Even in the internet age, success on the job hunt still depends heavily on an old-school document: the resume. Trends such as video and infographic resumes come and go, but the standard version remains essential for most creative positions, including those in the digital space. Here are five rules for crafting a compelling document that will help you land interviews:
Rule #1: Target Your Sales Pitch
A one-size-fits-all resume won’t cut it today. Hiring managers want to know why you’re the right designer for their job. Customize your document for each employer you contact by playing up the skills, attributes and professional experience most relevant to the specific job you’re applying for.
Research the firm’s website and marketing materials, and integrate relevant keywords from the job ad into your resume. You don’t need to start from scratch every time a new job posting piques your interest, but tailoring your document is definitely time well spent.
Rule #2: Cut the Clutter
Employers seek strong communicators who can effectively package pertinent information. Focus on your top qualifications and quantify your contributions whenever possible. Don’t waste valuable space mentioning pastimes and personal interests unrelated to your career. While interesting, your love of extreme mountain biking or artisanal coffee brewing (in most cases) won’t get you the job.
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Moreover, remember that being wordy only scores you points in Scrabble. Plain English is much preferred to business buzzwords, technical jargon and clichéd resume-speak. (What does, “Proven ability to shift paradigms by leveraging commitment to synergistic innovations” mean anyway?) In short, be substantive and straightforward.
Rule #3: Sweat the Small Stuff
Our company collects real-life resume errors for a syndicated newspaper column called Resumania. We recently came across the resume of an applicant seeking a job as an “interactivate designer.”
Can a typo really be a deal-breaker? Yes, according to a survey by our company. Seventy-six percent of managers said just one or two resume mistakes are enough to keep a candidate from getting an interview.
Use spell-check as a starting point, but be mindful the program won’t necessarily catch words that are spelled right but misused or misplaced. Proofread your resume several times, then print it out and read it aloud. As an added safeguard, ask a detail-oriented family member or copy editor friend to check your work.
Rule #4: Keep It Real
Just as a single grammatical goof can be costly, so can one little white lie. Most companies conduct reference or background checks, and others do skills testing. The discovery of a discrepancy or embellishment can lead employers to question your integrity and drop you from consideration.
Simply put, stick to the facts. Slightly stretching dates of employment, giving yourself an inflated job title or professing to be an expert in a design program or computer language you’ve only used a few times isn’t worth the risk.
Rule #5: Skip the Gimmicks
Job seekers try all sorts of wacky tactics to attract the attention of employers. (Real-life example: Attaching a resume to a shoe in order to “get a foot in the door.” They may as well have used it to wrap a can of succotash, because that is corny.) The problem with gimmicks is that they’re hit or miss, and often come across as cheesy, not creative. Skip the stunts, and let your resume do the talking.
It’s also important not to over-design your document. In fact, this is one instance when it’s perfectly fine to stifle your artistic impulses. Steer clear of illustrations, photos and funky fonts. Stick with a traditional layout, too. A non-design gatekeeper in human resources will likely be the first person to review your resume, so make it easy to follow. Use your portfolio to showcase your creativity.
Finally, don’t underestimate the benefits of writing a cover letter to complement your resume, particularly if you have a print background and want to move into web design. In addition to expanding upon your in-depth knowledge of the firm and strong interest in the position, you can use a cover letter to highlight your transferable skills. Emphasize your qualifications that have near-universal appeal, such as communication and leadership abilities, and explain how these strengths will enable you to add value to the open position.