By Meg Guiseppi
You're suddenly facing a job search, so you rush right to your resume (if you can find it) to update it. But wait! You may not be ready to tackle your resume yet.
If it's been several years since you revisited your resume, or if you're one of those lucky people who never needed a resume, you may not be aware of how much resumes have changed in the past several years.
Before working on your resume, re-think how to update it, so that you'll create a career marketing document that will optimally do its job – land you interviews.
Have you been paying attention to all the talk these days about personal branding? How your brand should be built around what makes you a good fit for your target employers? How resume branding can help you clearly identify and communicate what differentiates you from your job-seeking competitors?
Most importantly, you may not understand that step one in job search is NOT diving right into writing your resume.
Step one in a successful job search is laying out the groundwork with targeting and branding. Once you've done that, you'll have the information about your target audience and yourself that you'll need to write a compelling resume and to network and interview effectively.
Here are 10 tips to build an interview-generating, brand-reinforcing resume:
Before you can define your brand and create content for your resume, you need to know who you're targeting . . . who will be reading your resume. You'll need to decide what kind of job you'll be seeking, compile a list of companies you want to work for, research their current challenges and needs, and determine how you can help them meet those challenges.
Doing this will help you align everything in your resume with what your target employers will be looking for in candidates. Industry and company research, and the information you'll find in job descriptions, will help you identify required qualifications and those all-important relevant keywords that need to be in your resume. A Google search of your target companies, the companies' websites and Indeed.com are good resources. And check out Job-Hunt's Company Research articles.
Branding is no longer optional. Your competitors could well be using this method to differentiate themselves. You need to brand yourself and the unique value you offer, just to keep pace with them. My 10-step Personal Branding Worksheet will help you uncover and communicate the combination of attributes, passions, strengths and qualifications that differentiate you from them.
As you're building your brand, create a vibrant brand positioning statement for your resume.
Instead of merely listing a string of relevant keyword phrases in your resume, back them up by providing specific examples of your achievements and how they impacted the company – saved them money, made them money, improved processes, improved customer satisfaction, etc. Show them the numbers! Think of the best contributions you've made to your employers, in terms of highest value to them.
My article on Challenge – Action – Results (C-A-Rs) stories will help.
Employers don't care that you want a "challenging position to advance my career". They want to know what you'll do for them and whether you'll be a good hiring choice. Objective statements waste valuable space and prime real estate on the page.
Busy HR people and other hiring decision makers typically allow only 10-15 seconds to scan a resume and decide whether you're a person they want to interview.
Their eyes will go right to the top third or half of page one first, and may go no further. You need to capture their attention and hold it by encapsulating the best you have to offer in that spot on the page.
• Lead with a hard-hitting personal brand statement that includes your most important relevant keywords and describes your ROI (Return on Investment) value to your target employers.
• Add a powerful quote from a recent performance review or someone you work with.
• Include 3 or 4 short value-driven bulleted statements with numbers.
Avoid densely packed, hard-to-read information. Remember that, when you email your digital resume, the reader could open up and view your document on their PDA . . . that's a very small screen. Shorter chunks of information are easier to read – on your digital or paper resume – and will draw the reader's eye to continue down the page.
Keep the formatting attractive, consistent, and clean. Don't use more than 2 different fonts (one for headings, another for content), and don't choose frilly, unprofessional fonts. Use graphic lines sparingly and avoid underlining text.
As far as length, recent grads or those with only a few years' experience should be able to keep it to one page. Executives and more experienced job seekers should try not to go over 2 pages.
Remember that a resume is a career marketing communication, not a career history. It needs to incorporate just enough compelling information to generate interest in you. Everything in your resume must be there for a reason. Nothing should be arbitrary. Pare down your content ruthlessly!
It should go without saying that typos and errors in grammar are the kiss of death. They may also convey misinformation. Proofread several times and have someone else do it, too. Don't rely on spellcheck. Make sure your contact information is correct.
You're not like everyone else. Your resume shouldn't read like everyone else who's competing for the same jobs. You've done the branding work, so you know what differentiates you. Make that come across in your resume. Keep the content interesting and don't fall back on dull phrases that don't differentiate you, such as results-oriented, visionary leader, excellent communication skills, proven track record of success, etc.
Avoid the anemic, boring phrase "responsible for". Show your vitality with robust action verbs, identify your personal brand attributes, and explain your niche expertise with relevant key words. Use strong words like advanced, drove, spearheaded, accelerated, optimized, streamlined, leveraged, etc.
Don't waste precious space in the "Professional Experience" section reiterating obvious responsibilities. Readers will already know the basic duties for your jobs. Reinforce your brand by highlighting your relevant keyword phrases linked to specific examples of the value you offered your past employers.
Yes, all of this takes a lot of time. But the work you do, and the content you create, defining your personal brand and developing your resume (and biography and other career documents) around it, forms the foundation for all your personal marketing materials, online and offline, and offers many benefits:
Meg Guiseppi, Job-Hunt's Personal Branding Expert and 20+ year careers industry veteran, has earned 10 certifications, including Reach Certified Personal Branding Strategist, Reach Social Branding Analyst – LinkedIn Profile Strategist, and Certified Executive Resume Master. Meg is the author of "23 Ways You Sabotage Your Executive Job Search and How Your Brand Will Help You Land." Connect with Meg at ExecutiveCareerBrand.com for c-suite personal branding and executive job search help and on Google+ and Twitter (@MegGuiseppi). And, you may also download Meg's free ebook - Job-Hunt Guide to Smart Personal Branding with LinkedIn.