Are you looking to take your job hunt to the next level this year? If so, then every aspect of your game needs to be razor sharp—especially your resume. Why is this so important? Along with your cover letter, your resume will serve as your first impression to prospective employers, hiring managers, and HR personnel, and we’re all aware of the lasting power of first impressions.
Ask any seasoned professional who’s responsible for reviewing the resumes of potential hires and they’d most likely be able to share a laundry list of hilarious—and tragic—resume missteps and mistakes that sunk the chances of their creators before they ever had the chance to show what they’re capable of. Forbes even published an article about some of the more outlandish resume tricks that they’ve come across. These include:
- One candidate who sent his resume in the form of an oversized Rubik’s Cube, where you had to push the tiles around to align the resume.
- A job seeker who applied for a food and beverage management position sent a resume in the form of a fine-dining menu.
- An applicant created a marketing brochure promoting herself as the best candidate.
- Another job applicant crafted his resume to look like Google search results for the “perfect candidate.”
Outlandish moves like these are always a big risk when sending out your resume—the truth is, sometimes they can serve to make you stand out from a crowd in a good way, but other times they’ll only serve to have your resume laughed all the way to the garbage can or trash folder. Are you willing to accept such a risk?
The Forbes article also mentioned that “one-in-five HR managers reported that they spend less than 30 seconds reviewing applications and around 40% spend less than one minute,” so your window of opportunity for making a good impression is likely slim, to say the least. When creating a resume, there’s little room for error and a misstep can be costly.
Your best bet here is to apply the principles of effective resume writing that have proven themselves to work time and time again. Great Resumes Fast recently published an article on the best resume writing tips for 2018—these sound principles hold true regardless of whether you’re trying to land your very first job or you’re a seasoned professional looking to reach the pinnacle of your career ladder.
Consider using the following resume dos and don’ts when you’re crafting your next resume, and you’ll be setting yourself up to make a great impression on your next job hunt.
Define your goals: What is your primary goal for your next big job hunt? Sure, it’s a big question, but it’s one worth asking yourself and answering before you start working on your resume. Why? Your primary goal will be your “guiding compass” as you craft your resume—everything from your objective to the keywords you use should be targeted towards the industry and position you’re hoping to nail down. Without a primary goal, your resume may come off as unfocused or ambiguous, two qualities that won’t score you any points with hiring managers. Great Resumes Fast suggests asking yourself the following questions when trying to define your purpose and goals:
- What vision do you have for your career over the next 1, 3, 5, or 10 years?
- Which values are driving your goals?
- What’s your purpose?
- What are you passionate about?
- Why do you do what you do?
Target your audience: Once you define your goals, you should be able to articulate a clear vision of your resume’s intended audience—these are the companies, industries, and insiders that you’ve targeted to help you achieve your goals. Great Resumes Fast suggests asking yourself the following questions when trying to define your audience:
- Are their specific companies I’m interested in?
- Am I aiming to secure a position in a specific industry?
- What advantage or benefit does this position bring to their business?
- What will the company be lacking or missing if there’s no one in this position?
- Consider some of the struggles and obstacles facing the employer and the industry. Make a list of the most critical ones, and reflect on times in the past when you’ve confronted similar challenges.
Define your value proposition: Once you’ve targeted your audience, you can use your resume (and subsequent interviews) to identify their issues and needs and demonstrate how you can help address them—your unique value proposition. Ask yourself the following questions when trying to define your value proposition:
- What benefit or contribution do you add?
- What key accomplishments or successes have you delivered time and time again?
- What would you say is unique about yourself and how you do what you do?
- What are your greatest strengths?
- Reach out to friends, family, and your network and ask them which words they would use to describe you.
- What do others see as the value you add?
- Read through your LinkedIn recommendations and past performance evaluations and look for themes. When you put similar words and phrases together what picture do you get?
- What do others say are your greatest strengths?
- How do others describe you?
- What do your boss, team, and direct reports come to you for on a regular basis?
Define what makes you stand out: The truth is, for every position you decide to go after you’ll be going up against a slew of qualified and capable individuals. Therefore, your mission is to convince those who come across your resume that you possess certain attributes that make you stand out positively from the job-hunting pack. Ask yourself the following questions when trying to communicate on your resume what makes you stand out:
- How have you positively influenced others?
- What would others say is fascinating, compelling, or interesting about you?
- What benefit would an employer or company get from choosing you over another candidate?
- What benefit or value did you bring to your previous employers?
Avoid the red flags: If you want to be taken seriously by hiring personnel and prospective employers, there are just some things that should not be a part of any resume—for any position—period. This includes weird email addresses, nicknames, any dubious distinctions (no one cares that you were a beer drinking champion in college), or creepy or disturbing work experiences or accomplishments. Remember, you want the first impression that you give off to be that you’re a polished and capable professional who could potentially add real valuable to your target companies’ teams.
Don’t get too cute: Sure, we’ve said before that you want to try to stand out from the rest of the job-hunting pack, but doing so by using wacky and colorful fonts or paper or utilizing a too-cute but ultimately confusing resume format will only detract from your perception as a competent and mature professional. Unless it’s standard practice in your industry, or you’re asked specifically to take a creative approach to applying for a particular job, stick to the traditional format and let the content of your resume serve to make you stand out from the crowd.
Don’t let mistakes take you out: The people who’ll read your resume are likely seasoned professionals with plenty of experience, and you better believe that they’ll be able to laser focus on any typo, error, or mistake you leave behind—and when they’re uncovered, the chances of your being seriously considered for the job will likely plummet. Do yourself a huge favor and check and double-check your resume for errors before you send it out. Better yet, have someone you trust check your work; a second fresh set of eyes is always a good idea.
There you have it—use these tips when you’re writing your next resume, and you’ll be in great shape to make 2018 your year for earning your next big career opportunity.