Résumé Writing Contradictions and Challenges
When it comes to résumé writing, everyone has an opinion. There is no lack of advice offered by career strategists and you may find that contradictions often exist. However, there may be more to the story.
True résumé strategy is not about blindly following any rule. Many principles and guidelines make sense. However, the challenge for practitioners is to understand a range of methods and techniques and apply them only when appropriate.
Following are some typical résumé contradictions. If you find yourself saying, “I always do it this way,” then you might want to consider changing your approach. Take the challenge and expand your horizon so that you can write customized, strategic résumés for your clients.
Paper or Digital?
Presenting a hard copy résumé is effective in almost every face-to-face situation; however, these days it is often mandatory for clients to submit résumés online.
Even if your client submits a résumé online and receives notification that it was accepted, you cannot be certain that the résumé ever reached the actual targeted recipient or was read by anyone else. Arm your client with a fully-formatted résumé that can be printed along with the digital version.
Always give your client an editable Microsoft Word document. Your client must be able to email or upload a soft copy of the résumé in the format that the recruiter requests. This will also give your client the flexibility to optimize the résumé for the employer and their Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
Include a strikingly formatted Adobe (pdf) version of that document so that your client can print it as needed. Recommend that your client goes the extra step and mails a résumé with a cover letter printed on high quality paper directly to the recruiter, company representative, or hiring manager. It is also important for your client to bring enough paper copies of the résumé to distribute at in-person meetings.
Concise or Lengthy?
Current consensus is that if your client presents a lengthy résumé, a person might not read it. However, for a résumé to pass a computer and human review, it needs to be comprehensive.
In our world today, many people feel the effects of “information overload.” Everyone wants things now. Everyone wants information in bite-sized pieces, or better yet, condensed top-level points in a few words or lines. Cleaner and leaner content might seem to be the best option, but your clients will do much better if you strategically exploit content to satisfy both computer reviews and human reviewers.
Create a beautifully formatted résumé that is concise and clean, but don’t forget to include an appropriately formatted version for the ATS. Companies use keyword searches and we can’t avoid that. If your client does not use the right keywords and phrases from the job posting, the résumé will not be selected by the recruiter’s technology.
Even with an ATS version, readability is crucial. Cut out all non-essential words to strengthen the keyword optimization. Then, ensure that you are telling a powerful story that compels the ATS to select your client.
Objective or Profile?
Some résumé writers consider objective statements as self-centred and self-serving. They prefer to lead a résumé with a profile statement featuring strengths instead. However, recruiters and ATS need to know what actual job the applicant is targeting in order to select the résumé.
It is best to use the marketing approach that highlights your client’s value to the organization. This means that you need to know when to employ an objective, a headline, or a profile statement.
Never discount any strategy; embrace them all and use them in different ways according to the situation. For example, if your client has never held the role, it is difficult to incorporate a target job title into a profile. In this case, it might be appropriate to use an objective statement and incorporate the target position within that piece. Conversely, if your client is highly experienced in the job, you might want to include the job title alongside his or her name.
Functional or Chronological?
Recruiters and hiring managers love reverse chronological résumés because responsibilities and achievements appear logically, detailed within the appropriate positions. Clients with barriers to employment prefer functional résumés because they help mitigate career gaps and other issues.
You’ll see much ado about reverse chronological and functional résumé formats on the internet and in résumé books. These formats are easily understandable for the layperson, but rather than focusing on strategy, they essentially offer a formula to develop a “home-grown” résumé. Create a custom résumé for every client.
Feature your client’s unique brand, talents, passions, values, achievements, results, and more. Combine the best features of the easy-to-read chronological with the attention-grabbing style of the functional into a hybrid document that incorporates distinctive strategic elements to enable your client to stand apart from the competition.
Résumé or LinkedIn?
Résumés are traditionally created as static documents, but now they are becoming living entities on social media such as LinkedIn.
When it comes to the competitive job search market we live in, you must arm your clients in every way possible. Whether or not you believe that social media will replace résumés, sites like LinkedIn are almost mandatory for many industries and types of positions.
To be an effective promoter of your client, you must not only keep up with sites like LinkedIn, you must enable him or her to create a strong profile that supports and strengthens facts stated in the résumé. Further, you need to remind clients that they should make it a habit to regularly compare and update their résumé and LinkedIn profile so that all details are in sync.
Traditional or Innovative?
Traditional résumés are well established. Recruiters love traditional style résumés because they are comfortable with them and they have processes in place to collect, compare, rank, and select candidates. On the other hand, innovative résumés can generate great attention and interest just because they are different.
There is no reason that you cannot infuse creativity into your process. Some clients will embrace innovation, based on their personal style and the job that they are targeting. If you don’t know about innovations, then you cannot provide your client with the best advice.
Learn the basics of creating personal websites, online portfolios, and blogs. More than this, investigate the use of micro résumés, video résumés, infographics, and much, much more. Then, enable your clients to take various approaches to ensure that they have the best chance of success in their search.
As practitioners, we must produce résumés that are far superior when compared to our clients’ “home-grown” documents. Anyone can find guidelines, templates, and formulas on the internet. If everyone is doing the same thing, won’t it be difficult for your client to stand out from the crowd?
The best résumé writers and employment strategists know how to go far past basic concepts. We need to keep pushing ourselves so that we can position our job-seeking clients above the competition. Take the challenge and try something new for your client.
Sharon Graham is founder and executive director of Career Professionals of Canada. Committed to setting the standard for excellence in the career development profession, Sharon has authored top-selling paperback publications and textbooks, and has established a range of certification, professional development, community development, and mentoring and award programs. As executive director of CPC, she provides foresight and leadership within the career development sector and ensures that the mandate of CPC is upheld with integrity.