To write a resume these days you need to squeeze yourself into one page, check off all the required keywords, and avoid saying anything that might get you screened out. No wonder you often wind up looking like just another systems administrator or social studies teacher!
Meanwhile, employers want to know who candidates really are. Researchers at Texas Christian University studied 244 recruiters and found they made inferences about applicants’ extraversion, openness to experience, and conscientiousness based on their paperwork. Unfortunately, those guesses were largely invalid and unreliable.
It’s time to help each other out. Learn how to use the style and content of your resume to let the real you shine through.
- State your name. Small items like nicknames and middle initials can add up to a big difference in the impression you make. Ask a friend for their opinion of what sounds professional and engaging.
- Choose your font. As long as it’s easy to read on a phone or tablet, you can pick from a wide range of options. Maybe you prefer the traditional Times Roman or Calibri or you’re prepared to be a little more daring with the less-common Garamond.
- Set your margins. Even your margins can say something about you. Justified text that’s even on the left and right tends to look more formal. On the other hand, ragged edges look friendlier, and can be easier to skim.
- Print it out. As long as your potential employer isn’t committed to minimizing paper, you may want to send a backup copy after your electronic submission. Take the opportunity to stand out with lightly patterned paper that won’t interfere with readability. Choose a neutral color like cream or light grey.
- Proof read. In addition to anything else you want to communicate, let the hiring manager know you’re conscientious. Have a second pair of eyes check your materials for grammar and spelling.
- Videotape it. Call ahead to see if the company you’re interested in welcomes video applications or tries to avoid them to minimize the risk of bias. If you receive the go-ahead, you can use technology to make a personal appearance early in the process.
- Tell stories. Why settle for saying you’re energetic when you can use a real-life example that shows your strengths in action? Edit your accomplishments and career summary to include some interesting anecdotes.
- Focus on recognition. Reinforce your point by mentioning what others say about you. Drop in a testimonial from a former boss or client. List your honors and awards.
- Use numbers. Create a vivid and specific image by quantifying your track record. Tell how many employees you’ve supervised or how much time you’ve saved.
- Include skills and training. Your proficiency with computer software or foreign languages may give you an advantage. Make it memorable by adding in some background on how you stay current, whether it’s summer travel or evening courses.
- Describe interests. Personal interests don’t have to sound silly. You may discover that you and your new boss have something in common like tennis or baking.
- Report your volunteer work. Community service will impress any progressive organization, and suggest your values. Record the hours you’ve spent building homes or answering phones.
Personalizing your resume helps you stand out and find a workplace where you’re more likely to feel like you belong. When you’re customizing your application for each position, take a few extra minutes to include some details that will tell hiring managers what makes you special.