In 2016, the résumé has evolved a bit. Most job seekers have a LinkedIn profile which serves as a Curriculum vitae and gives a detailed work history. There’s no need for the résumé to cover the same ground. What, then, is the résumé’s purpose?
The résumé is now a unique, private document between you and a prospective employer. You’ll typically craft (or at least tweak) the résumé for each opportunity, making your experience and expertise match the job requirements as closely as you can. No longer will one boilerplate document go out to 50 jobs, or at least, if it does, it will likely go in 50 paper shredders or computer desktop delete bins.
Your prospective employer will likely be looking at an electronic stack of résumés that were cued up for her by the Human Resources department. She’ll have maybe 20 minutes to go through twice that many résumés. So you’ll get about 20 seconds to impress. That means the lead section must be a very strong 'profile' that sets out who you are, what you want, and what your primary selling points are. It has to be a concise, confident paragraph or two that will hopefully buy you another 20 or 30 seconds of eyeball time, or at least, triage into the "read again later" bucket.
Below that will be a kind of work history, which can be chronological or functional. This section needs to briefly tell the prospective employer who you worked for, who you reported to, and what you did … but the main goal is to provide a series of bullets that make her want to learn more. Each bullet needs to start with a strong action word, and give a meaningful accomplishment from your time in the role. It needs to be a one-line version of a "success story" that you'll be able to tell more fully in an in-person interview. And it had best relate directly to one or more requirements from the job posting.
A concrete example may help. If I was applying for a social media role, I might want to highlight for my time at e2. It might look like this:
A short description of e2 would go here, if such a thing were possible.
Prosemonger, 1999-2004, 2008-2011, 2016-present
- Published (a quantity should go here) concise, extensively hyperlinked articles for a worldwide audience. Many received wide acclaim, such as (small set of best nodes here, with reputation and/or cool counts).
- Collaborated actively in an open writer's forum to give and receive feedback.
- Led a global staff of (a quantity should go here) volunteer administrators with diverse interests and personalities.
- Mentored new and returning site members on etiquette, standards, and style.
- Moderated open discussion threads to enforce site standards.
- Curated content with a kind but firm hand, overseeing the addition of (a quantity should go here) entries to the everything2 community database.
- Negotiated with authors or their representatives over fair use, when necessary. Took action to uphold external copyright as required.
I didn’t do any of those things all by myself, except for the line that’s specifically about my own content. I’d make that clear in an interview. But I have those skills, and the résumé needs to sell them, not to bog down in qualifications. Note the attempt to provide specific measurements where appropriate. That’s a key way you can show that you did the things you claim, and that those things have a real weight to them.
Note the action words. In my first try at the catbox bullet I wrote "Participated actively in an open writer's forum..." but "participated" was too passive. I cudgeled my brain until it spat out "Collaborated" as a superior synonym.
To review, the modern résumé is a customized sales tool that matches your skills and abilities to the role being offered with a confident and vibrant tone. Done well, it will serve to get you out of the slush pile and into an interview ... about which we shall learn more anon.