Have you updated your resume lately? If you are like most people, it’s a task you’ve avoided or postponed. According to a recent article published in The Boston Globe, “more people quit their jobs in the past three months than were laid off … This latest trend suggests the job market is finally thawing”. Given the slight uptick in new job creation, it’s time to reach back into the closet, dust off the old resume, and polish it up. Are you ready to pursue an exciting new opportunity when it presents itself?
With all the fancy templates available online, and “resume writing experts” offering to spruce up your image for a handsome fee, it can be difficult figuring out where to start. My recommendation is to get back to the basics – keep it simple and concise.
1) First and foremost, honesty is the best policy. Ensure that everything included in your resume is verifiable and accurate. Various sources state that up to one-half of all job applicants lie on their applications. I like to believe that these figures are slightly over exaggerated but ultimately you would be hard pressed to find a recruiter who couldn’t tell you at least a handful of stories about having to rescind job offers or ultimately having to terminate new hires after finding out a candidate was less than truthful. If the truth is stretched there is a good possibility that it will come back to haunt you.
2) Explain any gaps in employment history. If you are currently unemployed go ahead and list the end date of your last position rather than leaving it open-ended. Given the state of the economy over the past couple of years it is not uncommon to see gaps in employment. Simply explain what you did, or are doing, during this time. List continuing education classes, volunteer activities, conferences you attended, travel, involvement in professional organizations, or anything that demonstrates productive use of your time away from work.
3) Unless you are seeking employment as a graphic artist, avoid showy fonts, bright colors and patterns. Adding some color or simple design elements into your resume can be eye catching and ultimately help set you apart from the crowd. However, keep it simple and ensure that your resume is easy to read and that the design does not distract from the content. If you really want to emphasize your creativity send a traditional resume but include a link to an online portfolio that includes work samples and perhaps a jazzed up version of your resume.
4) Take the time to tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific position for which you are applying. Most recruiters sort through piles of resumes and at first glance are simply looking for those that include the basic key words from the job description. If the position requires knowledge of networking protocols such as TCP/IP and five years experience coding in C++ then ensure that TCP/IP and C++ are listed somewhere in your resume and are highlighted in the cover letter. Recruiters want to focus on the details the hiring managers are interested in – make the details easy to find.
Of special note – If a resume writing services is employed to create your resume it is still imperative that adjustments be made for the unique position for which you are applying. All too often I see resumes that are beautifully written, in third person, that generically cover skills and employment history but fail to include enough specifics regarding whether or not the person is qualified for the job they are applying for.
5) In a world where spell check tools abound it goes without saying…check for spelling and grammatical errors. When competition for employment is high, something as little as a misspelled word could eliminate you from consideration. The blogosphere is filled will debate about whether spelling errors are reasonable grounds for eliminating a candidate from consideration. Why risk it? Check, recheck, and have a friend check to ensure there are no errors.
6) Ensure that your resume highlights what you did, what your accomplishments were, and why you are uniquely qualified to fill the specific position you are applying for. Cleary state why you are you the best person for the job.
7) Once you’ve created a basic, generic resume save it, back it up, and print out a copy. It’s as good as gold! As new opportunities become available simply open the document, tailor it to the specific position, and save it as a new file. As you take on new responsibilities or change jobs pull up the generic resume, save it as a “resume draft/update” file and include new ideas to be included in the next version. Every six months to a year incorporate the changes and you’ll always be prepared to take advantage of new opportunities as they become available.