America is back, baby!
With more and more US cities raising their minimum wages, job applicants are more excited about their employment prospects. Some people are even looking at changing their careers to chase higher pay.
But before you start working on your CV, you should freshen up your résumé writing skills. With the unemployment rate still at 5.4 percent, you're likely to face strong competition, so you need to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd.
To prevent your résumé from landing in the HR black hole, here are four résumé rules that you should be breaking.
1. One-Page Résumé
Just like the objective statement, the one-page résumé rule is a habit that you picked up way back in high school. The idea behind the one-page résumé is that hiring managers have very little time to review applications so you need to be as succinct as possible.
However, forcing your résumé into a single page ignores two key facts:
- The typical US worker changes jobs every 4.4 years. Assuming you land your first job at age 21, you would have switched jobs about five times by age 40.
- 90 percent of companies use ATS programs as resume gatekeepers.
If you have solid and relevant work experience for the position that you're applying for, feel free to showcase it using two pages. As long as you're telling a compelling story about your employment history, the extra page will be welcomed. And it will provide extra space to include keywords directly connected the job description, effectively increasing your chances of passing the ATS test.
2. No Contact With Hiring Managers
HR professionals often feel overwhelmed. For example, Starbucks attracted 7.6 million job applicants for about 65,000 job openings and Procter & Gamble received close to one million applications for 2,000 job postings.
In hopes of keeping their sanity, hiring managers set up as many hurdles and obstacles between them and applicants. The idea is that hopefully only the "truly great candidates" will be left once the application-process dust settles. The reality is that's very often not the case.
To circumvent this "résumé black hole," former Fortune 500 Human Resources SVP and current HR consultant, Liz Ryan recommends to craft a compelling pain letter to start a conversation directly with your target hiring manager.
Ryan breaks down the pain letter into four parts:
- One to two sentence hook congratulating the hiring manager on a personal work-related achievement. For example, "I was lucky enough to catch the tail-end of your presentation last week at the Miami Retailers Association and I couldn't agree more about your observation that…"
- Discussion of a pain point that hiring manager is currently facing. For example, a payroll coordinator could be frustrated with improper tax deductions and reporting mistakes now that her department went from servicing 25 to 350 employees.
- Your one to two sentence "dragon-slaying story" showing how you can alleviate that pain point. Ryan provides a specific example, "When I ran the payroll system at Angry Chocolates, I kept the payroll accurate and in compliance and answered dozens of employee questions every day while we grew from 15 to 650 staff members." No jargon, no buzz words, just plain language showcasing results.
- Short closing inviting hiring manager to set up a meeting time.
Hiring managers welcome messages, as long as they're hyper-personalized. Remember the Google Job Experiment? Alec Brownstein created Google ads for top advertising creative directors, so that when they would google their own names, they would receive a message from Alec asking for a job interview. By reaching out directly to the hiring managers in a creative way, Alec impressed the ad execs and landed a job at Young and Rubicam.
3. List Unemployment Gaps
Unemployed job applicants seem to never get a break.
- A study of 4,800 fake résumé at random for 600 job openings showed that employers would rather call back someone with no relevant experience and a few months of unemployment than someone with more relevant experience and unemployment longer than six months.
- Anecdotal accounts from unemployed job applicants in New York support these findings.
Whether employers do this intentionally or unintentionally, the reality is that listing yourself as unemployed may do more harm than good on you resume. However, this doesn't mean that you should lie. Misrepresenting any information on your résumé may bite you back and make you subject to immediate dismissal.
Functional résumés aren't viable solutions, either. HR veterans see them as major red flags because résumés in that format often hide lack of experience and don't provide enough information to employers.
Instead, a résumé expert at Monster recommends that applicants leverage volunteer work on a résumé. While you may not having gotten paid for making traditional and online media buys for your local Red Cross, or preparing taxes at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, you definitely gained and demonstrated expertise in skills that employers want. Even better, you may also have professional references ready for employers.
During unemployment periods, sign up for meaningful volunteer or internship opportunities so that you can prevent the employers' bias towards unemployment. This is a helpful technique for recent grads to avoid the challenge of having no experience.
4. Relying on a Traditional Résumé
As many as 58 percent of employers have caught a lie on a résumé. That's why more and more companies are ditching the idea of the traditional résumé altogether.
- A New York venture capital firm recruits investment analysts by asking applicants to include links to their web presences, such as Twitter account or Tumblr blog.
- Instead of reading résumés, a bumper and marketing stickers company uses an online survey to help screen applicants.
- By reviewing code posted on GitHub, a web-based repository for coders, an educational technology company looks for programming candidates that have completed public projects.
- Teams of recruiters for a large online lender perform "road rallies" in which they scout for talent at carefully selected groups of shopping malls.
It goes to show that some résumé rules are meant to be broken. If you believe that the hiring practices of your industry are outdated, there may be a company in yours or in another industry that agrees with you. That may very well be the key to landing your dream job!
After all, nobody wants to work with a company that is completely inflexible and that prefers to stick with outdated résumé rules.