Originally published on November 30, 2017 on Forbes.com
This article was published at the end of 2017 to discuss what employers will be looking for from resumes in the new year. Though this article is geared toward “executive resumes,” the tips contained herein are applicable to all administrative or office-focused resumes:
With the approaching New Year, many people will decide it’s time for a new start. This may include new goals, new activities and, maybe, a new job. Despite evolving job search tactics, the traditional resume remains one of the most important tools in the job search toolbox. In 2018, executives will be able to locate, create and apply to positions in a variety of ways, but at some point in the hiring process, a resume is likely to be requested. This is why you need a modern resume for modern times.
Recently, I participated in a podcast comprised of industry experts to dissect and discuss important resume requirements and trends. Some of the tips, ongoing necessities and “what’s next” insights for executive resumes in 2018 included the following five points.
1. Customize content.
One of the most important modern resume strategies is content customization. Hands down, this tactic must be applied to increase resume success. Regardless of whether a resume is read by a human or a machine, customizing details, results, facts, skills and keywords in the file is paramount to getting the resume processed through to the interview stage. The reasoning behind this is simple. Readers are short on time and want to know “what’s in it for me” — fast.
Hiring authorities don’t want to dig for results, read unrelated content or make assumptions. They want to know in a short, succinct fashion how a candidate’s skills and abilities will benefit their open position. So tell them, removing anything that doesn’t directly support the case.
2. Make your value known.
The top tip that I share with all of my executive clients is to infuse a resume with value. In close relation to the first point above, value must be aligned with employer requirements.
Having developed hundreds of resumes for executives, I know that a resume only has a small amount of time and space to convey value to a reader. When partnering with executives on the development of resumes, my goal is to help each individual distinguish their value proposition and then work to succinctly support this proposition throughout the resume. When you write your own resume, you must do the same.
To succeed at making your value known you must know yourself, know your audience and know what matters. You can read more about the process of making your value known in my recent article.
3. Prove your claims.
In order to captivate a reader, executive resumes require more than just strong, tailored content. They also need proof: proof of the communications expertise or business leadership one claims to possess. Saying you are good at something and providing clear evidence of it are two different things. In an executive resume, one must prove their claims.
Supporting evidence lies in measurable impacts, specific quantities and strong metrics generated during a career. If you increased revenue, drove new initiatives or collaborated closely with others, you must provide clear examples of how the application of skills resulted in positive business outcomes.
Support all resume statements with concrete achievements or success. Even better, quantify facts as often as possible, answering how many, how much and how often.
An example of a weak statement:
* Employed excellent communication skills to successfully lead a team through the creation and delivery of a new marketing strategy, which produced significant revenues.
Now a stronger, results-focused statement:
* Generated $6 million in new revenues in just 18 months by directing a team of 20 to create and execute a new marketing strategy.
4. Lead with results.
Once you’ve identified critical content and rich results from throughout your career, lead with them. This means front-loading the resume with results to create immediate connection and greater impact.
As an executive leader, you understand the value of measurable outcomes and you appreciate getting to the point. Long-winded resume summaries, statements and bullet points diminish the impact and bury key content. Leading with results ensures you spoon feed the reader what they want first. You answer questions before they can be asked, and you align proof points with position requirements.
In addition, front-loaded points powerfully position strengths and build the readers’ appreciation of capabilities.
Weaker, end-loaded statement:
* Employed longer sales cycle to close accounts in historically challenging European territory to grow new business revenue 156% over two years.
Stronger, front-loaded statement:
* Grew new business revenue 156% over two years in the European market, employing a longer sales cycle to close accounts in historically challenging territory.
5. Adapt for ATS.
Despite the demand to market oneself uniquely, keep in mind that the majority of major organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)to scan submitted applications.
ATS is a software application that supports electronic handling of recruitment requirements, such as resume screening. It is estimated that the majority of major companies now use these systems to screen incoming resumes. When applying for a position online, be aware that an ATS is likely screening your resume. As such, you won’t be able to navigate the application process effectively if you don’t have a full understanding of ATS.
In addition, a resume that is not ATS-compliant is unlikely to ever be selected as a match, regardless of the candidate’s actual qualifications for a role. Of course, each ATS is unique, so getting your resume through the system requires a strong understanding of common ATS practices.
Finally, what’s next for executive resumes?
Bolder creations and modern design tactics that support more effective, modern job search approaches like networking and referrals will continue to rise. Visually stimulating resumes employ unique formats, layouts, color, charts or graphics to segregate key content and naturally guide a reader’s eye.
The trick to a well-balanced visual resume is not to go overboard. Design should not distract from compelling content but work hand-in-hand to produce impact. Finally, remember that these creative resumes are intended for review by an actual human and may not always be ATS-compliant — but working around the system is exactly where the focus will be for job seekers in 2018 and beyond.