You may not be big on New Year’s resolutions, but for those without an updated resume, it’s something to consider. Why? Because whether you’ve made it through your whole career without ever putting one together, or you’ve been using the same resume you made a decade ago, having an updated resume for the current career landscape can pay back in dividends.
The truth is, a resume is not only a marketing piece that precedes your presence in an interview. It’s also a building block for all other personal marketing efforts you may do throughout your career. Whether it’s at a networking event or a speaking engagement, having prepared credentials that advertise your value successfully is crucial.
So how does one develop a powerful resume for 2018 that works as both an effective marketing piece in its own right, and lays a solid foundation for developing further supporting endorsements (like profiles, cover letters, or bios) that detail your unique value? Here are some things to think about:
- Keywords – You may have heard about Applicant Tracking Systems or Software (ATS), so you may be aware that almost 75% of recruiters and hiring managers use this technology to vet their candidates [Capterra]. In recruitment, a crucial part of the process is elimination, so ATS (and the initial resume scanning process in general) are meant to weed out candidates that don’t meet the basic criteria. In a world of brevity and light speed efficiency, eyes and computers are looking at your resume for key words that define basic qualification for a position. Ensuring that relevant key words appear throughout your resume, and especially in the first third of the document, give you a better chance of dodging this (potentially big) hurdle.
- SHOW and Tell – This may seem obvious, but a resume is meant to market your value, and the best way to do that is to offer proof of any claims you make to your expertise. It’s good to have descriptors and definitions of your experience, qualifications, and skills, but at the end of the day, what holds you above the rest are the examples you are able to give of HOW this translates into value. You may be the 100th guy in line with “MBA” next to his name, but you are likely the only one who mitigated a work culture crisis by implementing a cooking competition among coworkers that improved turnover rates by 50% in one month. Quantifiable, impressive, and creative accomplishments SHOW employers that you not only have the credentials but the credibility to back up your claims.
- Pay Attention to Design – I still advise clients to be careful with design elements in a resume, though there are contexts in which a colorful, graphically detailed document can be beneficial. Overall, however, keeping things clean, simple and organized is the best strategy. However, we live in a digital and visual world, and a little creativity with formatting and fonts can help the look and feel of your document. Some fonts, although easy to read and traditionally used, can feel a bit stale. Modern typography has expanded options dramatically, with slight variations on the old standards. Playing with columns, white space, or colourful lines can give your resume a unique appeal without detracting from the content (and content is always king).
- Know your Unique Selling Proposition, and Use It – Having a USP is probably the most beneficial element of a resume in terms of it serving as a building block for further branding. Creating one sentence that concisely outlines who you are and what you bring to the table and then including that under your headline gives the reader a quick snapshot of what you will further defend throughout the document – a powerful tool when you consider that the average time a recruiter initially scans a resume is 8 seconds. Once you have your USP you can transfer this to your elevator pitch at networking events, opening paragraphs of cover letters, social media profile summaries, and the like.
- Edit – It’s still as crucial as ever to eliminate spelling errors and punctuation mistakes from a resume, but it’s becoming increasingly important to edit the content. You don’t want to reveal every detail of your career, or even every position, if leaving out details presents a more powerful argument. Keeping in mind potential red flags, like gaps in your work history, editing out some information can be as important as making sure others are included.
If anything, having an up to date resume on hand gives you confidence. It is evidence on paper, in a professional and “official” context, that you are valuable. And certainly that, in itself, has value.