By Sean Weinberg
Smart Resume Risks: Take These Two Risks With Your Resume and Stand Out From the Crowd
Here's the thing about following common sense resume advice: it's too common. That's what everyone else is doing. If you follow "common sense," your resume will end up uninteresting, ignored, and completely forgotten.
Because of this, sometimes it's better to take a risk. At the same time, be smart about it.
Here are two ways you can do that:
RISK #1: Focus on the story of your resume, not the facts.
Most people construct resumes as a chronological retelling of their educational and professional lives. While your resume should be factually correct, it should not end with the facts. There must also be a story or narrative.
What's the difference?
A fact is just dead information. It has no context, leaving it up to the reader to do the work of understanding and decide what the fact has to do with the issue at hand, which, in this case, is the job application..
A story, however, gives the reader or interviewer an understanding of why the facts are important or relevant to the position you are applying for.
Here's an example on how to use both fact and story. Let's say you're applying as a staff blogger for one of the leading technology blogs. Your resume might read:
University of Prestige. Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Years Attended: 2005 - 2009. (Fact)
Coursework included the following electives: "The History of Web Technology," and "Online Journalism." Won the "Forward Thinking National Award" on my final paper predicting the growing popularity of social media. (Story)
See the difference? The fact just tells the reader where you graduated and what your major was. The story, however, elaborates that apart from being a competent writer, you have the skill and foresight to anticipate trends in technology, something that the top technology blogs need.
Given the benefits of a story, how do you craft it? As you're making your resume, ask yourself “how can I reinterpret the facts of my professional and educational background into a story illustrating that I have the skills and experiences needed for the job?”
Once you have a draft of your resume, you need to check how effective your resume is at conveying your chosen story. To test how effective it is, try the following tools:
a) RezScore: Our resume-testing service helps you figure out the main narrative of your existing resume.
b) Wordle: Build a word cloud to learn which words are the most repeated in your resume.
RISK #2: Rewrite your job titles to suit the job you're applying for.
Usually, job applicants list their "official" job titles on their resumes. The problem with doing this is that most job titles are bland, and your work comes off as equally uninteresting. Consider titles like "intern," "trainee," "assistant," or "manager." These terms are generic and could mean that you accomplished a hundred different tasks. Using just these titles, there's no way to inform the person reading your resume that your previous experience fits perfectly with the type of person they're looking for. Because of this, you need to start rewriting your most bland and most generic job titles.
For example, the word "intern" or "trainee" doesn't exactly convey how a graphic designer might have spent 30 hours working directly under one of the most prominent professional designers in the country. In this case, "Graphic Design Apprentice to John Designer" may be a better title.
If you have a very specific established job title, however, you can just append more descriptive terms following it. Just make sure that these terms are relevant to the job you are listing and the job you are applying for. For example:
"Staff Writer" vs. "Staff Writer on Web Technology and Social Media" (You stand out thematically from other "staff writers.") or "Production Assistant" vs. "Production Assistant for Video Editing" (You do more than just make coffee and run errands.)
While you can place these more descriptive terms in your job descriptions instead of your titles, it's the titles that grab attention. Titles are usually emphasized in bolded typeface or larger letters than the description, so hiring managers are more likely to read it whereas they might skip reading your description altogether.
If you think about it, these two recommended risks aren't that risky. In fact, you risk being ignored and forgotten if you don't try them. When you have a strong story that narrates how perfect you are for the job, with relevant job titles to match, you're more likely to stand out from the hundreds of common resumes in the pack.
What do you think? What smart resume risks do you take with your resume?
Let us know in the comments!
Sean Weinberg is the COO and co-founder of RezScore, a free web application that reads, analyzes, and grades resumes – instantly. Also the founder of Freedom Resumes, Sean has dedicated his career to helping job seekers write the best possible resumes.