3 Oct 2019

Resumes Reimagined – Develop a personal approach to your resume design

Resumes are important because they are how we present ourselves to the professional world. Getting your resume right is important for the same reason that wearing appropriate attire for an in-person interview. You must be able to effectively communicate your professionalism, maturity, and fit for the role before opening your mouth. Humans are visual creatures and if it doesn’t look like you belong in that office then that is what people will notice. Make sure your resume is giving you the best chance of getting hired for the roles and organizations that make a good match for you and the organization hires.

Develop an online professional profile

First things first, you need to have a professional online presence. Your job applications start with your online profile, and here is why; When you hear of some great new coffee shop downtown from your neighbor, what is the first thing you do? You look it up on Google. We use the internet as an additional source to back up the information we have already received about a new business, the weather, or potential hire. People are busy and your interviewers want to learn as much about you before they meet you. Your job is to ensure that what they learn makes them want to put in the extra time to schedule a phone call with you. So, before putting hours and hours in on your finely tuned resume first make sure at the minimum you have a LinkedIn profile and it includes a professional picture and a professional summary statement. This validates you as a mature person and shows you are clear about your goal in applying for your next role.

Make it Stand out – Add color and personality

Your resume is the paper representation of your professional self. If you are a linear, systems minded type of person then your resume design should reflect that. A two-column layout is immediately going to make your resume stand out amongst most and will still be quite linear and sequential. Add as much personality as you feel comfortable with in being a representation of your professional self. Consider a colorful background or icons to represent different headings. Match the design to your personality as well as your goal application environment. If you’re applying to a large financial corporation keeping things more traditional is probably your best bet; whereas a start-up culture may be more interested in someone with a creative side to complement their coding skills.

Nail the basics  –  Make it look professional

Professional does not mean stiff and boring. Professional means consistency, having a theme and demonstrating your knowledge and skill attainment. Use at a maximum two different fonts, one for headings and one for descriptions. Using slightly different fonts for headings helps distinguish them without having to make the text overly large and conserving space on the page. Using more than two fonts is not recommended and where possible using one font maintains the resume’s congruency. This is especially important if you are the “Jane of all trades” type of candidate which has hopped around from industry to industry in your experience. Choose a font that reflects the general traits of your field or is easy to read by most.

The text should never be too small to read from a printed page sitting on a desk in front of you. Depending on font this is usually around size 10 or 11. Similarly, don’t over oversize your font as well; there is some flexibility accepted in the size of your name and you’re professional heading.

Emphasize important or related experience

Make sure to emphasize the most important experiences. Make it easy for a resume reviewer to zero in on the experience you bring to the role. When developing the layout of your resume consider what your goal is with this particular resume. If you’re applying for a graduate school research assistantship, then you should lead with your undergraduate education and any research experience you have. If you’re applying for a professional position, then lead with your work experience. Another consideration is if you should lead with the most relevant or impactful experience. If you do this make sure to orient the review clearly to the order of your listed experiences as people with expect it to be sequential.

Better job titles 

Add descriptions at the end of your job titles to ensure it is clear what you did. At many corporation’s job titles tend to be similar to Associate, Advisor, or Senior Advisor; but these don’t communicate anything about the function you operated in, therefore you need to add some context.

Example: Senior Advisor ~ Senior Data Scientist

Highlight your skills with your description bullets

While developing the bullets under each of your experience headings be sure to specify exactly what you did using language and terms of interest and provide the business impact whenever possible. Showing how your work ties to the bottom line is an excellent strategy. Review the examples below and upgrade your bullets accordingly. Three hard-hitting bullets are better than ten weak bullets.

Example: Built a Predictive model for customer segmentation of likelihood to buy a particular product.

Better Example: Built a random forest model in Python that resulted in an immediate increase in revenue of 5% for that product.

And yes, use bullets whenever possible. Remember making things easy to read and pull information from quickly is respecting other people’s time and communicating that you know how to summarize the important information appropriately. If you can’t make your resume readable how can an employer expect your new app feature presentation to go well?

Gaps in time

Gaps of three months or less are usually a minor issue, however, you may want to consider defining those time periods as the time you learned X-tool or completed y-race, or volunteered and re-oriented your career. Consider whether specifically pointing out the gap by defining it, adds more value than not acknowledging it directly.

All the appropriate pieces and more

Include links to all your relevant places of evidence on the internet. If you have repositories of code and projects on Github then share those on your resume. If you’re thinking of sharing your Instagram account, make sure it is relevant to the role you’re trying to build evidence for in your application. Project portfolios go a long way in communicating both technical skills and overall professional development.

Be Tactical

Once you’ve dialed in the prior listed concerns it is time to test the tactics. Unfortunately, the truth is often those reading your resume at the first stage don’t have the technical background to separate the wheat from the chaff easily; Check your resume’s readability here, ensuring a high level of readability will get your resume to the next step in the reviewer process. In the case of a robot resume sorter, you need to ensure your keywords are getting your resume past the resume bots. Run your resume through the tests on the job scan webpage to spot robot sorting issues.

Get it reviewed

Finally, one of the best ways to improve your resume is to get a reviewer. Someone who has helpful suggestions and can clearly communicate how you could improve your resume. Friends and spouses aren’t always great for this as they may feel inclined to just respond positively. Find an object reviewer and define specifically what you’re hoping to do with your resume when you share it.

About the writer

Aiden Johnson is a Freelance Data Scientist, Mentor, and Interview Coach. He has helped dozens of people elevate their job applications and interview responses to get their dream jobs.

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