As you approach your college graduation, you’re probably getting anxious about the job search. After all, mom’s couch does not sound too appealing, especially since you already spent the last four years passed out on a different couch every night. But now what? How the heck do you take a single piece of resume paper (or hopefully two, if you’re smart enough to include a Cover Letter) and turn it into a solid job offer?
Here’s a hint: that polished, professional, size 12, Times New Roman, fancy-pants paper resume that the career planning lady helped you piece together … Yeah, it’s not going to work.
But don’t worry; putting together a winning resume is not as hard as you think. These quick tips could make all the difference as you get off that couch and start trying to impress the guys with fancy suits and fancier cars. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Get Their Freaking Attention!
What’s the biggest problem with resumes? They don’t get read. Often with hundreds of applicants to skim through, unless your resume does something major to catch the reader’s eye, right into the trash it goes. Okay, so what can you do to get the attention you need? Here are a couple of ideas:
- Spill coffee on your resume: Ok, so maybe that’s not the best idea … but it guarantees it would be seen. In fact, it would probably be passed around the office for a good laugh. Even with an unprofessional coffee stain, that applicant has a far better chance of getting hired than the one whose resume is hanging out in the trash with this morning’s banana peel and yesterday’s gum wrapper.
- Add some color: Your career planning lady (or dude) would have a fit if she heard this idea, but regardless of what she thinks, what worked in the 50’s doesn’t work today. But when done right, it can work. Be intentional and don’t add too much, but a few carefully placed dividers and headers with a just a touch of color? That’s a resume that gets some attention.
- Snail Mail It: Want an easy trick that nobody else is doing? Send a copy of your resume via the old fashioned U.S Postal Service! Sure, it’s easier to get online and copy/paste your data into some snappy web form. But your potential employer knows that too. Spend the extra 49 cents and let the company know you are actually interested in their position. It will pique their attention right away!
2. Cut out all the crap!
If you’re trying to make a great first impression, the last thing you want to do is bore a hiring manager by telling them you that you are “proficient in Word, Excel, and Power Point”. Seriously:. Did you pass the 5th grade? You might as well add that you know how to tie your shoes and vacuum the carpet. Just sayin’. As a general rule of thumb, if it doesn’t help, take it out. Which means that if you were the high school prom queen, or you volunteered one hung-over Saturday at the Salvation Army … it doesn’t make the cut.
A successful resume:
- Summarizes only your best attributes: It is clear of irrelevant crap.
- Is only one page long: Never, ever any longer. (This one is only true for recent college grads … If you’ve been in the workforce longer it may be different)
- Has a lot of well-placed white space.
- Does not use an “Objective” section at the top (use a Summary of Qualifications or a Professional Summary instead).
- Uses a lot carefully placed graphic highlighting (that’s means bold, italics, bullet points etc.) to catch the reader’s eye at the right places.
- Is focused on the applicant’s ability to achieve results. (See this post for more information on how to make your resume focus on results)
3. Edit, Edit, Edit.
This is nothing like that 23-page paper that you whipped together the night before it was due. Your resume is the first step in your tryout for a full time job that (hopefully) pays you enough that so you can stop eating ramen noodles and driving that 1995 Dodge Caravan. Your resume has to be perfect. Why? Because this is a class of several hundred applicants and it’s pass-fail. Oh yeah, and only one person in the room get a pass. See why this is important?
Even if you’re highly qualified, the person that wins the interview is not always the one who can do the job best. Instead it’s the person who:
- Gets the attention of the reader.
- Presents themselves clearly.
- Best demonstrates (on paper) that they will meet the needs of the reader. (More on this in number 4)
So … Don’t cut any corners. Every detail on your resume should get close attention. Then after you have beaten it to death, it gets looked over by your peers, your English teacher, your mom, Aunt Susan and best of all: industry experts. No one knows better than they do what it takes to make your résumé stand out. Find someone who works in your desired field and go get some help!
4. Meet the Reader’s Need
Here’s a basic life truth, loosely borrowed from the great author, salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar: “If you help other people get what they want, they will help you will get what you want.” Yeah, you have probably heard it a million times, but you would be shocked just how many people don’t follow this advice at all on their resumes. And if you’re struggling to land a job, I’m willing to bet you’re one of them.
When you draft your resume, constantly be thinking “What does the hiring manager want in a job applicant?” An educated guess says that most of them want many of the same things:
- To not have to look very hard to find the things that make you stand out
- To find someone who actually understands the needs of the job
- A good communicator who is willing to work hard
- Someone who is easy to talk with and who makes the office a better place
- A person who is not selfish and who will make their job easier
- Someone that will make them look good for their own boss
If you do nothing else on your resume but figure out how to be the person who best meets the reader’s needs, you’ll get the interview every time.
© Cold Collar Ltd. This article was written by Will Wegert.