July 24, 2014

5 (More) Ways to Improve Your Resume

By: Zachary Slayback

Praxis has featured several blog posts here and here) on how to improve your resume, as it is one of the least understood and most important stages of the job application process. A good resume can make a fair candidate pop out, and a bad resume can hinder the prospects faced by an otherwise-good candidate. Here are five more ways you can improve your resume and the resume review process. The resume is essentially a pitch for the product that is you. Make it a good one.

1. Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Skills are more than simply what you can bring the minute you walk through the door. The skills section of your resume should include these, as they are the primary selling points on what you bring, but what can you consider listable skills on the resume?

As noted before, the primary selling points in the skills section should be those skills which you require no-to-minimal training at the new employer. A familiarity with or expertise in a certain area saves the potential employer time and money in training you, should they decide to bring you onto their operation. More than anything else, these marketable skills tend to be hard skills, in contrast with “soft skills,” like “charisma,” “people skills,” or “professional attitude.”

That’s not to say that there is no value in soft skills, but they are hard to measure and are best communicated in an interview, rather than a resume. Additionally, the space on a resume is valuable, and every line you use to list a soft skill is a line that could have been used as an area for a hard skill.

The hard skills which are listed should actually be skills. That is, they should be a learned behavior or understanding that is not common to the population at large. Which brings us to the second point…

2. Hard Skills vs. Non-Skills (or, common skills)

A familiarity with Mac OSX or Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, or Office in general may have been a marketable characteristic in the 1990s and even the early 21st Century, but the proliferation of these technologies, and many like them, makes these non-skills.

However, there are specific things about these common skills that actually take a good bit of training and understanding to master, such as automation in Mac OSX, mail merge in Word, and higher-level algorithms for forecasting, datamining, and analysis in Excel. If you list an expertise in one of these areas, do not be surprised to be asked to demonstrate something like these examples and others like these. An ability to use Mac OSX in general, type a letter, or make a basic spreadsheet is not a marketable skill. It is one which employers expect you to have, regardless of what you list on your resume.

The hard skills you do list should be things like copywriting, editing, copyediting, an ability to program (and the languages with which you can do this), customer relations management, datamining, graphic design, A/V skills, etc. These should be things which the population at large probably is less familiar with.

3. Make a Video Resume

A video resume is a short recording that you can send to employers as a link (don’t require them to download a large file) that explains why you are a good candidate for them. It should be brief (about a minute in length), show off things not listed on your physical resume, and should be designed like a pitch. Ask yourself, if you were hiring a candidate, what would you like to see? Embody this in the video.

This is an excellent way to showcase those soft skills, creativity, and leave an impact on the potential employer. Offer the video resume up in the same email as the resume, even if not requested (unless specifically told not to send one), so the employer associates the video resume with your physical resume.

4. Respond QUICKLY!

This applies for all stages of the application process, but goes doubly for resumes (see our tips on email etiquette here). Oftentimes, the employer is waiting for the resume when they request it from you before they can move forward in the process. Even if they explicitly are not, a quick response time shows the employer that you have a minimal understanding of professionalism and an ability to get things done. These are soft skills in themselves and this is an excellent way of showcasing that.

5. Save it as a PDF

There are multiple reasons why you shouldn’t send a resume as a .doc, .docx, .pages, or some other word processor file type. The foremost being that not everybody uses the same version or even type of word processor as you do, and any conversions may lead to a malformatted document, may move or delete info, and may generally screw up the aesthetic of your resume.

This can all be avoided if you save your resume as a PDF and send that along. Cell phones even have the ability to read PDF now (not all phones can read word processor documents), and it is an easy and accessible file type.

Some people like to use Google Docs for this reason. While a familiarity with the aspects of Google Drive can be a great skill (it’s not quite as well-circulated as Microsoft Office…yet), there are problems with permissions that can be an issue if you aren’t very careful with Drive. You have to not only share the document, but set the privacy so that anybody with the link can read it. It’s easier just to use a PDF.

Use these tips to make your resume stick out in the pile. A good resume can make even the most mediocre of candidates interview-worthy.

Zachary Slayback is the Marketing Director for Praxis