Resume writing for the new economy

Writing a resume is one of the first tasks facing job searchers, as they set out to seek new employment. The challenge is to prepare a concise and clear document that represents your work history and skills in the best, most interesting way possible. 

As an Employment Counsellor, my experience has been that while most job searchers already have a resume, it most often requires some serious work to update it and represent the job searcher as current in the new economy. So, how do you prepare a well written resume that fits in with the ever-changing expectations of employers?

Here are some places to start:

While it is a good start to begin by unearthing your old resume and adding information about your most recent position, this is clearly not sufficient. Keep in mind that the quick pace of change in the job market has affected employers’ expectations of you – both in terms of your skills (i.e. the content of your resume), as well as the way your write it (i.e. style and layout).

Once you have added information about your most recent employment, it is worth seeking out advice for updating the appearance and style of the resume. There are many credible “how-to” sources to guide the resume writer. I recommend starting out by finding suitable job postings on job boards such as Monster.ca, to help you identify the relevant key words and descriptions of job functions, which you can integrate into your resume. They also offer a comprehensive Career Advice section, which offers excellent tips and suggestions.  Other excellent online sources are About.com’s Resume Tips, as well as Susan Ireland’s Resume Site. You will find good samples of resumes online, as well; I often refer clients to WorkBloom, who provide a good range of different types of resumes to inspire the resume writer to use new formats and wording.

Keep in mind that not all advice fits all resumes. For example, resumes should be styled to reflect the varying characters of different employment sectors. To illustrate that point, the financial sector (banking) is more conservative and requires traditional resumes, whereas marketing, especially social media, can be quite creative and may include a range of media such as Videos, Infographics or other alternative digital resume formats

Once you have gathered information and have begun tackling the process of rewriting the resume, it is worth seeking independent personalized feedback from those who you might regard as “in the know” – this might include Employment Counsellors or Workforce Specialists in local publicly funded services such as JVS Toronto.

Ultimately though, the best sources of feedback on your resume will always be people who hire into the fields which you are targeting. Make sure to ask as many as possible to ensure that you get a broad picture, and target people in large companies who see many resumes.  Eventually, you will reach a point in the writing process, where you have a “good enough” resume with which to start the process, keeping in mind that it will be adapted for EVERY job.

A good resume will be useful when you job search and network, and it will also be an excellent tool for setting up a detailed LinkedIn profile to initiate the online networking process. Taken further, there are even more ways of using your resume as a tool to increase your online presence, such as Visual CV.

There are some additional tips to keep in mind when writing a resume in this economy, with the increased use of email and online technologies:

  • When chosing a font, keep in mind that resumes are primarily read on computer screens, so it’s useful to pick a font that is simple, clean and which allows for more information to be fit into a page and yet still be readable. I personally prefer Calibri, Tahoma or Verdana , but simple Arial is also good.
  • Avoid using tables, as their outline shows on the computer screen, and try to eliminate underlining, which looks on the computer screen as if it is a link
  • Keywords are very important. Remember that employers often use online screening tools, which search a resume for certain words, so make sure to use a range of keywords which may be sought after
  • Assuming that employers will be checking up on the information you provide, using online tools such as Google and LinkedIn, make sure that your company names are valid and exactly spelled, and that the data on the resume is consistent with other sources such as LinkedIn
  • Since resumes are on a screen, you are able to add live links to LinkedIn, as well as your blog/website, if relevant. This may be an excellent to encourage the employer to read more about you and for you to showcase information beyond the simple resume

Overall, while the process of writing a resume can be very stressful and demanding, it can also be an excellent way to re-evaluate your skills and learn about the changes in the job market.  Be prepared to take on the challenge fully, and make the best of what you can learn. It is well worth investing some time and energy (though not necessarily money) to make this a worthwhile learning experience that will enhance the chances of you finding the work you want more effectively.

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