Yes, 2012 is starting the wind-down. However, I think resume advice for 2012 is still a good topic. For one thing, with probably few changes, you can reposition the resume tips for 2013! Some of what you will see below should be just commonsense, but if you have not considered these points recently, the refresher might be timely .
Resume Advice: What Experts Say
I should probably qualify the term “experts.” From my perspective, this refers to individuals who are dedicated professionals in their field. That includes professional resume writers and hiring managers who have a clear understanding of what they need to see from candidates. It does not include “hobbyists”; that is, people who write resumes with little or no training and just as little understanding of what it takes for job seekers to capture the right attention from targeted companies. Of course, I’m biased; not only have I been writing resumes professionally since 1993, but also I belong to 3 professional associations whose members are committed to providing exceptional assistance to the individuals they work with. I’ve seen what many of them can do, and they have my highest respect.
For a basic but useful look at resume advice for 2012, you can’t go wrong by reading “7 Things Every Resume Needs In 2012” by my colleague Miriam Salpeter. Here’s one part I particularly liked:
“Age discrimination, unfortunately, is a fact of life for experienced job seekers. However, there is more you can do to make yourself seem modern, relevant, and qualified for the jobs you want than simply dying your hair or updating your wardrobe. One key to job search success: an up-to-date, contemporary resume that doesn’t make the reader assume you last applied for a job in 1995.
Here are some tips to help you create a resume an employer will appreciate: Include links in your contact information. Include links to social media profiles (such as your LinkedIn URL) in your resume’s contact information. If you use other social media tools professionally (such as Twitter or Facebook), include that information as well. Simply listing these will help someone reading your resume picture you as a candidate who is keeping up with modern communication tools. Use a professional email that doesn’t reference your age or family status. (For example, avoid “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org.)”
Other Resume Advice to Ponder
- Address employer needs: Does your resume reflect an understanding of the needs of the employers–assuming, of course, that you have the kind of background and skills they need? If not, you have some work to do. Identify and articulate critical areas in which you can add value that speak to the most important needs those organizations have.
- Limit the length of your resume: If that means only one page, regardless of the situation, I have a problem with it. True, conciseness is increasingly perceived as desirable–especially if people will be reading your resume on their smart phone or similar device. However, conciseness without careful attention to the value and impact of the content is worse than meaningless. It can damage your chances for consideration.
- Put your photo on your resume to personalize it, or use a video to show employers what you can do: For the most part, we still say that you should skip the photo if you’re not in a field such as entertainment. I also have reservations about using video (because of the possibility of discrimination). However, if you do decide to give it a shot, make sure you do it with professional quality.
I could mention numerous other pieces of advice, but you can Google “resume advice for 2012″ and get a bunch of links to check out. Just remember to read with a slightly skeptical mind about any sweeping claims made.
You might understand that your resume becomes part of the hiring process as soon as you start submitting it to prospective employers for positions you know they have open. However, you might not realize some of the ins and outs of how recruiters and hiring managers deal with your resume as part of their hiring process. I believe any insights you can get into that could prove useful in conducting a successful job search. That’s why I particularly enjoyed reading a new article by Dr. John Sullivan, “What’s Wrong with Using Resumes for Hiring? Pretty Much Everything.”
Problems regarding resumes and the hiring process
I’ve read a number of articles by Dr. Sullivan, and I don’t always agree with everything he says, but this article makes a lot of good points, so I highly recommend reading the whole thing (I can only touch on a few high spots in this post). Sullivan lists 30 problems and divides them into 5 categories:
- Top 5 factors that most negatively impact the quality of hire.
- Content-related resume problems.
- Non-job-related factors that could impact the quality of the submitted resume.
- Format-related resume problems.
- Problems with the typical resume assessment/screening process.
Job seekers’ perspective on resumes and the hiring process
Sullivan’s articles are generally written from the perspective of HR/recruiting professionals, but he does sometimes include points that can be useful to you as a job seeker. For example, in this article he mentions the following:
“Resumes do not include information on all of the key assessment criteria – candidates are generally assessed on four criteria: 1) are they qualified? 2) are they available? 3) are they interested? and 4) do they fit? Because most resumes are really simply job histories, they thus only address the first criterion … are they qualified?….If you ask candidates a simple question — Does your resume accurately reflect what you are capable of doing? – the answer is almost always no.”
My comment here is that your resume absolutely should not be just a “job history” and absolutely should reflect, to the greatest extent possible and reasonable, “what you are capable of doing” for the prospective employer. Otherwise, it will probably make you sound like all the other applicants who are pursuing that position. Standing out from the competition as a highly qualified and potentially valuable candidate is what it’s all about! If you’re simply #499 in a line of 500 applicants, why should the company want to consider you?
And here’s another critical point: “The candidate’s job results may be impossible to verify — many candidates fail to include the results and quantify their accomplishments, making the quality of their work difficult to assess. Others include results and numbers that may be exaggerated. Unfortunately, in most cases it is simply impossible for the resume reader to verify the accuracy of these numbers.”
What can you do about that? Possibly several things, but especially these:
- Use only facts (statistics, etc.) you are comfortable discussing in an interview. That means, for starters, that you know you achieved those results and can speak about them confidently. Also, you’ve presented them in a way that doesn’t violate the company’s confidentiality rights.
- Stick to the facts and provide solid support that indicates their validity, even if you can’t provide all the details in the resume. Whenever possible, use facts that can probably be verified in some way.
- If you can, use independent, third-party testimonials and verification in your resume. For example, a short quote from a senior manager or someone else with clear relevance to the situation can make a point that it’s hard for you to make on your own behalf. You don’t necessarily even need to use the person’s name, but his/her title (position) should be noted.
Again, I encourage you to read Sullivan’s entire article. It’s worth the few minutes it will take.
Knowledge plays a critical role in effective job search campaigns, in multiple ways. What I’m talking about today revolves around the old saying, “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” and its revised contrary version, “What you don’t know CAN hurt you!” To paraphrase another oldie but goodie, “Ignorance is (NOT) bliss.” You undoubtedly can’t achieve perfection, which would mean obtaining all the potentially relevant information that you would need for a 100% effective job search, because we don’t live in a perfect world. However, if you are currently planning or considering a search for a new employment opportunity, you do want to gather as much as you reasonably can, and that includes getting a sense of what’s going on in the minds and behavior of both hiring managers and HR professionals.
Twelve “Dirty Little Secrets” of Recruiters
Dr. John Sullivan wrote an article titled “Recruiting’s Dirty Little Secrets” (ERE.net, Dec. 26, 2011) that might give you an eye-opening insight into some of what goes on behind the scenes. I knew about or suspected at least some of the issues he describes, but others were not so familiar to me.The entire article is well worth reading, but here are a few snippets to get you thinking:
- The corporate black hole–because of recruiter overload or other problems, when you submit your resume to a corporate career site, it might have zero likelihood of actually being reviewed.
- Some companies are blocked–two companies could have an illegal secret agreement not to hire each others’ employees. If your company has such an agreement, the other company won’t even consider you, and you won’t know why.
- Technology may eliminate you–you could have a very well-done, well-targeted resume and still not get past the initial electronic screening. As Sullivan’s article notes, “In one test, only 12% of specially written “perfect resumes” made it through this initial step, although in theory, 100% should have made it.”
How do You Tackle the Job Search Knowledge Dilemma?
First, acknowledge that you’re not likely to come even close to 100% success in overcoming the kinds of obstacles Sullivan mentions in his article. They contain a number of factors over which you have little or no control. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can be aware of the potential issues and try to conduct your job search in such a way as to negate or minimize them. For one thing, you can take the advice offered by a number of experts and connect directly with hiring managers at the companies you’re interested in, so you can bypass the HR screen-out process. (If busy hiring managers are the cause of the problem, that’s a different issue!)
Also, work on expanding your knowledge base by reinforcing your network relationships, actively communicating with them whenever appropriate, and so on. Check your LinkedIn contacts and those of other groups or organizations you belong to, to see whether any people there are connected with companies you’re interested in working for. You might be able to garner some useful tips and insights from them.
A suggestion somewhat related to having a knowledge-powered job search is to examine your background and your career marketing documents thoroughly to see if you can spot any potential “gotchas” and take action to counteract them. For example, some people who are “between jobs” label themselves as independent consultants to avoid having a gap on their resume. Unfortunately, that tactic has been overworked and can actually backfire unless you can show some strong results from your consulting activities (for example, a couple of major clients you worked with successfully).