Based on data I've seen recently, chances are pretty good you've submitted a resume to someone in the past year. The US economy may be bouncing along the bottom, but companies are still hiring, even if it resembles a game of musical chairs.
Not looking for a new job? Some situations still call for a resume, such as when an organization is considering you for their board, or for a promotion within your own company.
Because the workplace is changing, the use of resumes is changing along with it. So let's take a look at where you might be on the evolutionary timeline.
In terms of a traditional paper resume, the fundamentals haven't changed much in recent years. Just this past month a friend handed me his resume and asked me to review it. With all due respect to my friend, who is very talented and would bring great value to any organization, his resume was utterly horrible. It contained way too many details about small projects, and when reading it from an employer's perspective, I thought, "So what? What will this person do for me?"
Essentially, the resume failed to convey what my friend could do for another company. The info was there, but he failed to translate his experience into a set of transferrable skills. Hence, it failed to make me go "wow!"
Want to improve your resume? Get someone to help you wordsmith it. From an employer's perspective, identify what attributes you want to see and how your proven abilities can be worded in a way to show valuable, transferrable skills.
Once you've given it a good working over, give your resume to other friends and tell them to totally criticize it. The only way you're going to improve it is if people criticize it, so accept that fact and dive in with the purpose of refining and polishing it.
Today, many companies ask to receive resumes electronically. This could mean attaching your resume as a Word document or PDF, or they may want it in plain text/ASCII format. Every application is different, so be sure to read and understand a company's instructions before applying. Social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook are also becoming popular for posting jobs and submitting resumes.
As with any resume, you have between 17 and 20 seconds to grab their attention. Since the "delete" button is so easy to use, your resume must make the person go "wow!" right away.
If you're using e-mail, choose your subject line very carefully. Specific job openings usually have a job number you can reference, but in any case, a subject line of "seeking employment" is never a good choice.
To make it easy for the person reviewing your resume, write a brief cover letter and then copy/paste your resume into the body of the message. You can also include it as an attachment, but if you only attach it you're forcing the person to open the document, and that's eating into your 20 seconds.
Also, because most email programs do not read formatting well, use caution to ensure your resume is easily readable. Send it to yourself and some friends to make sure it appears like you want it to.
Finally, let's consider a whole new type of resume, and that's no resume at all. In this age of mobile workforces and e-commerce, some companies are foregoing traditional resumes and asking applicants to send links to their Web presence, such as their blogs, twitter accounts, and LinkedIn profiles. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, some companies are even requesting a short video demonstrating a person's interest in working for the company.
Obviously, this type of resume doesn't work for many traditional jobs, but it's quite appropriate for a growing number of Web-centered occupations.
Because this trend is likely to grow, "who you are" on the Internet will be what employers consider in their hiring decisions, so be cognizant whenever you post something online. One snarky remark posted in a time of fun or frustration may be what prevents you from getting a job two years from now.
With all this in mind, remember that a resume does not get you a job; its purpose is to get you an interview. Obviously, a good resume improves your chances of that, so start with the traditional approach and be able to show you have transferrable skills.
With today's technology, you have the ability to research companies more than ever before. That's a bonus, but they have a similar increased ability to research you. This makes having steadiness in your character and your work ethic all the more important. Even if you're not looking for a job, the evolution of resumes means that the evolution of your Internet use will someday be on the table for an employer's evaluation.