Recently I participated in a teleseminar titled “Modernizing Your Resumes and Cover Letters,” presented by the Resume Writing Academy and Career Thought Leaders Consortium. This seminar gave me a lot of food for thought, including the fact that change has been happening so rapidly, it’s hard to keep up! Among other things, this means you can’t keep using your old resume indefinitely. If you haven’t updated it within the past year, you probably should…and soon.
For starters, recognize that people are not going to read your life story–or even your lengthy and detailed career story. In fact, they never really did read the whole thing, and your resume might have ended up in the discard pile more often than you’d like to think because you tried to give employers too much information.
These days, conciseness has become even more important. You need to evaluate your resume content based on communicating the information most critical to employers and strip-out anything that doesn’t absolutely have to be there on that basis. Save the rest for interviews or other possible opportunities to share. You want to catch favorable employer attention, not overwhelm them and discourage them from reading your resume.
Next, realize that the business world today frequently involves more than one technology tool for looking at resumes and cover letters. We know, for instance, that people sometimes (maybe often) view resumes on their smart phones or PDAs while they’re traveling. It’s highly unlikely they will scroll down through multiple screens to see all the “wonderful” information you’ve tried to cram into your resume.
It’s also quite possible that at some point your resume will hit an ATS system. In that case, a lengthy, detailed resume that over-emphasizes words not directly relevant to the opportunities you want to pursue will not do you any favors, especially if it also under-emphasizes the keywords you should have included.
Dense paragraphs and long bulleted lists are on their way out. Actually, they should have been dispensed with a long time ago, because they do a very poor job of communicating valuable information. And that’s putting it mildly. To some extent, at least, you need to adopt the concept of “lean and mean” used in industries such as manufacturing. More is not necessarily better.
Email marketing experts tell us that the subject line of your email is critical, although many of us don’t give enough thought to that aspect of our emails. However, in terms of your resume, headlines (profile and other section headings) can play a critical role and don’t always receive the attention they deserve. For example, “Career Summary” doesn’t suggest a compelling profile to employers. It also doesn’t give them any hint as to what kind or level of candidate you’re likely to be.
What’s the alternative? You could use something along the lines of “Global Energy Industry Executive,” which provides focus and indicates to employers the scope, nature and level of positions you’ve held and/or are targeting.
Continuing with the overall trend of modernizing your resume, you can support the headline with one or more subheads that expand the focus while providing a few clues to important additional elements of your value message. As an example: The energy industry exec might specialize in the oil-and-gas sector and in countries located in the Middle East and decide to use that kind of information as brief subheads rather than full-blown sentences.