Updating a Resume – 5 Tips I Found Useful

From Diary of a Layoff by Greg Quirk

There are countless sites, books, videos, and other sources of how to properly write a resume.  Over the past few days I’ve been through a lot of them trying to determine what the common tips are, and which ones I think would work best.  One thing is clear from almost all sources – the point of  a resume is to get a company to take notice so that you can get an interview, not to sell yourself with the resume to get a direct job offer.  To that end, the resume should be short and concise, and be engaging for the particular job that you are applying for.  It should also be something that can be quickly scanned for pertinent information.

Take my resume for example.  When I started searching for a job I had one resume that I was sending out for every position I applied for.  I was customizing the cover letter and thought that would be enough.  I figured that an HR person or hiring manager would take the time to read the carefully crafted cover letter, which compared by professional experience and education to the job requirements listed.  I would ensure that I met (or exceeded) every requirement that was available.  Then I would write a paragraph about how I had experience performing all of the tasks that were identified in the responsibilities section.  While it might have all of the information, it was a lot of text and most sentences started with “I have…” (i.e. I have over 7 years of experience in marketing, product management, and applications engineering.  Or I have an MBA and an Electronic Systems Engineering degree).  I am sure that the block of text would get scanned very quickly, see the common “I have…” sentences and it would get pushed aside.  If I was fortunate enough to have the person take time to look at my resume there are a number of discrepancies  between the cover letter and the resume.  Not that I didn’t have the experience that I stated in the cover letter but they just didn’t match up because I was using a canned resume.

Now, I am sure that a lot of people are thinking that their resume is perfect for their ideal career and they should be sending that out to companies.  Unfortunately, chances are that your ideal career and the position you are applying for are not a perfect match.  If they are, then you should be doing a lot more than just sending the company your resume!  Tailoring your resume for each position gives it a sense of conformity – you aren’t just saying things in the cover letter, you are showing in your resume that you really do have the experience they are looking for.  And if you identify which company you have accomplished the required tasks when the company contacts your reference at that company it will help guide them to asking the questions that you want them to ask

So what tips have I found through my search that would be useful?  Here are the top 5 that I am using to update my resume

Tailor your cover letter and resume to match key words in the job posting. This helps not only with conformity between the two documents, but also with Application Tracking Systems (ATS) which scan your resume for key terms.  Just make sure that you are actually justified in using the key words because my HR friends tell me that nothing annoys them more than looking at a resume where the person uses key words just to get picked up – those resumes are instantly discarded and may affect any future applications to that company.

For example, I use the term “marketing collateral” a lot because that was what it was called at a previous position.  But some companies use “marketing material” or “sales support material”.  If I continue to use “marketing collateral” throughout my cover letter and resume the person looking at it might not know what it is, or from a quick scan of my resume, might not recognize it because the person is looking for specific words.

Talk about specific, and tangible, results whenever possible. This turns the statement from an abstract concept to actual proof.  Almost every job position asks for someone who is a team player or is capable of performing tasks without direct supervision.  And almost every person (myself included) adds a line somewhere saying, “I am a good team player and am capable of performing tasks without direct supervision”.  This is one of the harder aspects to quantify in tangible terms because there is no way to really measure how well you work with others or how well you perform tasks independently.

In my particular case I found a way to turn the terms from an abstract to a positive.  For example, for “team work” I have written “I have worked with and lead cross-functional team from around the world to deliver webinars on time and on budget resulting in over 12K leads for one webinar and generating over $150K in revenue in 6 months”.  While it is not a perfect fit for the requirement, it does demonstrate that I am a team player that achieved results.

Don’t be afraid to include images and quotes in your resume. This is somewhat dependent on what the images and quotes are, as well as the job that you are applying for, but it is something that can be done to both separate your resume from others and lends a sense of validity to your resume on a quick scan.  The only downside with including these is the assumption that the person viewing your resume is going to see it with the same formatting that you created it with.  While you can send a .pdf of your resume to ensure that formatting is correct, some companies will only accept resumes in Word format and might pass your resume over completely because it is not using the expected program.  The other downside to this is companies that force you to apply using an automated system or that only accept text files.  This makes including images nearly impossible, and also plays havoc with the formatting.

For example, I have included images for EETimes, Semiconductor Insights, and TechOnline on my resume, as well as quotes from manager that I received on my LinkedIn account.

Make your resume short. This can be a hard thing to do but try to reduce your resume to one page.  Yes, one page.  Traditional resumes are two pages long, but if you can consolidate everything important into one page it makes it easier for someone to scan for the pertinent details faster without having to scroll through multiple pages.  Think of it like a word search puzzle.  When you are looking for a word you don’t usually scan through all of the words in the list and then look for all of them at once.  You look at a few words you can remember and then start scanning for them.  It is the same in your resume.  Someone will have a list of key words that they are trying to match and they are only going to be looking for a few at a time.  If they have to scroll through two or more pages, they will be less likely to spend the time searching for all of the words in the document.  If everything is on one page they can locate all of the terms without scrolling, increasing the chance of them finding more of the key terms and upping your chance of having them add your resume to the “for further review” pile.  Just make sure that your resume is not a solid block of text to fit everything in otherwise it will defeat the purpose of consolidation.

After much revision I was able to reduce my 2-page resume down to one page.  I had to really consider the points that I wanted to include, which also change for each application I send out, but everything is easily found on one page and focuses on key words from the job description.

Keep track of where you sent your resume and what the position applied was. This might not seem like a resume tip but it is really tied closely with it.  Don’t EVER write over a resume with a new version that you have revised for a specific position.  You should have a directory of saved resumes each clearly identifying which company it is for and what the role is.  First off, this shows the company that you are applying to that you actually took some time in creating a custom resume for them instead of a generic resume.  As well, it helps the company identify which role you are applying for as small and medium sized companies have you send your resume to HR or info e-mail accounts.  Even if you are sending your resume directly to a contact (which is the best way to send it) that person may get hundreds of e-mails a day and does not always have the time to deal with your e-mail when it is sent.  They might open and save your resume, but if it is a generic name (like “resume” or “Greg Quirk”) it might not trigger an action in their mind to review it or send it off to the correct person.

As well, chances are that there are many similar requirements for the positions you are applying for.  Why re-invent the wheel when you can copy and paste.  While each resume must be customized, there is nothing wrong with using the same wording in different resumes.  This helps you save the time crafting the perfect wording every single time you apply for a position and since you spent the time once you don’t have to get someone to proof read your resume multiple times to make sure that you are saying things properly.  It’s almost like you are creating a modular resume that requires a few tweaks here and there to be ready.

I have identified about 20 common job requirements and created tangible statements about each one.  While the wording might need to be adjusted slightly, in 90% of the positions I am applying for I am able to use these statements letting me spend more time searching for positions and calling companies directly instead of spending the entire day picking out the perfect wording for each application.

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