by Melany Hallam
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It’s been 2015 for a month now and hopefully we’ve all recovered from overindulging this holiday season. I know it took me a while to get over my turkey-induced stupor. Now that our heads are clear, what next?
If your plan for the new year includes looking for a job or changing your career, one of the first things you’ll need is an up-to-date résumé. Resume writing has changed a lot since I was fresh out of school and applying for jobs. They’re no longer chronological listings of experience and education—they’re sales documents. In the new world of short attention spans, if your resume doesn’t catch an employer’s eye in eight to 10 seconds, it’ll go straight into the recycling bin.
So how do you make your resume stand out? Here’s a chance for you to get creative and even have some fun. For example, a former co-worker of mine used to glue triangles of brightly-coloured fabric to the top right corner of her resume so that human-resources people would notice it immediately as they flipped through the pile. This won’t work in the days of electronic job applications, but there are all kinds of new ways that you can make your resume stand out. Here’s a quick list of the most popular advice from online job search websites and recent blog posts:
- One size doesn’t fit all – always tailor your resume to fit the job posting.
- Design matters – make your resume stand out visually by using such things as pull-out boxes, colour, shading, clearly-defined sections, etc.
- Keep it to one or two pages – no one reads more than that anyway.
- In fact, some experts say that employers only look at the top third of your résumé, so make it count by using a “highlights” section of three or four bullet points at the top of the document.
- It’s all about getting things done, so use active words to describe your achievements. Examples: managed (instead of “selected as supervisor”), created a database (instead of “a database was used”), completed project (instead of “the project was completed”).
- Generic statements are a waste of space – include information that is unique to YOU.
- Review your resume from the point of view of an employer (or ask a trusted friend to look at it for you) – how easy is it to identify skills relevant to the job you’re applying for?
- Email your resume as a PDF – because you never know how badly someone else’s Word default settings will mangle your formatting.
- Spell check, spell check, spell check! Because no one will take you seriously if you don’t. I can’t tell you how many résumés I’ve tossed out because the applicant didn’t pay attention to detail.
Tips for job seekers age 50+:
- Age proof your resume by including only the last 15 years or so.
- Don’t include dates but, rather, use a functional resume describing skills and achievements (this is good advice for anyone, but especially so for older job seekers).
- Describe how you’ve used technology in your work, and what it has helped you accomplish. If you have nothing to say, you have some work to do!
Tip from left field:
- Create a short video introduction of yourself and link to your resume. Here’s an example:
- Career Link is offering workshops on resume and cover letter writing this month. Check out the schedule here: https://careerlinkbc.com/calendar.php
Other helpful links:
- A video of some great tips for younger job seekers,
- “4 Ways to Pass the 8 second resume glance,” recent post on Careerealism blog, http://www.careerealism.com/résumé-glance-pass/
- Here’s an interesting thread from Reddit asking human resources professionals: “What red flags on a resume or cover letter will prevent a candidate from getting a call back?” http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/2blxt6/redditors_who_work_in_human_resources_what_red/
- An article on resume and job interview language for older workers (Toronto Star), http://www.thestar.com/business/personal_finance/retirement/2014/09/29/5_tips_for_older_workers_looking_for_work_mayers.html