The most enthusiastic response I ever got from a resume actually came from one that I sent out long before I had any real experience. Looking for a writer’s position, I had “applied” to a number of employers with a snappy, sharp letter that included my academic credentials and pointed out the experience I’d gleaned from various college jobs.
What set the letter apart was that it was unique, really well written, and really funny – which is what got it passed around conference tables and got me my first real job paying a lot more money than was typically being offered for writers with my then-level of experience. And what’s more, it offered proof of my talent and skill without overtly emphasizing my lack of real job experience.
I realize now that my over-the-top stab at garnering attention from employers was actually a very good marketing tactic. I sold myself by first doing something different from the crowd and then by showing prospective employers exactly what I could do for them. Such a letter might not work for every industry, but any employer is going to appreciate a focused, well-directed bid to be part of his or her team.
The resume is one of the most important pieces of the massive marketing campaign that will, if run successfully, result in the right job for you. Like any component in a marketing campaign, a resume needs to present a brand (you) and reinforce its (your) importance to the employer’s operation and success.
Companies spend a good deal of their annuals budgets on marketing and publicity. Being mindful of this fact, and of the very slick advertising campaigns you see every day for hundreds of products and services, you should resign yourself to the idea that you will probably not be offered a job if you don’t demonstrate a similar commitment to high quality when marketing yourself.
Before you sit down and write your resume, you must brand yourself. Decide what it is that you bring to the equation. Outline your skills and develop a “package” for yourself. Are you an amazing organizer or a creative genius? Are you looking for growth potential within a company or are you looking to make a name for yourself in an industry? Consider many factors to develop your overall branding initiative: the brief tagline that describes your worth to an employer.
Make your resume the centerpiece of your branding initiative: it should include all the reasons you are the right choice for hire. Focus on your strengths, and choose a resume that highlights those. If you have a long, stable history of work experience and accomplishment, you can choose to create a chronological resume. However, if your career is just beginning or has some dry patches – or a few failures – choose a functional resume, which will allow you to skim over employment lapses or short tenures at some jobs and focus on successes.
Your resume must be formatted beautifully. Pay close attention to font styles and sizes, margins, and spelling. I always figure that if someone’s resume looks shabby, they lack the attention to detail that I would require in an employee. Besides, there were always people – sometimes with inferior professional credentials – who had amazing-looking resumes. Remember, with hundreds of applications pouring across the desk, an employer is likely to throw out anything that smacks of amateurism. There is no time to hunt down hidden diamonds in the rough.
While almost everyone has access now to standard resume templates, there are a number of very good resume Web sites that offer new takes on the old standard. In addition, there are a growing number of innovative services such as VisualCV.com, which offer candidates amazing forums to present themselves more completely and accurately than a mere text document. For instance, VisualCV.com allows clients to post portfolios of their work and video, providing a candidate with a good body of work and an engaging manner the chance to stand out from those who may just look “good on paper.”
As for spelling errors – in this day of spell checks, there is absolutely no excuse to send out a resume with a spelling mistake. However, you need to also read and re-read your resume. If you are not a great proofreader, you should ask a talented friend to look over your resume, or hire someone to do so. Spell checkers don’t always catch boo-boo’s. I once opted not to even interview a candidate for copy editor who had an amazing career history and reputation because he sent me a resume that touted his ability as a “woodsmith.” Though I have every reason to believe he was trying to tell me that he was a great wordsmith, I had a responsibility to my company. If he didn’t take the time to get it right on his resume, I had to guess that I’d see a lot of mistakes if I actually gave him the job.
In order to stand out from the crowd, you have to get the attention of employers. It’s important to remember that a piece of paper is no longer going to get you hired. Carefully decide how to brand yourself, and then do it.