Professional Development: Resumes Revisited: Making a Fresh Impression in the Digital Age

Story by Era Sundar • Audio Editor

The basic procedure for getting a job is steadily evolving. Employers can use Google and Facebook to learn more about prospective employees, and resumes are often submitted online. At this rate, video resumes may soon be the new standard.

But for now, the written resume remains the most popular job application tool.

As with many established conventions, both content and format have been subject to changing trends. To better understand current expectations, I turned to three professionals who make a living hiring people.
Sara Johnson, is a recruiter with Razorfish, a digital marketing company. She said an objective is no longer an important part of a resume.

“Ditch it. You’re limiting yourself,” she said. “If the objective is too specific, you are counting yourself out of other possible areas in the company. If it’s too general it won’t be effective.”

At applicants are encouraged to write a personal headline instead. A headline such as “Skilled Web Writer and Online Publisher” is placed at the top, center of the page. Rather than focusing on what you want from the company, it shows what you have to offer in a concise, powerful way.

With the advent of online applications, cover letters could also go the way of the dinosaur. But they’re not extinct yet. Dan Vulinovic, a Razorfish senior technology recruiter, said he doesn’t require cover letters, but knows recruiters who won’t read a resume unless it’s accompanied by one.

I say err on the side of caution. Keep a cover letter handy just in case, and be prepared to tailor it to each job application. Cover letters provide an excellent opportunity to explain special circumstances such as prolonged unemployment or how your volunteer work prepared you for the job.

Resume length is also subject to debate.

Conventional wisdom suggests a strict one- page policy. After all, recruiters are busy people, right? Just recently Johnson said she received 150 responses to one job listing. Despite this volume, she finds a length of one to two pages appropriate.

Vulinovic, said universally limiting resumes to one page is ridiculous.

“The way technology is changing, people- especially those in senior roles – may have different types of projects and experiences to list,” he said. “I don’t think three pages are too many.”

Now wait a minute. When evaluating this statement, consider that Vulinovic recruits for the information technology industry. The skill sets required there are so specific, he said, that recruiters actively seek candidates instead of waiting for them to appear.

With online resumes becoming more prevalent, some employers are accepting longer resumes. Additional length allows more opportunities to stand out from the competition. But beware. This is no excuse to ramble.

“If I can’t find what I’m looking for in the first 30 seconds and I have to dig for information, I move on,” Laura Waldo said. She is a recruiter for the oil industry and at one time was a recruiter for the Seton hospital system.

My advice: Get it done in as few pages as possible. Brevity is still the mother of wit.

Waldo also weighed in on whether references should be listed on a resume. She said their presence doesn’t necessarily provide an advantage. However, “if you’re applying for a job in the healthcare industry and you can list the vice president of St. David’s Hospital, it could help.”

So if you have a compelling reference, use it to your advantage. Otherwise, “references available on request” will do.

When it comes to format and organization, content is king. Expensive stationary is not necessary like it was several years ago, Vulinovic said, especially for technical jobs. A computer printout is sufficient. He also discourages the use of colored or swirly fonts and pictures of the applicant.

Unlike Vulinovic, whose emphasis is on technological jobs, Johnson often recruits graphic designers and professionals from other creative fields. She said they have more leeway, and should make their resumes attractive to showcase their skills and help them stand out. Here color and catchy design elements are encouraged. However, it is important that the information remain easy to follow.

Waldo, Johnson and Vulinovic emphasize customizing your resume to each job application and agree that making a good impression is paramount.

Vulinovic said he was recently impressed by a junior applicant who didn’t have lots of experience but produced a personal blog about technology and engaged in plenty of extracurricular activities.

“This shows passion,” he said. “It shows it’s not just about work, but you are passionate about the activities you ultimately want to get paid for.”

Whatever your experience level, be proactive and draw attention to your strengths. Believe in the product you’re marketing – yourself. You are your own best advocate.

“One candidate caught my attention by contacting me directly on LinkedIn to apply for a posted job,” Johnson said.

“She sent her resume and a five sentence email. It was very effective and it got me to call her.” [one_half last=”no”]…[/one_half]


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