Your Resume Sucks — Try One of These Instead
Of all the things you might need for a successful job search, a good resume has historically been the most essential.
The problem is, most resumes look pretty much the same and that can make it hard to get noticed by potential employers. In fact, as someone who's spent time reviewing job applicants, I can tell you that it doesn't take long for all those resumes to start blurring together. (See also: 12 Words You Need to Delete From Your Resume Right Now)
That means yours needs to "pop" if you want to stand out and as I outline in my upcoming book, Prosperity 2.0, there's fortunately a number of ways to make that happen. You can even customize it to target a specific industry or highlight certain skills and accomplishments, giving you a real edge over the competition.
Conservative Industries Expect a Conservative Resume
The easiest way to choose a resume style is to look at your prospective employers. Are you looking in more conservative fields, such as law, banking, or accounting? Is the position you're applying for set in a traditional corporate environment?
If so, your resume should be traditional as well. The chronological format is most common, so when in doubt, this version is a safe bet. It's also a good starting point for the others included here.
A chronological resume typically runs a page and a half to two pages in length and includes your complete history — your prior work experience, your education and your skills — in chronological order, with the most recent entries listed first. You can also include a section devoted to your accomplishments as well as your career goals and objectives.
This resume doesn't really "highlight" anything specific — it's more of a 30,000 foot view — and works best for those with a strong and continuous work history.
In some cases, the chronological resume might not suit your needs. Perhaps you don't have that strong work history or your most recent entries aren't overly relevant to your prospective job. Or maybe your targeted industry isn't quite so traditional and you think a bit more "pizazz" is called for.
Not to worry… that's where the next resume comes in.
Create a Functional Resume to Highlight Skills Over Continuity
The functional resume is designed specifically to draw attention to the areas you want to highlight. It may or may not include your entire history, and the layout itself is also quite different from the chronological format, giving you a little more creative control in how you present yourself to prospective employers.
Put Your Winning Attributes at the Top
You can list your education first for example, or dive right into your accomplishments if that's where you really shine. Your work history is included, but doesn't have to be in any particular order, and in fact, rather than portraying your employment in a "job-by-job" format, you focus more on the goals you accomplished and the experience you gained.
This variation also works great for those who are just starting out or have gaps in their employment history. Keep in mind however, that potential employers will likely want to pin you down on dates and length of employment at some point.
Use a Combination Resume to Feature Both
The combination resume is just what it sounds like: a combination of the chronological and function formats. It starts with skills and accomplishments, but also includes a complete, chronological work history. This resume is ideal if you're looking to change careers and want to highlight relevant skills and experience. It's also a good option if your industry is more creative than conservative, and you want to show some individuality.
And speaking of showing individuality, there are times when you want to pull out all the stops. So, while it's a good idea to have at least one of these versions on hand — regardless of what kind of job you're looking for — it doesn't have to be the version you lead with.
In fact, let's look at some other, more eye-catching varieties that can help get your foot in the door.
Resumes That Go a Step Beyond
It's not unusual for people to have multiple versions of the same resume, each one geared toward a specific type of job or to highlight a certain set of skills.
But instead of reproducing your entire resume for this purpose, why not do what advertisers do and create tailored "marketing pieces" that push what you want to push.
Maybe Try a Newsletter Resume
For example, a newsletter resume is just what it sounds like: a resume written in a newsletter format. So, think images, columns, callouts, and bold headings, all laid out to highlight the skills and experience most relevant to the job you're applying for.
This format allows you to zero in on your community service for example, or really promote those three months that you exceeded your sales quota. In fact, if you present the information in newsletter-style "stories," you can turn any piece of information into an important (and impressive) asset, making this a perfect choice.
Or Pop With a Rack Card
Rack cards are commonly used by businesses to promote a special or advertise a new product or service, but you can use them to draw attention to your most marketable skills and experience.
Standard size is 4x9 and typically uses both sides of the card, but other than that, you're free to use your imagination. And you should.
Think big — lots of color, well-placed graphics and bullet points. Be bold. Market your very best strengths, the things you want a potential employer to notice, and include your contact information too. Have a website? Include that as well, and if you don't, read on to find out why you should.
Resumes That Go Several Steps Beyond
One of the best ways to attract a potential employer's attention is to think outside the box and with all the online tools available, there's just no limit to what you can do. So, let's talk about two very cool options here.
Your Resume Online
Yes, you can simply make an electronic version of a traditional resume, but why stop there? Why not get creative and show employers just how fantastic you truly are?
Back in the 90s, when I was still working in the corporate world, I created an online resume that included "The Top 10 Reasons You Should Hire Me" ("I really want this job" was #7) as well as a multiple-choice psychic reading that promised to reveal the perfect candidate for the job in question.
The user selected the qualities they wanted using radio buttons and clicked a big "Reveal" button to see the results. They were then taken to the traditional version of my resume which, by the way, was geared to highlight the same skills and experience options offered in the reading.
Yes, I know that sounds a little cheesy, especially since resumes have always been such a serious and formal affair. But then, it was supposed to be cheesy — that was the whole point. I wanted to be different from all the other applicants, and I felt that the potential was worth the risk.
A blog for instance, can allow you to show off your industry expertise as well as your stellar writing skills. A good LinkedIn profile can almost substitute as a condensed version of your resume, and a business-only Twitter account might enable you to do some serious networking within your niche.
Your Resume on Video
In Legally Blonde, sorority diva Reese Witherspoon decides she's going to apply to Harvard Law to win back her ex-boyfriend Warner, after he breaks up with her to find a "serious" girlfriend. Getting into Harvard isn't easy however, so besides studying hard and passing the LSAT, she creates a video resume to stand out and get noticed.
Now, she has no legal background to speak of and her character isn't the most intellectual of applicants… so, she uses the video to play up the strengths she does have instead.
And you can do the same.
Show off your contribution to the community, your sense of humor, your blazing-fast typing skills, your incredible multi-tasking abilities, and even your hobby if it's appropriate. The key is to create a video that shows off your personality while still tying into the job or industry you're applying for.
Just remember that whatever you produce may be shared among others within the company, especially if it's entertaining, so create something for the masses. And don't "be" someone on the video that isn't truly part of your personality — characters and scripting aside, your prospective employer will expect to see a live version of the candidate they saw in the video, should you get an interview.
One Resume Is Never Enough
Choosing the right resume can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, especially if you have something other than a run-of-the-mill background to work with.
But that's what makes these other options so appealing.
Ideally, you should have several versions of your resume to work with — a complete, traditional resume (be it functional, chronological, or combination format) and then some of the other varieties to help you target your desired industry.
And don't be afraid to try new varieties or employ other tools to get you noticed within your niche. It's an easy way to stay in front of those that do the hiring and remind them of why they need you on their team.
Have you created multiple resumes to attract more interest from employers? Please share your experience in comments ("functional" is fine)!