Is your resume ‘clickworthy?’

June 8, 2009

As a Talent Acquisition Consultant I spend a great deal of time talking with people about their careers and companies about their hiring practices. Every month I review hundreds of resumes, professional biographies, vitas and everything in between. I also am asked regularly what a ‘good’ resume looks like and how to get noticed by potential employers.

The books, blogs, websites and professional writers all have opinions on what works (and doesn’t work) to help you land that perfect job. I’m not without opinions myself; let’s take a business approach to the task. The objective of a resume is to solicit interest from the reader (employer) in wanting to learn more about the author (applicant). In web terms, you want the reader to ‘click’ on your resume, spent time there and contact you for more information.

Resume writing is a creative talent that eludes a large percentage of the population. Trying to ‘market’ yourself while making sure that the proper acronyms appear for keyword searches of your resume in the databases compounds the difficulty of this exercise. It’s important that the reader of your resume not only understands what your technical qualifications are, but who you are as a person. Your communication skills, personal strengths and how you articulate technical concepts are all important to convey.

For those of you whose creativity comes in the form of network/application/system/process design and not copywriting, we’ll break it down into more manageable tasks. Here are 6.5 things you can do to increase the ‘click’ factor in your resume.

1. Focus the reader on your content by beginning your resume with a Title. This is similar to the title of the chapter of a book; short, simple, and helps to focus the reader on the content. You may have resumes with different titles if your background is applicable to more than one position.

2. Elaborate on the title with a brief summary of your experience. The summary statement will be between 3 and 5 lines that encapsulate you as a professional. This concept replaces the classic objective which tends to be dry and very general; that doesn’t help differentiate you from the rest of the crowd. Think search results headline, or social site summary category when you are crafting your summary.

3. Front and center – the WOW factor. Support your summary with bullet points that illustrate your most outstanding accomplishments. These might be great projects, awards, recognitions or other times in your professional career that you are proud of. Make these statements short and quantify the results if possible. These are the ‘headlines’ that grab the reader’s interest and get them to keep reading.

4. Let your personality shine. Resumes need to not only communicate your technical qualifications, but also demonstrate that you know how to talk in plain English. Keep the content professional, but explain yourself in words that provide some insight to you as a person. Your ability to connect with the reader will help your chances of getting to the next stage.

5. No more than 2 pages. The objective of your resume is to get you an interview. Resumes should never be more than 2 pages since most hiring managers spend about 15 seconds to scan it and decide if they want to meet you. Additionally, this will help you focus on the important information that you need to convey and leave elaboration for a personal discussion. The experience section might be chronological or functional depending on your personal situation. Education should appear after your work experience unless you’re a recent graduate. Again, you are trying to increase the ‘click’ factor, not write your memoirs. In Amazon terms, you want the reader to BUY.

6. A new section; keywords. Most of the companies you apply to will place your resume into an applicant tracking database. A keyword section will include all the words that you want your resume to surface in a keyword search. There is no need to repeat words that are in the body of your resume, but include additional terms that might be relevant but not included in your resume. For instance, if you list your degree as a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, you might use BSEE in your keyword section.

6.5 Finally, make it easy to contact you. Voice mail messages (on all phones) should be professional and brief. Email addresses should be simple and professional (don’t use your shredder@hotmail.com account for your job search). Include an address, it’s still important to show that you are a real person. Keep paragraphs short for readability. Use bullets to break up the commentary; most people can sight read 3 lines. Unless a specific format is requested, send your resume in a PDF format – try cutepdfwriter (cutepdfwriter.com) for an easy, free conversion application.

Your resume is a living document. Keep it updated, tweak it occasionally and proofread it exhaustively. You’ll also want to keep your social sites updated. You should expect that any potential employer will check you out on the web – probably before they meet you – so keep your online profile clean and consistent.

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