When I was on the lookout for a new job I put a lot of thought into my resume a lot. Is it good enough? Will it draw enough attention? Did I write too much or too little? I was especially worried since there’s been so much youth unemployment in these past few months, with the economy still in the dumpster and financial government measures that promote hiring people above the age of 50, further smothering the chances for young graduates.
These questions have been haunting my mind for the past few days. Time to take a look at it from a recruiter’s point of view and take off my applicant goggles.
I decided to think back to the time when I was doing an internship/student job at one of the largest temporary work agencies in the country. Part of my job was to scan through resumes to find the best candidates to invite for an interview. Obviously, I looked at the usual content of a resume: Name, address, education, work experience, skills, … Contrary to a lot of recruiters I took my time to thoroughly read to every application I came across. Some of them were sloppy, poorly written and full of mistakes. Some even had blatant lies on them. The resumes that stood out most were those with excellent credentials of course, but even more so were the ones that had a stylish and easy to scan lay-out.
So what exactly does a resume need to land you that interview? Obviously, it should contain the basics; personal details, work experience, education, skills and even hobbies. Naturally, it should also be made with a text editor such as MS Word (written cv’s are so 1800’s guys …) and sent in a PDF-format so your text and format will be kept intact. Below are some other basic tips that will help guide you on the path to a proper resume:
- Don’t use a standard template
- Check your spelling
- Don’t write huge blocks of text
- Adapt to the job opening
- Less is more
- Think about your lay-out
I think you’ll agree that these are self-evident, but nothing is less true. I’ll focus on the last 2 bullet points some more, because those are the ones I’ve been struggling with the most. Ideally, you’ll want to find that delicate balance between text and visuals. It’s a thin line, but if you get it right you’ll have yourself a killer resume that will help you stand out from most other applicants.
You need to convey enough information without cluttering everything up. Try to use key words, don’t write full sentences. I believe people need to focus more on their lay-out than they currently do. We mostly choose bland and basic templates. They’re quite boring and it’s clear that these do not stand out in a large stack. Try to put some ‘you’ in it and be creative. If a company doesn’t like your resume, you won’t get an interview. And so what? You probably wouldn’t even want to work there then. Remember, there is other fish in the sea (I have to remind myself of this sometimes).
In the end, these are just a few small tips to help you on your way. You’ll still have to do the work, and remember that your application letter and resume are only the first step towards landing a job. Its sole purpose is to get you an interview, no more, no less.
As a final point, I don’t think that the inability to find a steady job is due solely to a less-than-optimal resume. Part of the problem is obviously the current economic climate and all that follows in its wake (such as wonky government policies to increase employment rates). Recruiters are also part of the issue here since they can’t or won’t take the time to read through resumes that seem cluttered. I understand though, time is money and sifting through endless applications can be tedious, but on the other hand it seems like common courtesy to me to properly look through an application (and reply to it!). In the end, if you don’t take the time to read it all you might discard great assets to your company and/or clients.
I reckon it’s just a mindset that needs to be changed. Furthermore, we live in an age where traditional applications and resumes aren’t and shouldn’t be the norm for the newest generation of entry-level workers. Be creative. Try out a few different lay-outs or use specific skills needed in your field of expertise. Pitch them to your friends, family or your friendly neighborhood recruiter. Learn how to deal with (constructive) criticism and adapt to it.
And finally, there’s a lot of really nice tools and apps available for free on the internet that will help you create your own resume. It takes some effort, but the result will be great.
To help you along, here’s some links to a few examples:
Mashable.com – Resume design
Piktochart – an app to make infographics, suited for resumes!
Remember, I’m not trying to get everyone to make resumes like this. They are just examples to get your thought process going.
PS: Check out this handy little tool: http://www.beworkhappy.com/. It needs a bit of work, but it’s a great initiative (Also, it Belgian #shamelesspromoting)