It’s true that these days a resume is likely a diminishing part of your job-hunting strategy, but it is still the default document requested by most recruiters and employers.
Many students & new design graduates make the error of providing a shopping list of previous jobs and responsibilities (guaranteed to hit the bin!) rather than highlighting their value and achievements.
Here are six simple tips to give your resumé the best chance of getting noticed.
1. You only have 6 seconds to make an impression
Here’s the truth: hiring is a chore. Whilst you, of course, should be excited about the opportunity, for the employer, it’s time out of their busy day and it’s fraught with the fear they might hire the wrong person!
Your challenge is to persuade them that you are the right person: as a first step, your resume needs to persuade them you’re worth investing their time in an interview.
According to online recruiters theladders.com, you will only have 6 seconds to do so: 6 seconds to make the short ‘maybe’ pile or the very long ‘in the bin’ pile.
Your resume must be distilled down to the absolutely essential – ideally only one page, absolute maximum two – highlighting only the skills and knowledge essential for the role.
And not just your technical skills – employers place high value on soft skills: communication, teamwork, time-management, taking initiative, flexibility etc.
When reviewing two candidates with similar design skills and experience, demonstrable soft skills will give you the edge every time.
2. Employers are not interested in what you have done, they are interested in what you have achieved
Of course, you should list your work experience, but no employer cares if one of your responsibilities was ‘answering the phone’. Instead, reframe this as a customer service story. However mundane the role, explain how you added value through your initiative, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, etc.
For example, rather than the passive and uninformative ‘answering the phone’ you might write ‘promptly responding to clients’ enquiries and advising on customers’ needs.’ Here you have demonstrated you are customer-focused and implied strong relationship skills and initiative: skills valued by all employers.
3. Customise for the job
Unfortunately, a resume is not a one size fits all, set and forget proposition: it needs to be customised for each position you are applying for. Of course, create a template pre-populated with all your essential information, skills and experience, but then incorporate the language & keywords from the job description you are applying for: employers are looking for quick evidence that your skills and knowledge match the job criteria. To save time, many large organisations are filtering applicants via Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS’s): bots that scan for relevant phrases and keywords: however good a fit you are for the role, if you are not speaking their ‘language’ you will not be picked.
4. Think carefully about infographics
If you’re a designer then you love graphics! But remember, form follows function. A bar chart of your software skills does not contextualise to your actual experience or the skills the employer is looking for (how quickly can you create a layer mask from a selection in Photoshop?).
Occasionally, I’ve seen infographics used effectively (more so as part of an overall creative design strategy (see Demonstrate your Design Skills, below), but for the most part, infographics are simply eating up valuable real-estate on your page).
5. Demonstrate your design skills
That’s said, your resume is your first opportunity to impress with your design skills. Or to put it another way, if your layout doesn’t say ‘designer’, it’s already in the bin.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here, but some sense of your design personality is good (make sure it’s consistent across all potential touch-points: cover letter, website, portfolio etc.)
At the very least, you need to apply design fundamentals: I’m always surprised when I see misaligned text, multiple fonts, mismatched leading, lack of whitespace, orphans and widows and the most fundamental error of all: typos! Lack of attention to detail is an unforgivable error.
6. Make it easy to check you out
As mentioned, these days a resume is only one element of a successful job search strategy. You need to support this with a consistent online ‘brand’ presence: definitely LinkedIn and as appropriate a website, Instagram, Twitter etc.
It’s guaranteed that if your resume sparks any interest, they will be checking out your online presence. So make it as easy as possible by hot-linking all your online platforms directly from your resumé.
There’s no such thing as the perfect resume and you can never be certain what an employer is looking for (and often, despite the job description, employers are not sure themselves). But you can exponentially improve your chances of being shortlisted by using your six seconds to make the best impression possible.
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