, I make sure to include the social media updates and the many different forms of networking. I encourage you to do the same, that leg work goes a long way in securing you those coveted interviews!
Here are some additional rules for you to follow for a current and modern resume.
1. Font Choice
Back in the day Times New Roman reigned supreme on all documents including the Resume. Well, that is no longer the case! In fact using Times New Roman can come across as dated. I would pick a font that you love and that are drawn to (but not Comic Sans or the like). Great fonts are Tahoma, Calibri, and Century Gothic.
Add in some interesting formatting to your resume. Something like a box, lines or colour. Something to add some visual interest.
3. Content Updates
First off, take out "references available upon request", that is to be expected and it takes unnecessary space.
Secondly, your resume should not read like a job description! Your bullet points should not be 1 liners that are really vague, craft a sentence that paints a picture of what you did.
Speaking of bullet points - a lot of the narrative is to have all accomplishments listed in your resume. However, if you are applying for a task based role we may be missing out on some keywords. Plus, a recruiter or hiring manager may not see the fit that easily, and our goal is to make it as easy as possible for them. Instead include both (with a KEY ACCOMPLISHMENTS heading).
Leveraging LinkedIn for your career is one of the smartest things you can do and one that doesn’t even take up much of your time. Optimizing it to enable great job opportunities to come to you is a sure fire way for you to take control of your career. If you are actively job searching, it outsources some of that search, making your job search life just a little bit easier.
When I’m talking about leveraging and optimizing, I’m talking about setting up your LinkedIn profile so that you can be found specifically by recruiters. When a company begins a new search, 87% of recruiters turn to LinkedIn when they are seeking new talent to fill that opportunity. I was one of those 87%, I almost exclusively used LinkedIn throughout my 15 years of recruitment experience so I know a thing or two about what goes through a recruiters mind when they are hunting for that perfect candidate, knowledge that you can use to make sure your profile is all set.
1. Complete Your Profile
LinkedIn does have an algorithm and that algorithm is kinder to profiles that are 100% filled out, or received the All Star Badge. This will bias the search engine in your favour.
This is the number one thing you can do to get someone to click on your profile and send you a message, in fact LinkedIn’s stats show that you can get 9x more connection requests, 21x more profile views and 36x more messages
The photo doesn’t have to be a head-shot, but it does have to be professional.
3. Name, Headline & Location
When a recruiter does a search, the results show up with page after page of names, headlines and locations.
Most of us recruiters are inherently lazy, something I say all the time. But honestly we are lazy because it isn’t uncommon for the search results to be in the hundreds if not thousands, which means we have to be lazy as a way to be highly efficient with our time. So we only click on the profiles that are in line with what we are looking for:
Recruiters use search strings to find talent, search strings full of key words. That means when you are thinking about your profile don’t just fill it out from the perspective of what you do, also think of it from the perspective of what you want to do! Take a look at 3-5 jobs that are reflective of the industries, companies and jobs you would be interested in. Highlight the keywords that are common and fill out your profile with them.
A great place to start is your summary. I always include a list of skills and competencies in a client’s summary, a recruiter may never see that list (they would have to click “see more” and remember – lazy and no time) but the search engine sees them!
Next, make sure your work experience is up to date and actually filled in with information. It is recommended that you don’t copy and paste your resume but instead make your LinkedIn profile reflective of your resume. Use the keywords where relevant.
Lastly, use the Skills section. The great thing about this section is when you click to add more you’ll get some suggestions from LinkedIn. Use these suggestions! These are identified based on search strings used by people to find individuals like yourself, and chances are those people are recruiters! Use all 50 to get the biggest bang for your buck with this section.
5. Your Network
You can have the perfect profile but if you don’t have enough connections all that work would be for naught. As I have discussed in the past, your goal is to be a 3rd degree connection with most everyone within your industry and/or region. That 500 number is still the magic one, so working towards it is key!
6. Be Active
LinkedIn’s algorithm takes into account more than just a good profile, it now takes into account user activity and is kinder to those who log in often and engages on their platform. When you wake up in the morning, do you do a quick review of all your favourite social media platforms? Well I would add LinkedIn to that list and maybe like (or comment or share) a post each time you log in. 5 minutes of your time MAX.
7. Turn On Open to Career Opportunities
Let recruiters know you are open to hearing about new jobs.
Curious to know if it is working? There are a few things you can do. In your dashboard, look at your search appearances and your profile views numbers, they should rise after this work.
Don’t want to wait? Test it out yourself. Take a look at a job you are interested in, if you were trying to find a candidate to fill this role what sort of search strings would you use? Type them in, narrow down by location and see if you show up on one of the first few pages?
Feeling lost? I can help with that, schedule a strategy call to talk more about it.
Sara Curto helps people find a career they love by teaching them a new way to job search.
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