Back in 2008, I wrote an article about resumes. Now, with unemployment officially below 6 percent and with hiring supposedly on the increase, I decided to revisit the topic to see how resumes have changed in the past few years.
Even if you are not actively job-seeking, you probably need a resume "on hand." For example, I am sometimes asked for one to include in a proposal or for a current client to pass on to someone else within his or her organization.
I spoke with two experts. Laura Hosid, career coach at Vinik EPS, specializes in entry-level and younger job-seekers, while most of resume writer/career coach Bettie Biehn's clients at Career Change Central, LLC have more experience or are changing careers.
Here are a few highlights from our conversations.
What to Include
Laura said she advises everyone to keep a master generic resume, "which includes absolutely everything they have ever done and is likely at least two pages as they get more experienced." Then, when applying to jobs, tailor the resume to the specific position.
Bettie's clients may submit resumes that are longer than a page. Even so, she said, "make sure all the most important or impressive information is on the first page." Her own experience confirms how many resumes a hiring manager scans. How will yours stand out?
Using Social Media
Social media has changed since my last article back in '08. Rule #1, of course, is that personal accounts should have privacy settings, with questionable posts and pictures removed in case of a slip-up.
Laura's advice for LinkedIn: "I think every job seeker should have an active account with a picture and at least 100 contacts. This is also a place where you can be more comprehensive and include things that may not make it on to a one-page resume. Recommendations are useful, but employers place little or no value on endorsements."
Resumes at Different Levels of Experience
For entry-level: Laura said, "Remember that 'Experience' doesn't have to be paid. Include volunteer activities, campus leadership positions, on-campus research, etc."
For more experienced: Bettie said, "These resumes can get more complex. Be careful of acronyms and jargon that may arise with more jobs and experience."
Words to Use or Avoid
Bettie urges clients to cut out extra words for less cumbersome reading. (Note: Take out definite/indefinite articles and words like "that" and "actual." Then read through your revision. If it still makes sense, leave the words out.)
She said professional resume writers often share lists of over-used phrases. A recent list included "results-driven" and "I am honest and ethical" (as she noted, this should a given)
Laura suggested avoiding "responsible for" or "duties included" and using active verbs. Always, she said, quantify your accomplishments as much as possible.
From Laura: Know your industry! If you are applying to a legal job, stick to a basic format with no fancy fonts or designs. If you are looking in a more creative field, it may be okay to be a little less conservative.
In all cases, make sure it is easy to read (she recommends 11 point font or larger), and that an employer can scan the resume and have the most important features pop out.
From Bettie: Don't "over-bullet." Use bullets for what you want to emphasize, but bullets lose their oomph when over-used.
More generally, focus on your skills and talents. Think about what's important to you, such as the values or the environment of the place where you will work. Your resume will help you get from here to there.