Recession School: Three Ways to Update Your Resume

September 8 2009, 10:32 AM
Laura Smith-Proulx is a local resume expert and job-search coach with a national reputation. I called the six-time global award nominee to find out about new trends in resume writing, as well as how to stand out in a market where every job posting yields a stack of applications. Ignore the rules you learned. Smith-Proulx encourages people to challenge rules they have heard about resume writing; they may be outdated: "A lot of people have a level of fear and misinformation. [It's] not one-size-fits-all." An online search can reveal what current resumes look like in your field, she adds, warning against Word's resume templates: "Everyone has that same template. It doesn't do you justice, and it forces you into a box. Instead, think of what presents you in the best light---who are you, uniquely?" Pay close attention to the top one-third of the first page of your resume; it's the portion you can count on the hiring committee to dissect. Get personal. Smith-Proulx says she hears a lot of buzz about personal branding---meaning the new game in resumes is ditching bland corporate-speak and getting more specific: "Make a list of your top selling points." She recommends imagining the interview question, "I have five others like you, what makes you stand out?" Your answer to that question should be on your resume. Also consider noting what comes easily to you: "We might have strengths that we don't think are any big deal. Ask yourself, ‘What's a breeze to me but people say I'm really good at?'" Finally, she recommends sharing your resume with a few trusted colleagues, asking if they get a sense of who you are as a coworker. Get your resume into the right hands. Smith-Proulx advocates sending your resume to a specific member of the company's staff, not just the generic e-mail address listed in job postings: "You want to send your resume in a way that it gets in front of someone." She recommends using LinkedIn to find a specific employee and to send them a note with your resume, asking them to pass it on to the right person. She says you can make your follow-up e-mail or letter stand out by reiterating why you would benefit the company. "A lot of people hire someone they're not happy with," she says. "So you want to stay on their radar."