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How Have Resumes Changed?
And What To Do When What You're Doing Isn't Working
By Sue Campbell, 1st-Writer.com

Resumes today are changing in how they determine qualified candidates. It used to be that a simple accounting of one's work and educational experiences was enough to be titled "resume."

Today, the competition due to layoffs, downsizing and women joining the work force in greater numbers has resulted in a decrease in the number of available positions as more people vie for them. Old positions are becoming obsolete as technology creates new ones, technology is ever changing and creating new demands and deficits, and the idea of remaining in any one position or career for an entire work-life is no longer a realistic expectation.

The result is a need for something more. This "more" comes in the form of "benefits" of service, allowing the reader to appreciate the benefit of hiring someone over a competing candidate with similar skill sets. The assumption is that if an individual brought benefit to a past employer (achievements), a new employer may enjoy the same type of beneficial service.

So what can make a resume "weak" is the same thing, in its opposite, that can give it strength.

Consider, for example, that the recipient of your resume may be faced with 100 or more resumes for a single available position. Chances are that within that stack of documents is at least one other resume that illustrates a background similar to yours. The question the reader will then be asking is, "Which of these candidates offers the greatest beneficial value from their skills, abilities and experience?" Your achievements will be the deciding factor. Does your resume showcase or highlight your achievements effectively? Does it showcase them at all?

If the resume fails to explain past achievements and benefits clearly, it will be left to the reader to try to determine possible benefits. This is unlikely. Faced with the reading of 100 resumes or more the reader simply doesn't have the time to guess, nor would he or she be willing to risk the accountability of guessing wrong.

Candidates often forget that the decision maker within the hiring process is feeling his or her own brand of pressure. This person is being held accountable for their selection of the best candidate for the position. He or she will have to justify his or her decision, as well as backing up the reasoning for hiring one candidate over another. A resume that clearly defines the additional benefits (achievements) offered provides a good foundation for this reasoning.

What you do in the interview will further determine the decision maker's justification for hiring you. Does your resume effectively portray the person you are at an interview? In the interview situation, can you productively back up what is written in your resume?

One Page Restriction (?)

The old standard that a resume should be no more than a page in length has changed. Two pages is fine, even when hiring managers say they prefer a one-page document - IF (and this is an important "IF") the information contained is valuable to your reader and relevant to the position you're targeting.

Three pages needs to be looked at closely (your potential employer may wonder why you can’t express your qualifications in a more concise manner).

All the information contained in your resume should be relevant to the position and company being targeted, and key information should always be presented as early as possible in the document. If your information isn't relevant to the job or company being targeted - take it out!

A resume may only receive an initial viewing of as little as 15 seconds, or less. This means a third page is likely to never be "read" at all, or skimmed at best. Three pages is a lot to ask of the readers' time, so only provide this lengthy of a document if you think it’s absolutely necessary or required.

The resume needs to provide an honest accounting of the candidate's history. This information should then be prioritized with consideration to a potential employer's needs. This way the reader does not have to search for the qualities and abilities they are looking to fill.

What To Do When What You're Doing Isn't Working

The Don'ts:

  • Don't assume this job search will be just like the last job search. It may be harder or easier, but chances are it will be different. The methods used to secure the last position may not be the methods that succeed in securing the next. Use all the avenues available to you in this job search.

  • Don't set your sights on the one perfect potential offer and stop all other activities and search efforts. No job opportunity is a guarantee until the job has been offered and accepted. Keep looking, keep submitting resumes, keep applying, and keep interviewing for other positions, even when you believe, in your heart of hearts, that an offer is in the air.

  • Don't focus all your energy and extra time on your job search. Establish a set number of hours per day or week that you will devote to securing a new position and use any extra time available to: improve yourself (take a course, read, learn a new skill), catch up with friends and family, catch up on activities or projects you haven't had time to enjoy or complete, volunteer to a cause that means something to you, meditate and relax, help someone else, and have some fun. Even though a job search can be a stressful and frustrating process, you've been given an opportunity (particularly if you're temporarily unemployed) to take stock and breathe. Creating balance in your job search will make you more productive and enthusiastic, and will increase your chances for success. Besides, you ought to enjoy this time, because once you've secured a new position it may be a while before you have such freedom again.

  • Don't let fear of the unknown overwhelm you. Rather, think of all the possibilities, envision yourself doing what you want to do and being where you want to be. Focus your energies on the positive, see it in your mind, believe it will happen, and make it happen.

  • Don't be afraid to ask for help.

  • Don't be afraid to offer help. Your interviewer and potential employer is looking for solutions. Go in as a positive problem solver and you will increase the perception of your hiring value tenfold.

  • Don't let negative experiences or feelings from past events or positions cloud, hinder or damage your ability or opportunity to secure a new position. Rethink these situations and find the positives. Focus on these positives and what you have gained or learned from the experience and use this new level of understanding to your advantage. Speaking negatively about past employers, coworkers, or employment situations acts as a mirror and reflects back poorly on the candidate. Instead, think of how you have overcome this negative situation and what positive attributes you now bring to the new job.

The Dos:

  • Do have your resume reviewed for strengths and weaknesses. Talk to the people who are currently responsible for hiring in the field, industry or position you want to secure, regardless of whether a position opening currently exists. Have these individuals review your resume. Have them offer you suggestions on areas in need of definition, improvement, or greater experience. Allow them to guide you in ways you can improve your opportunities, and follow through on their suggestions. If willing, have them review a second version of your improved document.

  • Do network with professionals in your industry of choice. Talk to the people currently doing the type of work you want to secure and learn from them. Join professional associations. Participate in professional events. Do offer to mentor other individuals when given the opportunity.

  • Do establish goals, but don't set your ultimate goal as your immediate goal. Envision your ultimate goal and determine what steps are necessary and what shorter term goals must be met, first, in order to reach the ultimate goal. Establish flexible time frames in which to meet these smaller goals and celebrate your success upon reaching each, before moving to the next goal.

  • Do use every avenue available to get your resume and information out to your targeted market. This includes applying to jobs posted in Internet databases, career-related Web sites, newspaper ads, and professional publications. Contact recruiters (but only those who are employer-paid). Contact college placement professionals and representatives from your alumni college. Search the Internet, phone book, library reference guides, and professional publications for information on companies of interest, and contact them (after you've done your homework and regardless of whether or not a job position is being advertised or made known). Attend career fairs and industry-related events (and have your resume ready for distribution at these events). Attend corporate open houses. Tell everyone you know that you are in the market and what you can do. Volunteer your services to organizations in need.

  • Do prepare yourself for interview situations by practicing your public speaking and interviewing skills, preparing appropriate answers to difficult questions, focusing on what value and benefit your skills and experiences can contribute to the companies you're currently targeting, and how you are presenting yourself to others in both mannerisms and dress. Do mock interviews, tape your responses, and have these mock interviews critiqued by someone you respect and trust. Work on problem areas until your answers and responses to these situations are comfortable, professional and effective.

  • Do thank everyone who has helped you in this job search, and follow up on all job interviews with notes of appreciation, it can be the deciding factor between two equally qualified candidates. Don't assume that everyone follows up an interview with a note, because very few candidates actually do. By showing your appreciation to those who have helped you in your job search, you'll build your network and keep allegiances strong.

  • Do continue managing your career and building up your network, even after you secure the perfect job. Update your resume periodically, while the information is current and fresh in your mind. Record your achievements and recognize how your efforts have made a difference and benefited those who employ you. Career management is an ongoing process.

  • Do offer to help others in similar situations and become a mentor.

    Should I Hire a Professional Resume Writer?  /  1st-Writer.com Services

    See more articles on job hunting

    Good luck in your job search! Sue Campbell, 1st-Writer.com - over 15 years experience helping clients achieve their career and business goals. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have. I'll be glad to help!


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This page last updated: 04/23/2012