BY ERIN EWART
If landing a new job is one of your goals for the new year, you’re likely thinking about updating your resume. While that’s actually not the first thing you should do to prepare for your search (see here for the steps you should take to build a strong job search strategy), crafting a compelling resume certainly is an important piece of the job hunt.
Resume conventions and preferences are always shifting. As someone who reads a lot of resumes in my recruiting work in addition to coaching our clients on resume best practices, I stay attuned to the latest trends. Here are three recommendations I’ve been making frequently to my clients as we work to update and refresh their resumes for the new year.
1. Add a summary section
As I shared in this post, recruiters spend an average of six seconds doing a first scan of your resume. They’ll often come back to spend more time if they like what they see, but only if you convince them in that first six seconds that you’ve got the basic requirements and experience they are looking for – so you want to make sure those things jump off the page immediately.
Adding a brief summary section at the top of your resume allows you to capture the reader’s attention right away and show them you have the skills they need. It also allows you to direct the narrative around your experience, instead of asking the reader to interpret it for themselves.
This is especially critical when you are aiming to make a career transition and you want to do something that is not exactly aligned with your previous experience. In this scenario, you must work harder to market and package your skills to fit what a potential employer is looking for, and a summary is a great way to do that.
Think of this as similar to the “executive summary” you’d use to frame up the key points in a longer document or presentation. You can easily tailor this section, switching out keywords and language as needed to make sure it speaks to a specific role or organization you’re targeting. The work experience you include below can then serve as supporting evidence for the statements you’re making at the top of your resume.
The ideal resume summary consists of three parts:
- Headline: this could be the title of the job you’re targeting, or a split headline with several keywords, similar to what you’d use on LinkedIn. You do not need to label this section “summary” – that’s obvious, and you can use this valuable real estate instead to lead with a powerful headline that aligns with the job you want.
- Summary statement: this should be two to three sentences about your experience and skills, written in third person. Here are some great examples you can use for inspiration as you write your own summary statement.
- Top keywords/skills: a bulleted, two column list of six to ten keywords or short phrases that capture the most important skills you want to highlight (taken directly from the job description if you’re applying to a specific role).
If you don’t already have a summary section on your resume, this is one of the most powerful updates you can make. If you do have one, be sure it’s up to date and that it reflects your current career goals and top skills. See here for some concrete summary examples and a great overview of how a tailored summary section can transform the same experience for multiple career paths.
2. Add links to bolster your experience
As technical skills become ever more critical in just about every job, selectively adding links to your resume is a great way to both showcase your digital fluency and provide concrete examples of your work.
Resumes must be concise, and you can only share so much detail in your bullet points. As you review each of your bullets to ensure they are accomplishment focused, consider where you could incorporate links that provide more detail and context about your work.
Common examples I suggest include: press mentions and articles (especially when they are in well-known or widely respected publications); videos of you speaking or that showcase your work; websites for programs you led or worked on; and examples of deliverables you created or played a key role in (reports, documents, presentations, etc.). Of course, you should ensure that the information is public-facing and not sensitive or confidential before sharing it.
Another important link you should add to your resume is your LinkedIn profile url. On LinkedIn, potential employers can get a more nuanced impression of who you are as a professional beyond what you can share within the confines of a resume.
Help them out and promote your professional brand by ensuring you have a track record of sharing helpful content, a strong network of connections, media links that provide more examples of your work and accomplishments, and recommendations that speak to your skills and experience. Once you’ve updated your profile and tailored your LinkedIn url, add it to your resume header along with your email address and phone number.
You don’t want to go overboard with links on your resume, so a good rule of thumb is to have no more than three or four per page. Make sure to save your resume in PDF format and test out all links to make sure they’re working, and see this article for more tips on how to incorporate links into your job search materials.
3. Remove your physical address
When’s the last time an organization you applied to sent you something in the mail? The late 90s perhaps? There’s generally no need to include your physical address on your resume anymore. In addition to safety and privacy concerns, this can lead to intentional or unintentional discrimination.
For example, I have seen employers make assumptions about whether someone would be willing to commute for a job and rule out candidates who live “too far away”, based solely on the address provided on the resume. Where you live can also tip off employers to your socioeconomic status, which could impact their perception of your salary needs and what they ultimately offer you if you get the job.
Don’t give employers unnecessary ammunition to make assumptions about you. Leave your address off your resume, and save any conversations about where you live for the interview, when you can control the narrative and provide context around your interest in the role and willingness to commute if necessary. Use the extra space in your resume header to add your LinkedIn url, which will provide much more value.
Exceptions to this rule: if it’s not clear where you’re located based on your work history, include just your city (or larger metropolitan area) and state in your resume header so that it’s clear you are a local applicant. If you are relocating, be sure to add your new city/state or the fact that you are location flexible on both your resume and in your cover letter. But in either case, there’s still no need to add your actual physical address.
And one more tip..
One new trend in resume formats is to use more graphically designed, multi-column documents with infographics and other visual elements (even photos!), like these. While these formats are eye-catching and look slick, I’m not a fan of them for two reasons:
1. They are much harder for a reader to skim. People who read lots of resumes (including your target audience of recruiters and hiring managers) are used to seeing things in a certain format, and to reading documents from top to bottom, left to right. Multi-column formats are confusing and take longer for the eye to process, meaning the reader is more likely to move on or get frustrated before actually digesting the content you worked so hard on.
2. These formats are also harder for an Applicant Tracking System to read. While getting through an ATS shouldn’t be your primary job search strategy, there’s no reason to hurt your chances by using a resume format that these systems can’t accurately scan.
My advice: unless you are in a very creative field, stick with a more traditional resume format and focus on making it easy to skim and including strong, tailored content.
Looking for more ways to update your resume? Check out our post on how to write a resume recruiters want to read, and review these 16 things you should never put on a resume. And remember: whether you’re currently job searching or not, your resume is an evolving document that’s never really finished. Make sure to update it periodically, both by adding new content and accomplishments and to ensure you’re staying up to date with current trends. That way you’ll be ready for the next great opportunity, whenever it arises!
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