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Resume Rehab: 6 Steps to Update Your Stale Approach

Man-in-trash-094509-editedA resume is probably the most overused piece of writing in the history of the world. In its evolution, resumes have suffered a great deal of degradation in terms of how they are perceived and used. As I see it, a great deal of that degradation is natural. The inception point, however, is that more and more weight is being placed on the best candidate screening tools versus the actual candidate's skills. 

If you trace the origins of the resume, you'll find that the first ever resume was created by Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482. And, since that time, they’ve undergone a lot of change. From resumes becoming an institution to the digital age of typing, and then faxing your resume (woah!), the process has certainly been a reflection of the times.

Today, people obsess over creating the perfect resume. However, candidate screening tools, like applicant tracking systems or digitized resume scanners, are making this labor of love all in vain. More and more, job seekers are getting rejected -- a lot. As a result, it’s assumed the resume is the first cooperate to blame. After all, what else could it be, right? This kind of attitude is surely the kiss of death for hungry candidates.

Firstly, thinking that a resume is the sole guarantor of a job limits your ability to be open-minded about the possible reasons for rejection.  There is much to learn from every job application, and learning from your mistakes is the first.

Think of how your resume communicates the many facets that make you, you. Does it contain incomplete skills, irrelevant experience or mismatched backgrounds that are consequently pointing you in the wrong career direction? The more you learn to think of your resume as a body of work, the less likely it will be thrown like a stone in a yard.

Still, chances are, you have already crafted your perfect resume. Rather than destructing and re-re-re-making what’s already been done and dusted over, there is an art in how you handle your resume. You can not only change much of the inside (phrasing, layout, etc.), but you can also change the outside. How and where you present information is crucial to putting your best foot forward (on paper that is).


Step 1: Put Down Your Resume

Paradoxically, work on improving your resume starts outside of its borders. Your communication has to be your business card, not your resume. A resume is supplementary, albeit necessary, as a result of the job market. Realistically, you cannot tell an employer that your thinking is just too avant-garde, and that you won’t supply them with a resume. That leads nowhere. You do need a resume, but it’s not when you think you need it, or what you think you need it for. 

Think about this in a real life situation when you are really trying to meet and get to know someone. This eagerness may easily come off as desperate if you’re not worthy of befriending your companion. Ever more so, in the jobs market, such eagerness may come off as irritative or pushy.

When applying to your next position, consider re-thinking your same approach with these 5 tips.


Step 2: Make a Plan

Battles are won before they are started, said Lao Tzu, author of The Art of War. Make sure to pick your battles (job adverts, interviews, communications, etc.) wisely. You do NOT have all the time in the world. Your career lifetime is very limited, and the job search is not merely a game of sending out resumes left and right. Plotting your career takes focus, time and discipline.


Step 3: Look Introspectively

You make progress every time you step into an interviewing room, every time you get denied a job, and every time you make a bold phone call. It surely is easy to get discouraged in this necessary and resource-demanding process. Maintain a cold heart and never stop investing in job search. Investing in a job search is investing in yourself. You’re out there in the job market to do business, and you are the best product you have.


Step 4: Elicit Outside Help  

Don’t be afraid to engage with employers directly. So much of modern communication is restricted. What college grads and inexperienced job seekers don’t initially realize is that a person can approach another individual, regardless of their standing in the corporate hierarchy as long as they have permission to use the other’s contact details.


Step 5: Get Creative (with Keywords)   

Rather than manually going through resumes, HR people actually screen out the ones that might have been perfectly okay just by the words used. I call that playing dirty. Therefore, no reason why you should not play dirty yourself. There is lots of competition out there too. Free-market economy, friend.

This is what you can do to incorporate keywords into your resume:

1. Stack up different related job adverts in a single Word document and use Ctrl+F or TextAlyser to find common keywords.

2. Now with those keywords, you can now craft a resume that will be fit and ready against automatic word-based HR screening techniques. At the same time, you can use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool  to find suggestions of related words you wouldn’t think of yourself.

3. Finally, get yourself a professional creative writer like Upwork to do the heavy lifting.


Step 6: Find Your Inner Bliss

Never say or write more than you need to. The fewer words you use, the more room you leave for imagination. HR generalists want to find a perfect candidate to impress their seniors and, just like anybody else, they fill in the missing bits with their imagination. You can play on that!

Furthermore, regarding which words to use in a resume and which not to use, BusinessInsider reported on the most overused words from year to year. Rather than working on the semantics of your resume, work on semiotics instead, or the between-the-lines sense that a person gets from reading your resume.

Think about the overall impression that your resume makes. Can you make it fit the job, or are you stretching? By taking the time to re-think an old approach, you can make career success a reality.


This article was written by Mike Hanski, who is a freelance content strategist and a writer for businesses in various industries. Feel free to check his blog, or connect with him on Google+

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