A resume can be defined as a presentation of a job seeker’s skills and qualifications. While this may seem like a simple concept, preparing your resume can be a complex task. A key part of the application and hiring process, your resume represents you as you make your first contact with potential employers. The goal of your resume is to land a job interview, so it’s important to make sure it meets the expectations and preferences of those conducting the initial screening of application materials.
Evolution of the Resume
While the role of the resume as part of the job search process has remained constant over the years, trends have come and gone related to format, style, and the information it should contain.
Traditional resumes, still used by some employers, are printed documents on heavy stock paper. They are simply presented in black and white, and are text-based (no graphics or images) with conservative fonts. Usually limited to one page in length, the three most common approaches for organizing the details about your skills and qualifications include:
- chronological, listing work history and achievements by date,
- functional, organizing experience into categories by task or skill, and
- combination or hybrid, blending both chronological lists and skill categories.
As a form of job application, resumes are evolving both in terms of format and screening strategies. The traditional word-processed document mentioned above is still the most widely used and what employers are expecting to receive, but a wider variety of options are available.
For example, two-page documents have become acceptable for those with a great deal of experience (usually 10 years or more) and even longer documents are allowed for specific career fields, such as academia. But perhaps the most significant change is in how the resume is presented. The traditional printed document has now become a digital file (e.g., .doc, .PDF, .html, .txt) commonly submitted via online form, as an email attachment, or even linked to a personal website. The use of images and graphics is also becoming more popular, especially in creative career fields, such as art, music, and media design.
Employers are increasingly using specialized software applications, also known as applicant tracking systems, to conduct initial screenings of all submitted resumes. These systems scan the resume documents for keywords and store the data so that applicant information can be easily searched and retrieved from a database.
Social media and networking sites like LinkedIn offer new ways to present resume information and can be even more widely distributed via URL. Your social profiles and digital resumes become part of your online presence, found by recruiters looking for candidates with your skills and experience, as well as by hiring managers searching for additional information about current applicants.
A variety of multimedia options can now be used to present an individual’s job qualifications. Video resumes, for example, can help bring your face and voice to the employer helping you convey your personality and introduce your goals and accomplishments beyond the scope of a traditional resume. The technology available to record and produce professional quality video is becoming easier to use and the results easier to share through platforms like YouTube. Online career portfolios, using specialized applications or blog platforms, also allow job seekers to share their best work samples and expand upon the information presented by a traditional resume.
Essential Resume Guidelines
Whether your resume is printed, digital, or includes multimedia, keep these guidelines in mind as you develop your resume:
- Start with the basic components. At a minimum, you should include your contact information and details about your employment history and education and training. Additional sections might include honors and awards, certifications, professional memberships, and community service, etc.
- Target specific employers or industries. Customize the details about your qualifications to be relevant for your industry in general and to the specific companies you are contacting. Knowing when to use or avoid certain types of resume presentations is also important. Videos and creative websites may be better for artistic positions like graphic design, but could be frowned upon in traditional fields like banking.
- Focus on your achievements. Go beyond job descriptions to share how you made a difference with your previous employers. Use action words and quantifiable details whenever possible. Examples from the Purdue Online Writing Lab include, “created an interior design layout for a 500 square foot retail venue” and “prepared a tutorial manual for an English class last semester.”
- Proofread and edit. Your resume should have no typographical errors or grammar mistakes. All websites or other digital presentations should be working properly without broken links or error messages.
- Seek advice. Ask for help through your school’s career center and your professional network. Having someone else review and make suggestions can help you improve your overall presentation.
Resume formats and preferences will continue to evolve in the future. Research your current career field, or the one you are pursuing, for more information about what is expected in terms of resume presentation and content. Look for trends and emerging ways in which professionals in your area of interest are presenting themselves and their qualifications. And keep your resume, no matter the format, up to date so that you will be ready to respond to the next career opportunity on the horizon.