The traditional resume isn't obsolete, but there are a growing number of alternative ways to present your work experience and qualifications to an employer. There are also reports that some employers are using non-traditional methods – social networking sites, Google searches – to both locate potential applicants and screen applicants that have already submitted resumes.
The Purpose of a Resume
Career advisor Penelope Trunk gets right to the point when she says, "The job of a resume is to get you an interview, not get you a job." So, the goal of this document is to quickly gain the employer's attention as he/she sorts through the large volume of applicant resume submissions. Keep in mind that this screening can take place in a number of ways (e.g., by hand or computer) and by a variety of people (e.g., recruiting firm, human resources personnel, hiring committees, potential supervisors).
Today, when someone says, "send me your resume," the traditional format is most likely what they expect to receive. And you can find a seemingly endless number of samples online. The traditional resume, whether you go with a chronological or functional format, hasn't changed much over the years. Yes, there are trends in resume writing that come and go, (e.g. colored ink and paper, logos and photos, objective statements) but the basic guidelines remain the same. The list of general resume "dos and don'ts" typically includes the following:
- Consider length. One page is the general rule when you are starting out, but two pages are acceptable for those with 10 or more years of experience.
- Use headings and subheadings. Categorize your presentation of information with sections that might include Education, Work History, Certifications, etc.
- Focus on accomplishments. Instead of just providing job descriptions, include details about specific accomplishments you achieved at each position held.
- Make it perfect. Have your document proofread and edited by additional readers to make sure it is as flawless as possible. It's not uncommon for reviewers to remove applicants with resume mistakes and typos from consideration, no matter what their other qualifications might be.
Check with your career center for more information, critiques, samples, and templates. And consider your field when making initial decisions about format and presentation. The "typical" resumes for nursing, accounting, and graphic design may be quite different for example.
Alternative Online Formats
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, entitled Updating a Resume for 2011, advises that while a traditional resume is still a requirement for job seekers, it is also necessary to "craft a package both online and off to present to a prospective employer." But what should the online piece look like? Think about the possibilities made available by both social media and multimedia tools for creating digital presentations.
Video Resumes: Presented by American Expresss OPEN Forum blog for small businesses, video resumes are listed as a "digital alternative to the traditional resume." The author points out that this approach is not for every job seeker, and currently may be best used as part of an overall strategy to enhance your online presence. If you are thinking about recording a video resume, create a high quality product, and keep it brief and focused on your professional achievements and goals. For those not so experienced in video production for the web, consider seeking some professional assistance.
Infographics: Visual representations of information, or infographics, are becoming a popular way to present data online in lots of different contexts. Resumes are gaining ground here as well, with the availability of tools like Re.vu, Visualize.me, and Kinzaa.com. These applications have customizeable formats and create quick graphics that display your resume information, such as education and training, work history, and skills. Several of these tools can draw information from your social media accounts, like LinkedIn, where you may already have input a lot of the necessary details. You can also create your own infographic. Not all employers will be impressed by this kind of resume, but if your field is related to illustration or web design, this format may be particularly relevant and helpful as a demonstration of your design skills.
Social Networking Profiles: LinkedIn is one of the most prevalent online networking systems devoted to professional use and offering features specific to the job search. The format is similar to a traditional resume mirroring typical headings and subheadings, such as Work History, Education, and Skills. You may also want to explore the possibilities of Google profiles and other systems specific to your industry or popular with professionals in your career field. Do you anticipate that social media will be part of your next job? You can use these profiles to demonstrate your involvement and tell your "hire me" story as part of your job search strategy.
Personal Websites: Establishing your own website can be the solution to a lot of problems and give you even more flexibility and room to be creative with the presentation of your professional experience and qualifications. Blog platforms, like WordPress.com and Blogger, can be used for more than just blog writing, and have user-friendly administrative pages to help you establish your own site even if you don't have strong technology skills. You can create pages based on your resume headings, add digital portfolio abstracts, and link to other sites where you may have a presence or work samples. VisualCV is another system for creating a one-stop location for your resume-related information.
You can also use a service like about.me or flavors.me to create a personalized "landing page" that works as an online hub or portal to all of your websites and profiles. These are particularly helpful if you are already active online in multiple ways.
Should You Make the Switch?
What are the trends in your field? These new ideas won't necessarily be well received by the employers you are targeting, but almost all could be provided as a supplemental link that provides additional, relevant information about you and your qualifications. Think about the types of employment you are interested in and the kind of networking you plan on conducting. New approaches might be better for initial networking, and more traditional approaches better for direct application to open positions. Remember to always follow the directions provided by the employer – if they ask for a specific type of file or format, that's what you need to submit.
Experiment with new options and have alternatives ready. The process of pulling these presentations together, even if you don't send them to employers, takes you through an important process of review and reflection on what you've accomplished and how it relates to the needs of potential employers.
As with most technology ventures, these trends are likely to be dynamic in nature. New options are always on the horizon. Consult with your career center or local career and employment advisors for more information and guidance related to your resume and job search.