There is a lot of debate about the death of the resume. Many pundits have declared the resume dead because of the advent of sites like LinkedIn and GetHired.com. Most cite LinkedIn as “the proof” that the resume is no longer needed as a job hunter’s tool. Before you throw your last shovel of dirt on the concept of the resume consider that LinkedIn does not consider the resume dead, in fact, if you are seeking a job at LinkedIn, this option is available to you:For many decision makers, at the employers you may encounter, the resume format still has a lot of appeal (heck I still like scribbling on a candidate’s paper). The cardinal rules of job search are “know thyself” and “know thy message”. When it comes to embracing these rules, most career professionals I speak with are reluctant to do a rigorous personal and professional inventory even though they are pillars of sound of career management. Barring comprehensive inventories, the process of creating a traditional resume document is the next best thing for getting your message down with substantiating facts. It also helps you formulate and ingrain your sales pitch for future quick recall when encountering the ubiquitous pressure cooker situations inherent in traditional job search.
In my new book ‘The Panic Free Job Search: Unleash the Power of the Web and Social Networking to Get Hired’, I refer to the resume as: “It is an evil that must be mastered, because at some point in the “job getting process” you will need to produce one. Yes, folks—the dreaded resume.” The resume is even more important and critical for job-seekers who rely heavily on the “click and send” approach to job search and therefore they must make sure it is engineered to get selected by the applicant tracking systems (ATS) used by many employers. The resume once created can also be mined for data and the data can be use throughout your professional image building efforts online. For most job hunters and career fast trackers, the resume is still a very important tool, regardless of its online or offline form, that needs to be optimized in order to get hired. This week I had the opportunity of speaking with award-winning Certified Résumé Strategist, Karen Siwak, from Résumé Confidential about the resume in “today’s” job search.
Is the resume dead?
As Mark Twain quipped, “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Resumes are by no means dead and will continue to play an important role in the job search and hiring cycle. But where as the resume was once the only document a job-seeker needed, now it is one piece in an arsenal of marketing material and smart job hunters deploy a variety of online and print tools in their strategic job search, including QR-coded business cards, biographies, LinkedIn profiles, blogs, social media accounts, websites, and, yes, resumes.
What are some resume pitfalls to avoid in order not to get the “ATS” kiss of death?
Job-seekers need to understand that there are two audiences for their resume – the computer or ATS system, which uses parsing and search algorithms to sort and find resumes, and human readers, who use the much talked about “10 second eye scan” to determine whether a resume warrants a deeper look. These two audiences use different criteria for evaluating resumes and the design principles that work for one won’t necessarily work for the other.
Unlike human readers, ATS systems aren’t influenced by resume length or visual aesthetics. They don’t care about fonts, or bullets, or white space. For a resume to fare well in an ATS system, it needs to follow basic formatting conventions: reverse chronological order; minimal graphics and tables; commonly understood section headings; contact information at the top of the page, but not within the header (headers and footers do not get scanned by the ATS). Beyond that, a resume submitted to an ATS system must have full information regarding job titles, companies and dates. They must include the keywords from the job ad, which will be used to screen and rank applicants. More advanced ATS systems will evaluate the context in which each keyword is used, and will give higher ranking to a keyword that is included within the description of a career accomplishment, compared to one that is included in a keyword table.
Is there a particular style of resume you recommend?
Except in very particular circumstances, a reverse chronological resume is the best style for most job-seekers. Recruiters and hiring managers prefer this format and ATS systems have been programmed to read it.
Are there any particular words that belong in a resume?
Both ATS systems and people will be looking for industry-specific and job-specific keywords in the resume. The right keywords can usually be found in the qualifications and responsibilities sections of the job description and job ad. Adjectives and adverbs are rarely keywords and an excessive amount of fluff or self-aggrandizing claims without proof will quickly turn a human reader off.
Should a job hunter have more than one resume and/or should they customize their resume for each position they apply for or employer they target?
Much like a company will have different brochures and messages for different markets and product lines, a job-seeker should customize their resume for their target audience. If you have multiple potential targets for your job search, you may need to create completely different resumes, highlighting the accomplishments that are most relevant for each target. Even when a job hunter has a single kind of position in mind, it is still a smart job search strategy to customize the resume with the right keywords and language for the target company.
Are cover letters a relic of the past or do still they have benefits in job hunting?
John Wanamaker once said that 50% of his marketing budget was wasted; the problem was he didn’t know which 50%.
Research indicates that less than 50% of cover letters get read, but when they do, they matter a lot. Some recruiters and hiring managers will read the cover letter before the resume, and won’t even look at the resume if there isn’t a cover. Some review the cover only after they’ve read the resume, and look for evidence that the impression made by the resume is correct. And some recruiters and hiring managers skip the cover letter altogether.
If you don’t know which 50% your target audience falls into, err on the side of caution and include a cover letter. Keep it brief, keep it focused, and keep your audience’s information needs in mind. If you are emailing your resume, you can consider omitting a cover attachment, and using the body of your letter as your email message.
Do you recommend a job hunter should first write a resume and then seek you out for professional help?
Professional resume writers and coaches don’t just rewrite your resume, they build it from the ground up, so there is no need for job hunters to write a first draft. To expedite the initial consultation, job hunters can prepare a basic career chronology, and have enough information at hand to be able to discuss their accomplishments, career path to date, and potential targets for their next career move. The writer will guide you through the process of creating the right messages for your target audience, and will take the pain out of creating marketing collateral that will work for your job search strategy.
What is the best job search advice you can give to a job-hunter when it comes to a resume?
Resumes are marketing collateral, so when it comes to writing your resume it pays to think like a marketer. Before you sit down to write, get really clear on who your target audience is and what their challenges, goals, and pain points are. Try to understand their buying motivators, the criteria that they will use to find the right candidate. Clearly define your value proposition, and back it up by evidence from your training and career accomplishments. Once you’ve completed this background research and analysis, you will be better equipped to create a resume that “speaks” to your target audience. This holds true whether you are looking for an entry level position or to become the company’s next CEO.
Many job hunters are reluctant to seek out a professional to have their resume written or to be coached because they think it costs too much. What advice do you have for these job-hunters?
If you think hiring a professional resume writer or job search strategist is too expensive, ask yourself how much being unemployed, underemployed or unhappy in your career is costing you. The learning curve for uncoached job seekers is two to three months – it takes that long to understand the career marketing techniques that will distinguish you from your competitors and it can take even longer for you to master them. For an investment that typically amounts to less than a week’s salary, a professional resume writer or job search coach can fast track your learning curve and help you ensure that you are targeting the right companies, with the right message, using the right tactics and the right marketing collateral, to find a job where you can do your best work.
Karen Siwak is an award-winning resume writer and one of four Certified Job Search Strategists in Canada. Her company, Resume Confidential, works with executives, senior managers, and credentialed professionals across North America to market themselves for their next career move. Follow her on twitter at @ResumeStrategy, or visit www.resumeconfidential.ca to find out more about her services.
To find out more on how to craft your compelling message as well as how to painlessly attract employers, recruiters, and opportunities, pickup Paul Hill’s groundbreaking book The Panic Free Job Search: Unleash the Power of the Web and Social Networking to Get Hired, from Career Press, NJ. Paul Hill is a career and job search coach, author and speaker. You can hookup with Paul, every week interactively during the Get Hired Fast Track “Questions & Answers” live broadcast and get free job search help or at www.TransitionToHired.com. Follow Paul Hill on twitter @GetHiredFastTrk