Prepare Your Resume for the Spotlight

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March 9, 2016

Writing the perfect cover letter can help engage you with your potential employer. But what if they skim – or just plain skip – the cover letter? Your resume needs to be just as effective when it stands alone. Your resume is, in effect, an advertisement for YOU. Here’s the trick: Just like you wouldn’t use the same ad to sell a car as you would a cupcake, resumes aren’t one-size-fits-all. Here are a few things to consider as you prepare your resume for the spotlight:

Does It Fit the Industry?
Resumes are not one size fits all. Applying for a job in banking should look different at a glance than a job in, say, graphic design. On first glance your resume should look the part: for a more conservative job, a more conservative resume, complete with standard fonts and no funny business. The further the job gets toward a more creative industry, though, the more opportunity you have to start showing some personality on paper. Somewhere in between the extremes? Keep your resume classic in format, but spring for some pops of color in headings (keep it to one color/color family to avoid looking messy) or an interesting font for your name. General rule of thumb: there is no good reason to use Comic Sans, or any of its cousins. Stick to clean looking fonts or legible scripted fonts, to ensure the typeface doesn’t overshadow the content.

Does It Include Relevant Information?
It’s possible that every job you’ve ever held has been building your skills to perfectly match this job’s qualifications. If that’s the case, move on to the next section. If you’re like most of the workforce, though, there are probably some random jobs, awards, experience that don’t tie in quite as nicely. There are two options here: get rid of the irrelevant ones or make them work. Your days as a cashier at CVS may not seem to have much to offer in a resume to be a sales agent, but it may be worthwhile to pull relevant threads out to tie them together. Your time at CVS may have taught you how to deal with troublesome customers, how to upsell (e.g., those candy bars are 2 for $1 right now, why not grab another?), how to work with a team, and when the time is right to escalate issues to management. Those would all be helpful skills to have mastered in a variety of industries, so don’t discount them just because the job title isn’t directly on your path to the big office. If they help tell the story of your qualifications, they may be worth including on the resume, as long as you spell out those specifics!

Have You Read It?
Once you’ve gotten all the pertinent info down, it can be tempting to save it and close the window for good. Before you rejoice in the finished product, though, give it a good read. Revolutionary advice, right? Doesn’t sound like it, but so many people haven’t ever read their resume the way an employer would. Put yourself in their shoes and read through. Here are some items to check for before you call it done:
• Is the formatting consistent?
• Are all spelling and grammatical errors corrected?
• Does it tell the story you want it to tell?
• Would you hire this person? If not, what’s missing?

Resumes can be a tedious, unforgiving part of the job hunt, but there is a lot riding on that one sheet of paper. Making sure yours is engaging and tailored to the job can elevate that simple document into a spotlight-ready sales tool.

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