By J.T. O’Donnell
Recently, I explained why I personally don’t use resumes to hire talent. However, until the day comes when we abolish resumes entirely, or switch to standardized online formats like www.LinkedIn.com and www.VisualCV.com, they are still a necessary evil in getting a job with the majority of companies out there.
Regardless of your age, EVERYONE struggles with writing a good resume. But, I think it’s even more difficult for a first-time pinrofessional who has zero previous experience in crafting one and limited content to put on the page.
FACT: There are two main reasons why creating a good resume feels next-to-impossible:
1) Resume design is subjective. What one person may appreciate, the other might put right in the ‘no’ pile.
2) What type of formatting works at one stage of your career or for a particular profession, may not work for others.
This all leads to some serious confusion as to the best way to write a winning resume. So, we decided to reach out to some CAREEREALISM followers on Twitter and asked the following questions:
What’s most confusing about designing a resume? What questions, concerns run through your head?
We got excellent responses from three job seekers and some sound advice from one professional resume writer. Here’s what they had to say:
Vanessa Curtis – recent college grad looking for PR job
The most confusing part of designing your resume is the initial approach. When I started I didn’t know how to find the fine line between overstating yourself and seeming inexperienced. This along with deciding on the font, font size, and how to lay it all out can seem daunting. There are so many options but I think your best bet is to have a modified reflection of yourself, going on the modest side. Let yourself be shown in your cover letter but- if you are applying for a creative position, you should lean towards creatively describing what you have done in previous jobs. If you are applying for something more business oriented then something concrete might be a better approach.
Tara Pizzola – college junior studying journalism & PR
While I think there are several confusing things about designing a resume, I think the main barrier to direct answers is that there is seemingly no ONE right way in designing and formatting a resume. Whether your research outlet is online, through a career center, through contacts in the industry, or even through friends and professors, a plethora of suggestions and reasoning are given. Should I include my GPA or not include my GPA? If I do include my GPA, should I put both my cumulative GPA as well as my major GPA? And furthermore, if I do include my GPA, should I round up, round down, or just leave it at its exact digits? From just this basic GPA question alone, I think it is obvious the array of questions that can run through a student’s head. So, in theory, I think there are several confusing aspects in putting together a resume. I think it is important to keep in mind that in the same way that you will receive differing advice and suggestions, the same will hold true for the employers you send that resume to. In other words, every employer holds different stipulations and expectancies for resumes. The problem is, is figuring out and knowing what exactly those expectations are. It’s an endless cycle.
Sarah Peerani – college junior studying advertising & PR
My beef with all the resume advice is the inconsistency. You have your 50-somethings telling you to do something in an old-school-safe way and then you have your younger crowd telling you do something differently. Then on top of that you have the industry variable to consider. I love how I’ve been able to use twitter and search engines to get quick, great feedback from people I don’t even know and who are still willing to help a stranger out. I almost feel like the hitchhiker on the road that needs a lift! I just wish there was a book or some kind of universal reference on resumes. A lot of people in the advertising industry, not just in Florida, have told me that objectives are useless and don’t mean squat and that your cover letter is a better “objective” description than one sentence could ever be. There are other little tid-bits that don’t match up to some other advice I’ve received for my particular area of interest. For the most part, the advice and rules from the aesthetic aspect of a resume are all amazing.
Dawn Bugni – certified professional resume writer
1) When designing a resume, what should be different on a young professional’s resume as opposed to a more seasoned one?
Design and content is not dependant on age, as much as it is on the target audience. Target determines focus. Focus determines design, content and presentation. If you’re applying to a Fortune 100 company and have a degree from a prestigious university, then you’d want that in the top third of the page – prime real estate on the resume – because that is the type of credential that will grab a hiring authority’s attention. If you’re applying for a position with a non-profit and you were the fundraising chair for your college sorority, four consecutive years, then that experience becomes most important. Highlight the amazing results of your efforts and put it first. You are creating sales and marketing documents. Sales focuses on the audience. Get to know what skills (not traits, not attributes — skills) sell in your chosen industry and position and craft your document accordingly. Sure it takes effort, but the results of that effort reward greatly.
And don’t discount skills learned through degree studies, volunteer work or class projects. A skill is a skill, regardless how you attained it. Did you shoot a documentary for your film class and you’re trying to intern or land a job at a film studio? Include a bullet point or two about that accomplishment. You learned something marketable; it doesn’t matter if you got paid or not while learning it. Quantifiable, qualifiable accomplishment-driven statements, targeted at industry and position should fill a resume, no matter your age.
2) What should a young professional do when they have conflicting advice on the best way to design a resume?
Find a trusted professional in the career industry for feedback and ignore the rest of the well-meaning advice givers. Friends will be uncomfortable with the “professional you”. Mom will tell you not to boast. Uncle George will ask, “Where’s the objective statement?”, because that’s the way he did his … 20 years ago. They all mean well. Thank them for their input and promptly forget it. You have got to be bold, succinct and tastefully unique in your presentation or you will look like everyone else. When there’s a stack of 500 resumes for one position, you do not want to look like everybody else. And yes, you can have more than one version of your resume targeting different career paths and guiding the reader to a different conclusion by rearranging information, changing keywords and tweaking the summary.
Quite frankly, you can give the exact same information to ten different professional resume writers and they will come up with ten different ways to present the information. Each will be wonderful and each individual will have solid reasoning for the format and style used. And that is just among professionals. Throw into the mix Great Aunt Tillie, ten of your best friends, some person at the unemployment office, several recruiters, mom and dad, well you get the idea – if you try and take advice from all those people your head will explode and your resume will look like 47 people told you what to do.
Being a professional resume writer, I have to say, invest in yourself and hire a professional. They keep their finger on the pulse of the career industry via myriad social media networks, affiliations and membership in professional organizations. They invest hundreds of hours each year in continuing education and seminars and are a priceless, usually generous resource for your search.
If you think a professional’s not possible, cut back on a few lattes or nights out for a little while and you’ll be amazed at how soon you’re ready to invest some of that fun money in your future. In lieu of professional assistance, use Google to find any of the literally thousands of blog posts on the topic of resume construction. Go to the library or bookstore and find books by the leaders in the career industry. No matter the source, look for industry credentials among the contributors – CPRW, NCRW, CARW. Study how they format and order information, how they structure sentences. Stand back and look at the esthetic and balance of the presentation. Get a feel for the staccato rhythms of resume-speak and start writing for your audience. The only test of a resume is, “Does it land interviews?” There are no absolute rules for presentation, (unless you venture into federal sector resumes.) You may have to tweak yours, based on response, but it’s time well spent, when you consider the reward is employment and a brighter future.
Regardless who prepare the documents; you are the one they are representing. Be sure you’re comfortable with and well versed on the presentation.
3) What are absolute must-do’s on every resume, regardless of age?
First, there is the obvious. Proofread, proofread, proofread. It takes five to seven people reading the same document to catch all the errors, so be sure to have plenty of proofreading support. (Proofreading is different. Content and presentation input strategy has been discussed – thank and forget.)
Next, remember the job search is all about the company, not you, and craft your documents accordingly. The hiring authority does not care what you “seek”. They want to know what you bring to their organization and how are you going to contribute. All job-related communication – written or verbal, formal resume and cover letter or quick email – should be jam-packed full of quantifiable, qualifiable accomplishment-driven statements reinforcing how you bring value to the organization. Write for your reader, not yourself. Resumes are sales and marketing documents, not career-autobiographies. You are selling your most precious commodities – your time and your talents. Be sure the presentation is compelling and does you justice. Now is not the time to by be shy and humble about what you can do – regardless your level of experience.
To sum it all up, creating a resume is not a ‘one size fits all’ process. That’s why it is so frustrating, because like anything in life it requires:
- Good Attitude
However, once you master the resume process, it’s just another skill you have under your belt and one less career tool you have to worry about. We hope this information helped you gain perspective on how you can finish your resume and move on to the more important task of using it to network!
Do you have anything to add? Do you agree or disagree with the advice given? Was this post helpful? Please share your comments below.