Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Use Your Resume to Promote Your Brand

If you're in the process of creating or updating your resume, you're probably receiving all sorts of conflicting information and advice. One of the most erroneous "rules" about resumes is that they should never be longer than one page. Pardon me for being blunt, but this is absolute bunk.

Granted, if you're a high school or college student without a lot of experience, a one-page resume might be perfectly appropriate. But if you've been working for a few years, you've likely amassed more skills and knowledge than can be effectively conveyed on a single page. In order to tell your story sufficiently to a prospective employer, you need to include a variety of section headings and bullet points highlighting your achievements, along with a "Testimonials" page (a page with five or six short recommendations from previous supervisors, coworkers and other "heavy hitters" within your sphere of influence). This will result in a resume that might be anywhere from 3-6 pages in length. Many of our clients have resumes that are even longer, but they have never received negative feedback because the format we use is aesthetically designed and exceptionally reader-friendly.

I have spent the past 20 years perfecting this resume format; it has received kudos from employers around the world. In fact, many employers are so impressed by our format that they actually ask our clients who prepared their resumes. We've even had employers pick up the phone to commend us on a job well done. Needless to say, our clients consistently get hired.

Here's the key: You must think of your resume as your most important marketing piece. Your resume is often the first interaction a prospective employer has with you, so it must stand out, tell your story and make a strong, positive impression. Remember, image is everything. Just as corporations like Coca-Cola, Tiffany and Starbucks use color and type font to communicate their brand message, job candidates must utilize this same strategy to communicate their personal brand.

Consider paper color, texture and quality. Avoid plain copy paper and, instead, select a high-quality paper that has body, richness and color (just be sure the paper isn't too dark, lest the text gets obscured). Muted colors work best. Soft greys, blues, greens and tans convey sophistication and are pleasing to the eye. Laid, linen and other textured finishes offer a pleasing tactile aspect to the resume while smooth vellum finishes are clean and uncomplicated. Select the paper finish that best represents your personality, style and brand.

When selecting type fonts, consider a more dramatic font for your name while keeping the rest of the text clean and easy to read. For example, you might use Arial Black for your name and section headings, and Futura Light for the text. Be sure to incorporate sufficient white space and clearly separate sections of the resume by using clean, bold headings.

It's also important to take into consideration the industry for which you're applying. Conservative fields, such as banking, insurance, health care and accounting will require a bit more of a traditional aesthetic while creative fields such as advertising, public relations, graphic design, Web development, media and entertainment typically allow for pure creative freedom. Whatever your industry, there is plenty of leeway to express yourself and your brand.

The one significant challenge is technology. As more employers are moving to Web-based employment sites, candidates are finding they must focus more on key words than originality. This is an unfortunate consequence of online job-hunting. However, there are ways to circumvent being lost in the sea of parsed plain text.

First, note that most online job sites permit the uploading of .pdf versions of the resume. Even though you may be required to enter key information in plain text, take advantage of the opportunity to upload your well-designed resume as a .pdf file (which will preserve your fonts and formatting). Second, use your cover letter to maximize keywords and phrases; often, applications will be flagged and selected based on keywords in the cover letter, not the resume.

When you have an interview, take along a hard copy of your resume as a leave-behind piece. I recommend either printing it on an 11"x17" sheet and folding it in half, newsletter style, or binding it with a clear cover and black backing (either GBC or Velobinding). This makes a professional, polished presentation that will most certainly stand out from the countless one-page resumes on plain white paper.

My best,


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