Update Your Resume: 6 Tips for Traditional and Modern Styles

This was originally posted on LinkedIn, accessible at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/update-your-resume-6-tips-traditional-modern-styles-erica-tew-cprw

Everyone needs a resume. It isn’t only for those searching for work. This document can launch your career, market your experience, open up networking opportunities, and land you interviews for your next move. If you’re dealing with conflicting advice or are unsure where to start, I have some suggestions for you.

So what is a resume?

A resume is a combination of your skills, results, work experience, and education. Consider it a brief snapshot or advertisement about you, developed for a specific audience.

If your resume is a generic list of your past jobs and daily responsibilities, then it is time to update. This resume style may have worked well enough in the past, but if you want to reach out to new people, build your network or develop leads, then your resume will need a targeted focus.

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(image via DeathToStockPhoto)

Your development strategy should reflect your audience.

Identify the purpose of your resume: Who do you want to see it? What do you want to showcase? Where do you want to grab their attention? Think of your audience as you write your content and remove anything that does not speak to them. This extraneous information can waste space. For example, if you are changing careers, explain your career history in a way that relates your skills and abilities to the new position. Focus on transferable skills and accomplishments of your past roles.

Create media that would impress your audience. This doesn’t have to be developed for printed paper either: think larger. You could create a website (about.me is a great free resource for developing your own biographical page), develop an infographic (canva.com has low-cost or free resources to make effective visuals), film a marketing video (use YouTube, Vimeo, or Vine for free!) there is such a wide variety of ways in which you can express yourself and share information.

Get Social

If you are active on social media, share that on your resume. Provide URL links and cross-link from one account to another to allow your audience to connect with you on their preferred platform. You can even promote your resume, be it paper, infographic, or video, across those social links to gain a wider audience.

Some social accounts are used distinctly for marketing yourself as a job seeker. For example, Pinterest can be a resource to those in visual fields. You can share your resume, showcase your work, and follow companies. For a job search related Pinterest, take a look at the Connecticut Career Guidance Pinterest here.

Writing Tips

  1. Avoid “shortcuts.” When it comes to paper resumes, never use a generic template. Why not? Because most of them have a large amount of white space and put all of your information into tables. This makes updating the resume down the line an arduous process (where I normally will just eliminate all formatting until I have plain text outside of tables). Further, this type of resume may have difficulty being “read” for scanning in an online application.

(image via Flickr )

2. Stay focused. Although you may feel a need to explain all the details of each job and why you left, save that for the interview. Keep cutting and editing information until you can get to the root of the matter in a few sentences. A few key ways to do this are to eliminate sentences that don’t start with an action. Cut out references to “Responsible for…” and keep in mind you want to describe the past job. Think of what you did every day in the form of an action (Ex. Resolved customer concerns at call center), not a list of semi-related skills, such as, “customer service, phones…”

3. Make it readable. Now that you have developed your content, find a way to make it easy for someone to quickly scan it. Make use of bullet points or use lines to separate sections. Use bold or italics or small caps to draw your eye in to key sections. For contrast, what you want to avoid is a document that looks like a wall of text. Break it up so it is easier to digest.

 If you’re creating a video or infographic, remember less is more. For an infographic, use minimalist shapes and lines to lead the eye across the image as you tell your career story. Overwhelming the image with graphics and icons can be too distracting.

For videos, make sure you have a quality camera with good lighting and audio pickup. Definitely work with a friend to film yourself: rarely do self-made videos from a laptop camera look professional. There are plenty of software programs where you can edit scenes or delete bad takes. Use minimal graphics to emphasize key words or points throughout. For each scene, stick with the rule of 3: you don’t want to have more than 3 bullets during a scene. More than 3 bullets in a presentation or video can make information hard to retain.

4. Create your own sections. Feeling locked in by the traditional standards? “Objective,” “Work History” and “Education” are not the end-all of resume sections. Some writers call these sections “functional headers,” which allow you to break up your resume content in a way you see fit. If you want to emphasize technical skills, career accomplishments, or volunteer experience, create your own sections and expand on the areas. This can be a great way of getting to your matching job requirements or displaying your experience across the years in one cohesive section.

(via printwand.com)

5. Don’t repeat. For example, if you create a “Career Accomplishments” section, do not copy and paste the same accomplishment and then list it again under the appropriate job in your “Work History.” Find a way to reword it and keep it brief. Choose one section to expand on this accomplishment and leave it there.

6. Proofread. Then have someone outside your field review it. Are you speaking in a lot of jargon? Try to make it understandable in case there are initial gatekeepers reviewing the material first. And of course, please do your best to avoid spelling or grammatical mistakes. Keep an eye out for formatting inconsistencies.

Most importantly: Don’t fret over “rules.”

Everyone has an opinion on resume writing, but you will develop the document or media you feel most comfortable sharing. When people use words like, “Always” or “Never,” take their advice with a grain of salt. There are no set rules in this project- only to create media that impresses your audience and furthers your goal. That goal may be an interview, a new client, or a new connection. Keep the media or document alive and change it every now and again to see what gains you the best results.

What strategies do you use when updating your resume? Let me know in the comments below. Our American Job Centers offer free resume writing resources, critiques, and workshops. Check out our Connecticut locations here.

#ResumeCritique FAQ

By George Bernocco, CPRW

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I just came back from a job fair in which multiple people came to me with their resumes. All the resumes were very different but the people had one thing in common: stepping forward and asking for help. Resumes are a difficult document to produce: A professional history conformed into a computer document is not easy to create. As I have recommended and performed resume critiques, it can be difficult to receive the constructive criticism that a critique provides. Here are some frequently asked questions about critiques:

What is a resume expert and why does their opinion matter?

A resume expert’s job is to take your employable skills and market them the best way possible through your resume. Also, a resume expert is proficient at identifying grammar, formatting and spelling errors. The important part of getting the critique from the expert is to identify your skills correctly and without errors. If you choose to have your resume updated by someone other than a resume expert, be aware that you may not be receiving a quality product. If you have 100 people review your resume, you have the possibility of 100 different types of resumes. A non-resume expert can help identify mistakes, but their version of a resume may not be ideal for your field or may not match what employers are expecting. Resume experts research current hiring trends to stay informed about how to create better resumes for job seekers. The standard for a resume expert is to receive a certification for resume writing from an accredited organization (thank you Erica Tew), and you should always ask for verification of this certification.

When should I decide to get a critique?

When you determine you can make improvements or changes to your resume, and when your resume is not working for you. A resume’s main function is to get you in the door for an interview and if it’s not doing that job, then it’s time to schedule a critique with a resume expert. No matter what, you should always have your resume proofread for errors before submission, and a critique will cover that.

What should I bring with me to a critique?

Your document package (Cover Letter, Resume, List of References, etc), job posting(s) that you are interested in, any industry information you find pertinent, and an open mind.

I don’t handle criticism well, how should I go about a critique?

A successful critique should focus on what is working for you and what is working against you. The critique should highlight the positives and how to enhance them, as well as areas that need improvement. The resume expert should always explain what and why they are suggesting these improvements, and if they do not, you should always ask. In the end, it’s entirely up to the person who has their name on the resume as to what they are satisfied with. Successful critiques are a dialogue and a debate about what works and what does not in your interest.

What if I don’t have the tools or skills to update the resume?

Let the resume expert know, for example, if they recommend a table on your resume, that you are unsure about how to insert a table. They should be able to walk you through the steps. If you do not have the tools, like an electronic version of your resume or a word processor program, the resume expert should be able to point you in the right direction. Don’t avoid a critique because of the uncertainty about how to make changes.

What if I don’t agree with any recommendations?

First, make sure you vocalize your opinions during the critique. When the expert and you have the debate and justify each side, the dialogue produced should provide a direction for you to go towards with your resume. Ultimately, the resume is your document to submit and it is entirely up to you how you would like it to look.

When is the resume finished?

If we are talking about finished in terms of ready to be submitted, then it is done when you are satisfied with it’s ability to market your skills and it is error free. In general, as a resume writer, I would say it is never completely finished. Resumes are living documents that are always changing based upon the career fields you apply for. Labor market hiring trends, your career path, and industries can influence how a resume may look. Unfortunately, learning about resumes can also be about trial and error. That is why it is crucial to utilize critiques to improve your chances of getting an interview.

Winning Cover Letter Strategies

By Erica Tew, CPRW

Most people are unsure of how to write an effective cover letter, but there are a few easy tips that can assure you’re submitting a great marketing tool that will complement your resume.

General “Rules”

The two rules of thumb I typically use when crafting a cover letter go hand in hand.  Avoid overusing the personal pronoun “I” and be employer-oriented.  If you reference yourself in every other line, chances are, you are not telling the employer what you can offer them and how you would be able to help them succeed.  Avoiding “I” in cover letters also strengthens the overall writing, which is an added bonus.

Contact Information

Your contact information header should mirror your resume’s header.  This small detail adds a level of professionalism and makes your documents appear like matching stationery.

Addressee

Get the hiring manager’s name, position title, and company address so your documents don’t get left behind while someone runs around trying to find “To Whom It May Concern” or the dreaded “Dear Sir or Madam.”  If you don’t know where to find this information, CT’s Job and Career Connection company search  can provide the names of company owners, human resources managers, or any person that typically has an influence in the hiring decisions.  You can also try to call the company and speak with a receptionist or administrative assistant to see if they can provide you with a name and title for the hiring manager.

First Paragraph

There are few opportunities to be bold.  If you don’t grab their attention right away, your cover letter may be overlooked.  Use the first line to say what you have to offer.  Talk about the industry.  Your resume’s profile statement may already have a very marketable opening line, so this can be reworded if needed.

If there is a specific opening, state the job title you are applying for in the first or second line.  This could be formatted in bold if you want to ensure its visibility.  Add where you found this position as well, whether it was online, in a newspaper, or from a referral.  For example,

“As a Retail Manager with a proven record of developing and implementing sales initiatives that increase company profit, I would like to discuss my contributions if hired as a Regional Sales Manager for ABC Industries.”

Attention-grabbing (provides overall value of developing and implementing profit-increasing initiatives,) employer-oriented (contributions to the company and position,) and stating the job title (in bold.)

If you were referred by someone to apply, state their name and position title in this section, and reference your attached resume.

Second Paragraph

The second paragraph is where you can state more specifically how your experience or accomplishments could be an asset to the company to which you are applying.  For convenience, many employers prefer bulleted lists, as they are easier to read while quickly scanning.  If you choose to use a bulleted list, preface the list with a statement that introduces the list as skills, qualifications, or past achievements.  3-5 bullet points would be best.  Adding too many bullets will make your cover letter seem crowded very fast.  Make use of formatting enhancements such as bolding and h e a d l i n e    s p a c i n g to ensure visibility and white space for maximum readability.

Based on research, state something you know about the company that you find impressive, exciting, or appealing, to show you not only want the job, but are knowledgeable about the company culture as well.  You can practice your Google-fu skills to find the employer and get this information.  An example for introduce a bulleted list using these techniques-

“In NewsWeekly you stated there is a need to expand your mobile department.  My experience in content management and programming languages can help your company achieve its goals.  A brief overview of my industry knowledge and qualifications follow:”

Third Paragraph/Closing

In this last paragraph, make an effective call to action.  Stating that you will call the employer is an assertive way to close.  If that feels too bold, you can say the employer may call you and provide a cell phone or email address in the paragraph.  For example,

“Should you find my qualifications of interest, please contact me at 555-555-5555 or by email at johnsmith@someemail.com.”

Always thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration, and if mailing, be sure to hand-write your signature.

You will always have to personalize each cover letter- don’t use generic templates.  Some of these tips with research may give you the winning edge to land your next interview!

As always, please feel free to leave any questions in the Comments section below. 😀