What’s wrong with your resume? Well, a lot, actually, if you’re like most people I know. I’m sorry, but there it is. The problem starts in school. Career advisors coach us in presenting a resume that is professional, to the point, and well, boring… and dead! The old resume and cover letter format are not very interactive, personal, or expressive. The problem with that is that today’s world is.
Too many people (experienced job seekers as well as students) are being lulled into a dangerous complacency by the palatable platitudes of supposed career experts. I’m afraid if you are listening to advise that sounds easy, that makes your career trajectory sound like it will be a walk in the park, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
If you think that landing your dream job will be easy, if you think you simply need to follow the prescribed formulas, then you are never going to put in the hard yards required. Remember the words of American founding father and Enlightenment-era theorist, Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
So, what should I put on my resume?
If you ask a career counselor or human resources professional they’ll tell you not to include a photo, or even a video – heaven forbid! They’ll spout the usual lines about discrimination laws, safety issues, and other potential hazards, blah, blah, blah. My contrarian view is that neglecting to include a photo is the first of many mistakes that people make.
Of course, you should include a photo! Would you trust a LinkedIn invite or a friend request from someone with no profile picture? You may, but even if you are the trusting type I’m sure you’ll question it in your mind.
This isn’t just my opinion. This week alone I have been asked to provide a headshot several times – for a guest blog post, for a podcast (supposedly an audio, not a visual medium), and for a speaking engagement. If you are moving into the professional world then being ready to visually brand yourself is a must.
The fact remains that your visual looks are part of the authentic YOU. Far from looking unprofessional, including images (and if possible a video) is THE professional way of our new hyper-connected world.
Although the internet has brought the world closer together, in many ways, people today are living far more isolated lives than they did in the past. Depression is just one symptom of this growing crisis of isolation, and the explosion of social media a symptom of our need to feel connected.
So don’t be afraid to reach out in a more personal way with your next job application. Let the person receiving it know that you are a real person. Inject a little personality, and make yourself memorable with a photo. Haven’t you ever heard someone say that they remember faces but not names?
Now when you’re putting together the perfect resume you can’t just pick any photo. Don’t find one from your last holiday. You stand in a crowd of tourists, grainy, washed-out, and with eyes half closed. Make sure you get a professional looking headshot. This doesn’t always mean you must hire a professional photographer. Just spend some time in front of a mirror, find a friend or colleague who knows their way around a camera, choose a nice background, and you’re done.
You can go for a spirited photo that highlights what you do or shows a bit of personality as long as you don’t overdo it. Remember this is your professional presence. You don’t want a headshot that looks gimmicky – it will depreciate your value.
Now that you’ve got an enlivened, professional, shot use it everywhere. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. Why? Because you should always give thought to creating a brand that is consistent. Personal brands that lack consistency present as inauthentic.
Now, it’s time to look beyond your resume. I mentioned before that the world today is geared towards the interactive and expressive. Look at social media. People want to dive right into the lives of others. No one wants to hear about your holiday anymore. If the photos aren’t on Facebook, it didn’t happen. You can (and you should) be harnessing this hunger for immersive experiences with an online presence that is crafted and unique.
Create your personal brand online
Ideally, you should aim to have a comprehensive online presence, but if you find yourself struggling to keep up with it all then it’s time to determine which platform is most relevant to you within your chosen profession or purpose.
For example, if you work in the design space then there is no excuse for a repelling or poorly managed Instagram account. It just looks sloppy. Take the time to get this right, or don’t do it at all. That said, if you want to live as a digital hermit then that is your choice. Just remember that there is much to be gained from a strong online brand, and it’s not all doom and gloom out there. Otherwise, people like Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, Daymond John, David Beckham, and Oprah Winfrey wouldn’t be devoting so much effort to their online brands.
Many of us already know that we should prepare for a lifetime of careers, instead of the career of a lifetime. Yet every time you apply for a job you will be faced with the dreaded resume cull.
Should you delete older, unrelated positions and qualifications, or keep them as a way to showcase your versatility? An online presence is a perfect antidote to this dilemma – it’s not stagnant like words on the page. An authentic online brand offers the chance to show the real you, and this gives a much more holistic view than the two-dimensional-job-seeker-you who turns up in a resume.
Many people already realize the value of a personal website and blog, but have you ever considered all the ways you can use this tool? One of the problems job seekers face is how to showcase their previous work. Why not develop a dedicated website as an online portfolio or the diary of a project? This way a recruiter can actually experience your past work, and you don’t have to lug a massive portfolio for your next interview.
Your online brand should be showcasing your talents and achievements in a way that the traditional resume can’t. Why tell a recruiter that you are familiar with online platforms, design principles, or communicating effectively in the digital age? Show them your skills!
Be aware of online profiling
When you next apply for a job, someone will be Googling you. We’ve willingly sold all our information to Big Brother, and this is when it can really come back to bite.
In France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, 75 percent of HR departments report that their companies have made online screening a formal requirement of the hiring process. Of the U.S. recruiters and HR professionals surveyed, 70% say they have rejected candidates based on information they found online. Respondents from the U.K. and Germany also reported this trend.
In another study which covered Australia and the UK, profiling was defined as “the collection and use of online information about prospective and current employees to evaluate their fitness for and in the job.” The study found that approximately 55% of organizations now have a policy concerning the practice of profiling.
The study’s authors noted that “around 27% of participants in our study indicated they had witnessed or heard about an employer who had used online information to influence a hiring decision.” So give some serious thought to your online profile, and while you’re there don’t neglect your LinkedIn account!
LinkedIn is more than just a digital resume
According to research by social media management platform HootSuite, LinkedIn is the world’s largest and most active professional networking platform, with over 13 million companies vying for the attention of more than half a billion users. With this incredible online reach, it would be a shame if we were to only log in when searching for work. I hope you haven’t fallen for that trap.
If you consider yourself an industry expert then why aren’t you sharing your insights through LinkedIn articles or updates? If you’re new to the workforce then why aren’t you reading the insights of others? And if you love your organization then why aren’t you championing them and shouting their praises to the LinkedIn community?
Spending time on this professional networking platform isn’t a sign that you are about to jump ship. Rather, it is a fantastic way to contribute to and celebrate an industry and a job that you love and to take the reins as a brand ambassador for your organization.
When the time does come to move on with your career you’ll be glad that you spent the time to build your networks and establish yourself as an informed professional before you went looking for work.
So start at the top of the page, scroll down, and methodically fill out all sections of your profile. Profiles are penalized for being incomplete (although LinkedIn tries to put a positive spin on this by saying profiles that are complete “perform better”). Don’t be fooled.
And whilst you’re filling out information, pay attention to your use of words. When you send out a cover letter you want to reference all the key selection criteria, right? Right. Now apply the same idea to your LinkedIn profile. What does the advert for your dream job look like? Include the types of industry terms that a recruiter would use to describe your ideal role. Think of keywords. Once you’ve done this, enhancing the SEO of your LinkedIn profile, then do the same for your resume. Otherwise, your resume might get thrown out before human eyes ever behold it. Large companies are already using AI for resume matching, and if the relevant keywords aren’t there then it’s off to the scrapheap.
Enhancing your job application with social media
Sometimes we forget that there is a real person reading our resume, and deciding who to hire. We forget that no real person would want to work with the version of ourselves presented in a resume. Think about it. That person is either boring, self-centered, or outright sycophantic.
One of the most difficult aspects of sifting through job applications is trying to get an idea of the person behind the paper. Traditionally, the job applicant only met their potential employer at the interview stage, but these days there are abundant opportunities for you to display your sparkling personality online. I know the younger generations understand what a gift this is – maybe that’s why they’re always glued to their screens? (Though I agree, probably too much). You don’t have to tell people about your achievements anymore and risk sounding like a braggart. Now, you can quietly show people your success.
Social media has also given us wonderful opportunities for networking, and you can do so much more than stalk a company’s website before applying for a job. Through social media, you can “introduce” yourself to a potential employer long before you ever meet them in person or even speak over the phone.
Ryan Holmes, CEO of HootSuite, writes, “Over the last few years we’ve seen many shocking (and embarrassing) examples of people seriously damaging their careers with inappropriate online behavior. But there’s also a flip side that rarely gets media coverage. Using social media the right way can help you get hired and keep your job.”
Career counselors would tell us to hide. To avoid being one of those people with a damaging online reputation. But this is such narrow-minded thinking. Yes, you should give care and think to the image you present online. But you must think about creating a GOOD image, not just avoiding a bad one.
It may sound controversial, but when applying for a job you should place links to your social media accounts in your email signature, resume, and on your personal website. Why? Because even if HR takes the old-fashioned approach to job applications and don’t click on these links, at least you have shown you have nothing to hide. The message you send is that your online presence is an open book.
If, however, your new boss does decide to connect with you on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, then they will get a far richer portrait of who you are than they ever can from your CV alone. This isn’t my preference or opinion. I know from experience that this works! I’ve been in the image game since long before the existence of social media and I’ve watched so many people fail to adapt… until they finally did due to forces outside their control.
Social media is an incredible tool when used in the right way. Learn how to use it to your advantage and you’ll not only kick goals with your next job search, but you’ll also set yourself up for new, exciting possibilities that may not have existed previously.
Let me know what your experience has been, I would love to know.
This article was originally published on The Image Maker Blog.