Abhik Choudhury is the chief strategist & founder, Salt and Paper Consulting. He is also a visiting faculty of Advertising & PR at Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Resumes are your biopic and they need to tell your story. That’s the trick. The progression of your experience and education is your exclusive screenplay. How much time do you think a recruiter of a billion-dollar firm today is going to spend on your resume? Global reports suggest just six seconds on average.
With the advent of new Unicorn startups across categories, job profiles like food scientists, video game testers and cosmetologists have started to become a norm and can’t be shortlisted by the HR manager like in the old days of only five major departments. Now even sub sections of each department have more than five specialities. Look at the niche digital marketing division - the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), SMM (Social Media Management), ORM (Online Reputation Management), PMM (Performance Marketing Management) and Influencer Engagement demand varied skills. So if there is anything in that page that your colleagues and peers can copy, and it would still fit them, then replace it.
The finality of first impression
Yes, your resume needs a summary. Start with a crisp one about how you will contribute to their business objectives. And be aware of the need to tailor your summary for every job you apply to. But most importantly, remember to keep the layout clean. The page should feel confident, not chaotic. The spacing should have breathing opportunity; titles bold, previous designations italicised and key takeaway of every experience in the headline sentences. In six seconds, their eyes should be able to cherry pick the star points which demand the reader to slow down and invest another minute to gather the details. Alongside your contact details, remember to add a link to your completed LinkedIn profile; a digital search of prospective employees is a common norm these days. Neatly highlight your courses beyond academia under certifications and end the page with ‘References Available Upon Request’ as unwarranted name drops can be considered anything between brag to nag.
And those of you planning to make a trendy, out of the box layout with heavy photoshop and animation, kindly introspect this one question: Is the template taking forward your skillset in the recruiter’s mind? Like the aesthetic sensibility of a designer and coding excellence of an animator. If not, then skip. Of course factors like, is it a cool startup or an old school MNC (AirBnB vs Hyatt), is it a creative opening or operational (Ogilvy vs Ford), is the brand itself new age or prides in being traditional (Netflix vs Walt Disney) on a case to case basis matter too. But as a blanket rule, if you aren’t entering any field of art, the chances are they want to see your business acumen over the artist in you.
Pro Tip: Do not put your picture as the prospect of likely discrimination has banned the practice already in many major corporations around the world. Another small tip would be to send it to someone you truly admire for an impersonal review before mailing it to the employer. A fresh, honest pair of eyes can make the content leaner and sharper.
A skills-based resume puts the focus on what you can do, not what you’ve done. It’s 2020 and what’s not quantifiable is not justifiable, especially when you won’t be there in person to clarify them. Even till a decade ago the work experience section was a laundry list of your previous company’s job description. Today unsurprisingly, with so many millennial-run businesses and startups, the mandate is to focus on two to three relevant achievements, especially the ones that can flow across categories. Especially helpful while wanting to change industries in today’s perpetually evolving job roles either driven by passion or involuntarily by Covid19 layoffs.
So whilst ‘PoC (point of contact) for dozen global clients’ may have sounded impressive earlier. ‘Partnered on the launch of hospitality and automobile brands from US, UK & France with digital reach of 130+M’ sounds proven and primed for the final interview. Even if you’re from a computer technology background choosing ‘created five HTML5 and two CSS corporate websites in eight months’ over ‘experienced and fast website coding abilities’ makes all the difference to show you deliver.
Buzzwords are buzzkills
Buzzwords are usually unwarranted claims without accountable results to prove it. This isn’t a test of your vocabulary and your resume doesn’t stand a chance to impress the manager just because you used keywords that were in practice two decades ago - “team player”, “perfectionist” and “creative streak”. It won’t work today for the same reason being a ‘social media addict’ in 2020 like almost all your friends won’t make you a social media manager. The era of forced jargons is thankfully dead and the rise of charming clarity has taken over.
Imagine mentioning hybrid strategy as your key skill. Now when the business head during the interview asks you to give an example of the same for his product, you shouldn’t find yourself blabbering. It’s both counterproductive and questions the credibility of the rest of your resume. So if you have to define yourself with keywords go for more unique attributes that paint a more individualistic personality, assisted with delivered examples. Prioritised, collaborative and structured thinking are some of them.
P.S. Hybrid Strategy means to be innovative enough to be a niche differentiator and having controlled cost to capture the mass market simultaneously. Think Ikea.
The inimitable interests section
A generation ago, in entry level resumes hobbies like ‘sketching, reading, traveling’ at the end were commonplace, today a slightly detailed version is used as the differentiating factor even in the mid level ones. With modern recruiters the interests section can be a big bonus to your overall pitch as they are mostly unique! They know an interesting personality can reach where every day diplomas can’t. I remember a resume which stated the sender’s passion for trekking to the Himalayas twice every year. And though his GPA was comparatively slightly lower than two other shortlists, he was the better fit to handle an adventure tourism project with insights that could not be academically taught.
Plus the fact that employers today actively look for multitaskers makes this section more imperative. If you are going to head the social media department, your interest in food photography assures me you might have a better eye for post aesthetics than others. Personal isn’t a bad thing anymore, how many brand pages do you see talking about ‘how great a rapper our HR manager is’ or ‘did you know our pilot is an ex-Ranji cricket player’? Brands want to be more humane and authentic than ever before and so should your resume.
All the above suggestions have been incorporated into this fictional resume of Amelia Ghosh for better cognizance.
Bonus: The perfect cover email
Three decades ago cover letters were a printed and hand signed A4 norm sent to prospective employers. They had the details of your point of contact in the company, mention of a reference if any, educational summary and the description of job being applied for, mostly for documented reference rather than as a creative outlet. Cover letter is your living room, if your resume is the bedroom. It’s a shame then when people treat it like salad at KFC.
Today, most students I meet feel it is a redundant practice and for the sake of formality, imitate a popular internet format sans anecdotes or earnestness (not to mention the biblical error of attaching it as a pdf with the mail and not on the body copy as meant.) Subsequently they lose a great opportunity to stand out in herds of resumes with similar grades and colleges. The modern cover letter is actually the body copy of your email application. In three paragraphs you need to spark inspiration with your sincere desire to work in that corporate. It goes beyond your achievements, it demonstrates passion. Something far more irreplaceable.
“I was eight years old when I took my first swimming class and it has been two decades of absolute passion, meditation and seven state medals. They say the best careers are made of vocations and if that’s true, heading events at Speedo India has to be my calling. In the last seven years I have worked on the events and partnerships teams of an Indian football club and TED India Talks, slowly building my expertise and contact pool for this job I was tailor made for.” If you wrote this on the cover mail don’t you think your consideration for the profile comfortably elevates?
The first recorded resume was written at 1482 by a thirty year old Italian neatly describing in ten odd points what he can do for the Duke of Milan in the future without reveling on what he has done in the past. And this is the biggest employment lesson for any student still. His name was Leonardo Da Vinci.
The writer is the chief strategist & founder of Salt and Paper Consulting