This is the final post of a MENG Blend trilogy presenting easy changes that you can quickly make to improve your resume. Most were presented in the MENGinar “How to Improve Your Resume in 60 Minutes,” available free to MENG members. The first two posts in the trilogy were: “Seven Easy Improvements to Your Resume” and “Eleven More Easy Ways to Improve Your Resume.”
It’s not that many executives include a blatant fallacy such as an invented degree or job. Unfortunately, I often read cleverly written descriptions that can be misinterpreted positively, which can blow up in the interview, reference checking, or background checks.
Tailor Your Resume
As marketers, we know it’s best to segment and target with a consistent brand message.
- Once you know the job specifications, you should tailor your relevant content to meet their requirements.
- The key lesson here is to focus on your target company, not your history. Use the targeted industry’s and company’s jargon if you can find it.
Your personal brand, however much the resume is tailored, must be consistently presented in every conversation and marketing tool.
Kill the Functional Resume
I refer you to my previous blog post for a full discussion of why you should never use a functional resume.
Don’t Use a Creative Format
While I’m seeing more inspired formats, at least two executive recruiters and I believe they’re a bad idea because the approach upstages rather than helping you communicate your message.
The recruiters told me that the recognizable reverse chronological format with easily seen jobs and companies is the fastest and therefore best approach. Colors, photos, and graphs, for example, were pointed out as “getting in the way.”
Use an Easy to Read Resume Style
A recent study (I can’t verify its accuracy) found that recruiters spend an average of 8 seconds to screen resumes. With this in mind, I went to Barnes & Noble and reviewed “resume” books that showed more than a hundred different resume styles.
I looked for formats that quickly communicated the core facts recruiters are looking for during their first screen: desired job level and function, recent titles and companies, and your positioning. Based on this rationale, I continue to prefer:
- Name and contact information.
- Title you are shooting for.
- Positioning (short).
- Reverse chronology.
- Company names with one to two lines describing each company.
- Titles with two to three lines about responsibilities.
- One to five short bullets of results per company (fewer after page 1).
- Education and special factors such as awards.
Use Fresh Words
This is a really simple idea: find some different words. Examples included:
- Stopped dead
- After a period of turmoil
Be Obviously Up-to-Date
Assuming you’re over 40 (and maybe as young as 30), you have to communicate that you’re up-to-date. Include:
- The link to your LinkedIn profile (which must be complete and as good as your resume).
- If they’re business oriented, good quality, and updated regularly, also link to your blog, twitter and Google+.
- Success stories including ecommerce, Internet, web, social media, and mobile marketing.
Be Flexible/Able to Lead Change
You have to prove, with actions, how you are flexible and have led change. You must prove both of these and show readers:
- Where you changed categories, companies, and functions.
- How you successfully changed strategies and tactics.
- Results when you were selected to lead something new and different that obviously was important and difficult.
Establish Tone and Personality
People hire people they like and even try to interview people they think they’ll like based on the resume. Therefore, in addition to the hard details that take up most of your resume, you have to communicate the results were generated by a personality that fits their culture.
- What are you like to work with?
- What drives you?
- What have you done as a volunteer, especially if it’s relevant or skill expanding AND is limited so it won’t compete with your job.
- How you take care of your people.
- How your employees and peers like working with you.
Content is the first requirement for a scannable resume. This is all about using the key words that a computer (or junior employee) has been instructed to look for, which obviously vary by position. Computers will weight the results. See my earlier advice to learn how to find the right words.
Second, the resume must be scannable.
- Use easily read/typical fonts.
- Don’t use vertical lines and boxes
- Be careful with italics and underlining.
Your resume is never final. Great resumes are rewritten many times to improve their focus on and support for the distinctive selling proposition.
Have a Tested Reference for Each Company and Achievement
This isn’t really an improvement, but it is a requirement to let your resume sell effectively for you. You can think of this alignment as the critical support necessary for your interviewers and reference checkers to believe each of your sales points.