Remember that a resume–by itself–won’t get you a job. (Read The Resume is Dead by Nelson Wang for more insights about that.) The goal of your resume is to get a phone call. The object of that phone call is to get another phone call or to get an invitation to interview in person. The object of that first in-person interview is to get another one. The object of that second interview or phone call is to receive an offer, discuss salary, and determine your start date.
But in most cases, you still need a resume while looking for a job, even if a resume’s value has diminished over the last several years.
Now, realize that everyone’s got an opinion about what a good resume contains. You can’t please every recruiter with the same resume. In addition to some of the widely information about effective resumes (like providing a summary, including quantified descriptions of your accomplishments, etc.), let me share what I’ve learned with you.
Chronological Resumes are Best
First, list your employment history chronologically; don’t use what’s called a “functional” resume. Every recruiter I have asked prefers to receive a chronological resume. A chronological resume lists your work experience and key accomplishments with the most recent listed first and the oldest position listed last. Functional resumes focus on skill sets and they’re sometimes used to mask periods of unemployment. Go with the chronological format.
Keep the printed or PDF version of your resume to one page. That doesn’t mean you should use a tiny font so you can cram in all the information. It means selecting the highlights about your skills and accomplishments in order to get recruiters interested and contact you.
If you haven’t done so already, go create a resume draft that has a summary of your skills and accomplishments at the top, followed by a reverse-chronological list of your employment history and key accomplishments in each position. If your resume is longer than one printed page, reduce it by eliminating the fluff. Put the most impressive information on there (ask someone for their opinion on what’s most impressive) and leave out the rest.
Create a Perfect Plain-Text Resume
Have you had the experience of filling out an online application then having the web page malfunction or timeout and lose all the information you entered? I have. I’ve spent up to an hour completing some online applications that just got lost. I learned my lesson quickly and determined that having a plain-text version of your resume available saves a lot of time and frustration. You can save a document is most word processors as a plain text format, or use a notepad-type program. Just be aware it doesn’t have spell checking capability.
I think that having a good plain-text version of your resume is more important, in this day and age, that a formatted resume printed on expensive-looking linen paper. If you just copy and paste the formatted text from your “paper” resume into online applications, the formatting is lost or corrupted. Line breaks occur where you don’t want them to and special characters or fonts become unreadable.
Go create a plain-text version of your resume. You can actually get away with including more information on the plain text versus the printed resume. Test the plain-text version in an online job application.
AND…Prove Your Qualifications
Several months after I was hired for my first job out of college, I asked my manager what it was that convinced him to hire me. He said it was my online portfolio of work that convinced him to hire me. While my resume and initial interviews were enough to get him interested, he knew I could do the work they needed done and had visible proof. The samples of my portfolio work were unique enough that he knew I couldn’t have copied them from someone else. There was actually one other thing that caught his interest and convinced him to hire me. I will discuss that a little later.
Now, you need to understand that the online portfolio of work and projects I had was nothing great, especially by my own standards today. But it served its purpose and convinced a manager to hire me. Now here’s a look at the portfolio I’ve been using for the last few years to get work as an instructional designer and interactive developer. This newer portfolio has done a lot to get me work and job offers as well.
If it’s not software, computer, or design work you do, you can show potential employers another type of proof of the work you’re capable of. Take some pictures of something you’ve created or built, or give them copies of something you wrote or designed. You might write up short case studies of problems you solved for previous employers or at your own company.
The point is that your resume is not enough, by itself, to market yourself. Talk is cheap! Remember that in this economy employers are very nervous about hiring someone who’s not really qualified. If you can give them some type of visible proof of your abilities, they feel much more confident about hiring you.