Susan Britton Whitcomb
Susan Britton Whitcomb is the author of the authoritative guide to resumes, Resume Magic, She recently documented trends she’s seen in resume-writing. This article is reprinted with permission from Whitcomb’s blog.
1. Succinct | Bite-Sized | Tweet-Like Resumes
Social media and the bombardment of info-overload have caused many people to have the attention span of a lit match. Keeping this attention deficit in mind, I am shifting my writing toward a more tweet-like style. Indeed, in coauthoring The Twitter Job Search Guide with Chandlee Bryan and Deb Dib, Deb took the lead on two chapters that, I believe, will change the rules of resume writing and cover letters forever. She describes processes for writing a 10-tweet cover letter, a six-tweet resume profile, and turbocharging your resume with tweets — her ideas are brilliantly simple.
Where possible, I am much more aware of writing one-line accomplishment statements, separated by six points or more of white space, to make it more inviting for readers to want to read, as well as digest the information. The length of my resume paragraphs is also something I’m focusing on shortening. Several years ago, I wouldn’t think too much about a six-line paragraph. Now, I try to keep them to three lines.
Although I’ve been using bulleted paragraphs in cover letters for years, I am now fanatical about making sure cover letters contain them.
2. Integrated Resumes
Twitter cofounder Biz Stone noted, “Twitter is the new resume.” His comment implies that what we write on Twitter, or anywhere online, becomes a piece of our resume. I am advising clients that they need to be aware of this phenomenon and to strategize an orchestrated plan to integrate their resume with their online identity, ensuring that resumes are aligned with data appearing on a LinkedIn profile or other site.
Recruiters can, in some cases, find old versions of a client’s resume online, which may not sync with the current version a client is putting out there. That reality may impact a writer’s decision about whether to eliminate a problematic or short-term work entry.
In addition, I am adding LinkedIn, Twitter, online portfolio, or other appropriate links into traditional resumes, whether
- as part of the header,
- as a “see more information on this project at SlideShare.com,” or
- as a footer at the bottom of the last page of the resume.
I avoid shortened URLs, however, because in some cases they will become inaccurate over time.
3. Branding Resumes
Branding has made its way into resumes, whether subtly with brand attributes woven into the summary, or obviously with resume headings such as “Brand Attributes” or “Brand Bio” as part of the resume. Although not every resume I prepare reflects this branding, I am much more aware of trying to convey both “hard” and “soft” elements of the client’s brand in the summary section, and in some cases including a brand tagline and colors that match the client’s brand. For example, one resume I prepared used brown type with blue horizontal accent lines, matching the colors the client had used on her Web site.
Relating to branding, I’ve shifted in my choice of fonts, leaning toward sans serif fonts. Two favorites are Calibri and Century Gothic.
4. Shorter, in General, with Resume Add-On Pieces
Although I still write three-page resumes, they are the exception. When possible, for an executive or senior candidate, I shoot for two pages and then include a supplemental piece (or pieces) with a separate title, such as Project Highlights or Technology Initiatives.
5. Mixed Messages, No Hard and Fast Resume Rules
In some instances, recruiters are writing that “ugly resumes are the best,” meaning resumes devoid of formatting have a better chance of being “read” well in databases. While I can see this point, we also know from personal experience, conversations with our colleagues, and discussions with hiring managers and recruiters, that a drop-dead gorgeous resume with plenty of visual appeal makes a lasting first impression. That also goes for text resumes (stripped of formatting). One of my clients reported back that, when walking into an interview, the first thing out of the hiring manager’s mouth was “how’d you get your text resume to look so good … I’ve never seen one this clean.”
Resume writers need to be flexible and learn how their clients plan to use their resumes before pronouncing definitive how-tos. In general, I advocate to
- get the resume into a target company’s database;
- have it hand-delivered by internal contacts in the target company to the hiring manager (not HR); and
- send it as a follow-up after meeting with networking contacts.
6. Cover Letters
Few of my clients are requesting cover letters these days. My observations as to why include:
- Employers don’t seem to adhere to a standardized process for receiving cover letters on corporate Websites (some sites have space to upload or paste in a cover letter; others do not).
- Clients are less likely to write a “formal” cover letter when emailing their resumes to others. A simple note (“Looking forward to speaking more about [xyz]. My resume is attached.”) is not uncommon.
- The clients I work with are using their resume as a “leave-behind” rather than a “lead-in.” In other words, they are networking with others to learn about their needs first and, as a follow-up to the networking, sending their resumes.
7. Resumes Are Not Going Away
Articles prophesying the death of the resume seem to surface at least once every year. I don’t claim to have a crystal ball, but I believe resumes are here to stay. Not too many people get hired these days without having to turn in a resume. They may not be the centerpiece of the job search as they were years ago (although many job-seekers tend to cling to them, hyper-focusing on them as the magic bullet that will allow them to escape the necessity of networking), but resumes continue to remain a vital element in job search.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Susan Whitcomb is the author of seven careers books, including Job Search Magic, Interview Magic, Resume Magic, The Christian’s Career Journey, and The Twitter Job Search Guide (all published by JIST). She is CEO and Founder of TheAcademies.com, which offers certification training in Career Coaching, Job Search Strategy, Twitter Career Strategy, and more.