In 2018, 90% of all resumes will be scanned for keywords to find the most qualified candidate before that stack of resumes is handed to a hiring manager to read.
Not that long ago, a hiring manager couldn’t look at your LinkedIn profile to see how attractive you were. Now they can. Companies couldn’t use Zillow to check your address to see what kind of a neighborhood you lived in. Now they might.
A lot of this is scary and offensive. But my point is, things have changed, and your resume needs to change as well. In this blog, I want to make sure your resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letters are “2018 ready” so they will be noticed and get read.
General resume considerations
Resume length has to be the number one question asked about resumes. And the good news is, this hasn’t changed. Although there are sometimes exceptions, the optimal length for a resume is still two pages.
For those looking for their first job
If at all possible, try and create a resume that is two pages in length. A two-page resume is customary, and a single page resume can send the signal that you haven’t done much.
Remember white space is part of good design, and a font size of 12 is ok. Chances are you were active in all sorts of activities in high school and college, and these may tell as much about you as a person than any job you may or may not have held.
Two pages is the standard length for most resumes. Unlike first-time job seekers, you’ll need a bit less white space and can reduce your font size a bit.
That said, it still needs to be very readable and as concise as possible. Remember what Mark Twain said, and I am paraphrasing;
“I would have written a shorter letter but I ran out of time.”
Although a two-page resume is acceptable, a three-page resume makes sense. I’ll talk about branding further below, but a branding statement can take up about a half of a page.
Also, there is an expectation that you’ll have accomplished more which should come across in your resume. However, it isn’t about length; it is about quality.
If you add the extra page, make sure all pages contain high-quality statements and achievements. Remember, even a three-page resume needs to be concise.
Resume vs. CV (Curriculum Vitae)
In the United States, a CV is very different from a resume. Both are used to find employment, but CVs are used by those in academia, science, and medicine. CV’s contain lists of published articles and books, patents, presentations, etc.
In Europe, the word resume is just not used, and the acronym CV is synonymous with resume. If you are in a field that requires a CV, chances are you know it. Since CVs are so different than resumes, I’ll cover CVs in a future blog.
Avoid Times New Roman, Cambria, and other fonts that have the tails and fancy embellishments. These are called “serifs.” Stick to a “sans-serif” font (those that do not have serifs) such as Arial and Helvetica.
Use standard headlines unless you are a creative (graphic designer, photographer, etc.). If you are, you probably have a better idea of headlines types and other formatting considerations that work well in your world.
These are some examples of standard headlines:
- Contact Information (often not used)
- Professional Experience
- Education and Professional Development
Resume Keyword Strategies that Work
Learn how to beat the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
- 90% of all resumes are read by ATS's
- Understand how to find the right keywords
- Learn keyword placement to get noticed
For a while, functional resumes were all the rage. This format lists your achievements with no regard to the chronological order of your jobs. Functional resumes were a good way to hide employment gaps. Most hiring managers hated them for several obvious reasons.
Application Tracking Systems (ATS), those systems that scan 90% of all resumes, are designed to read chronological resumes. Don’t use the functional resume format. Also, use reverse chronological order, where you list your most recent positions first.
Headers, Footers, Links, and Acronyms
Again, ATS’s don’t read them. You can include them if you like, but include your contact information, or whatever else you had planned to display here somewhere else.
I recommend you don’t use them. The same is true of links. And always spell out a word before using its acronym. If at all possible, avoid them entirely and spell everything out.
Specific Resume Sections
Contact Information and Privacy
The trend in hiring these days is towards “diversity blindness.” In reality, this is difficult to do given the availability of LinkedIn profile pictures.
In 2018, the recommendation is to leave out your physical address and any other highly personal information you may have considered adding. This allows the hiring company to at least say they didn’t have immediate access to this personal information. The recommended contact information would be:
- Full Name
- Mobile number
- Personal email address (a professional format such as firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Customized LinkedIn address (learn how to do this here)
- As an example, here is mine: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robertwbaird/
There is an ongoing debate as to whether the job title of the company name should be listed first. The answer is just to pick one approach and be consistent.
In this following example, I list the company name first. If the company you worked for is not well-known, you’ll want to explain what it does as I have.
If you have worked for a brand name company, this will not be necessary. Then, I list my position, location, and dates of employment.
I have also left off the month given the length of my entire professional career. After you reach five years of experience, months don’t matter.
Multiple jobs in the same company
If you have had several jobs within the same company, this format will work.
Early Career and Number of Positions to Include
If you would like, you can create a section called “Early Career” and include notable companies such as P&G, GE, etc. and a few accomplishments. In my case, 15 years ago I retired as a Commander from the United States Navy. I would include this.
You must quantify your achievements when possible. However, sometimes those accomplishments in specific dollars are confidential. To get around this, use percentages instead.
For example, instead of saying you increased sales from $50M to $500M, say instead, you increase sales tenfold or by 1,000%. Also, put these numbers in context. For example, you might add “…exceeding my annual goal by 200%.”
Here are a couple of examples:
Simply put, a brand gives the hiring manager information about who you are and what you stand for. You have the opportunity to brand yourself in the objective section of your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and in your cover letter.
These last two areas, the LinkedIn profile and the cover letter are the two best places to accomplish this.
One of the best ways to determine what you might want to say in your branding statement is to ask yourself, how do others describe you.
Also, ask yourself, what do you want to be known for. For example, do others ask to have you on their team. Do you solve complex problems? Are you able to negotiate “win-win” deals? Are you known as a turn-around person? You get the idea. This will require some soul-searching and discussion with friends, but this is very important.
An added benefit of creating a branding section is that once you do land the interview, much of that discussion is going to be about who you are as a person, something you have given a quite a bit of thought. Understanding your brand and having the ability to articulate it in an elevator pitch or an interview will set you apart from your competitors.
Branding on your resume if you are an executive
Consider devoting as much as a half page at the top of your resume to your branding. This section should have a statement about you as a brand and a skills list of competencies that back it up. Mine is very brief; yours does not need to be.
Branding on LinkedIn
I have written numerous articles on how to perfect your LinkeIn profile.
- Get Noticed: 8 Great LinkedIn Hacks
- Get Noticed” on LinkedIn: A CEO’s Sample Profile
- What is your LinkedIn “poachability” index?
- Your New Website: LinkedIn
You may also want to read Get your Resume Read: 7 Secrets
Use LinkedIn to convey your brand. Don’t ever cut and paste your resume into LinkedIn. Tell others where you started, where you’ve been, what people say about you. If you are worried about your company reading your profile, there are some measures, although not full proof, you can take to prevent this. See Get Noticed: 8 Great LinkedIn Hacks
Use the title section creatively if necessary, don’t just put in your current title if you are interested in new opportunities or advancement. Make sure you have a professional headshot taken and customize your LinkedIn profile URL. I explain this in the first resource I list above.
Although we will talk about this next, LinkedIn is a recruiters search tool. Think of it no differently than Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder, or other job search engines. Consequently, being found is highly dependent on the keywords you choose. See Resume Keywords: Beating the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for assistance in finding the best keywords for the position you are seeking.
Here is my LinkedIn profile. Notice how it reads differently than a resume, tells more about me as a person, but still includes important accomplishments.
Note: The format at that top of the profile doesn’t appear this disjointed to the reader.
Keywords and the ATS
ATS’s are picky. Keep these points in mind.
- Always convert your Microsoft Word documents to plain text first so y0u can see what the ATS will see.
- The ATS does not see graphics.
- Colors are converted to black
- Underlining will disappear
- ATS’s don’t like fancy bullets. Anything you can type on the keyboard to create a bullet is ok
- Some ATS’s read-only M/S Word documents, some read PDF’s and some read both. Check the company’s website to see what they prefer or require.
- Unless the company tells you differently, it is best to convert your document to a PDF before sending it off.
As I said in the introduction, things have changed. For example, who would have thought that to get your resume read, you would need to use keywords strategically. No worries, armed with this article and all of the other resources I provide, you can make sure your resume is 2018 ready.
I leave you with these two thoughts to remember:
- Companies hire because they have a problem. You need to be the solution to that problem.
- Companies hire people they like. Be likable. You do this with your brand.
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Please comment and good luck.