Rescue Your Resume in 2014 with These 5 Trends

Resume trends are similar to fashion trends – what is deemed ‘in’ one year can be ‘out’ the next. In order to increase your interview success rate, you need to keep abreast of evolving resume advances. How can you make sure that you stand out amongst hundreds of potential job seekers this year?  Apply these 2014 resume trends to rescue your resume and keep it from going out of style.

1. Optimize for ATS

When you apply for a job online, your resume will likely go through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), especially if you’re applying to jobs at medium or large companies. Nearly every Fortune 500 company uses an ATS to process and screen job applications, so you need to adjust your resume strategy accordingly.  Although it is generally recommended that you write your resume in a ‘lean and clean’ format for the human-eye, you need to take a different approach for Applicant Tracking Systems.

Create a separate resume file for ATS applications, preferably a plain text version or an unformatted Word copy, because ATS strips out all formatting and only focuses on content.  The design of your resume does not matter in an ATS, nor does the length. This means you can incorporate more content. You also need to use standard headers like Profile, Professional Experience, and Education to help the system locate important facts. Finally, remember that keywords are critical in an ATS.  This brings us to tip number two.

2. Add appropriate buzzwords

LinkedIn released its annual analysis on The Top 10 Overused LinkedIn Profile Buzzwords of 2013, but not all buzzwords are bad on a resume. In fact, avoiding buzzwords (or keywords) in your resume can be risky, especially if they are featured on the job posting.  Most Applicant Tracking Systems scan and rank applicants according to keywords, so a keyword-rich resume increases your chances of being located and selected.  To get a good idea of which buzzwords may be necessary to include in your resume, pay careful attention to each job posting. Search for industry specific skills and action words in the job description and incorporate these exact keywords into your resume. 

However, you must support these buzzwords with proof of expertise.  Claiming to be ‘innovative, creative, or driven’ on its own is cliché and insignificant. Instead, demonstrate success of skills through related achievements and results. For example: 

  • “Initiated new business development process that increased cold-calling leads by 59%; expanded business revenues by $20M in two years’ time.”  

The above statement demonstrates initiative, innovation, and revenue generation while integrating critical sales-related keywords, such as ‘business development, cold-calling, and revenues”.  Keep your resume results-oriented to increase your chances of passing through the ATS and then catching the eye of recruiters.

Add links to add value

An increasingly popular trend is to add custom URL links on to your resume, directing employers to your LinkedIn profile, personal blog, or personal website to learn more about you.  The content of these sites must be on-brand and polished to perfection, and the information should complement your resume instead of repeating it.  A personal web site or LinkedIn profile can elaborate on work history details, showcase work samples, or divulge more personalized details about your work approach and skill sets, which would otherwise not appear on your resume.  Employ online resources to further sell yourself while strengthening your brand and digital presence.

As with all information you share with employers, ensure your LinkedIn profile is fully complete before advertising it on your resume. Leverage all of the benefits that LinkedIn offers by showcasing samples of your work or related visual content, which may include presentations, audio recordings, or images. To start, select edit mode in your profile and add rich media to your Summary, Experience, or Education sections by clicking on the symbol, as shown below.

  • Add links to your personal website and other professional profiles

In addition to increasing your digital footprint, social media profiles and personal pages tell employers that you are technically savvy, and almost every employer is seeking forward-thinking and leading-edge people to join their team.  As long as your online presence is clean and well-managed, directing readers to professional online profiles can be very beneficial to your job search.  So add some links to your resume.

Adding color, tables, charts, and testimonials is an ongoing trend that is gaining traction.  When you design a human-eye friendly resume (one that you will submit directly to a hiring authority), you want your resume to stand out.  Adding subtle splashes of color or showcasing top points with savvy design elements is critical to getting noticed.  Here is an example of using subtle color and design in your resume header and section headers:

  • Ivan Mathews Resume Example

Ultimately, content is king, but the design is queen. Therefore content and design should work side by side and support one another to command attention.  Using the right balance of design elements on your resume can be the difference between standing out and blending in, but overusing design components can harm your job search.  To start, err on the cautious side and use color, boxes, graphics, or charts sparingly. Use one primary font and keep bullet symbols consistent throughout.  Try adding just one color (as shown above) and research what is typical for your targeted industry.  Certain industries, like the legal industry, are more formal and would not embrace color on the resume, whereas creative design or communications industries are more receptive to embellishments like graphics or colors.  

As the old proverb goes: “too much of one thing is good for nothing” so never let the design of your resume become distracting or overwhelming.  You want the resume to maintain perfect readability even if you add enhancements.

5. Write succinctly yet substantially

When you submit your resume to an actual person (which is a job search approach that yields much higher returns than ATS), you want to keep information short and succinct, but packed with substance.  Short and powerful statements make it easier for the reader to identify key information, top skills, and overall value.  Blocks of heavy text are likely to bury key details, running the risk that your best points are never read.

Finding ways to shrink down content and powerfully position top points are critical to your resume’s success.  For example, take a look at this long-winded statement that a recent client of mine, Travis (a CFO), had in his four-paged resume:  

  • “Finalized auditing of several years of financial statements and cash flow forecasts to locate key information that was presented to bank in application for a $4.2M operating line of credit. Obtained credit line in order to secure new facility that expanded business operations.”   

Now compare the statement above to my new shorter statement, which summarizes the same information:  

  • “Instrumental in securing $4.2M operating line of credit; completed historical auditing of financial statements and cash flow forecasts to obtain new facility and expand operations.”   

The difference between the two points is a reduction in ‘wordiness’. Fewer words have greater impact.   

Travis did not get called for interviews with his original four-paged resume. After cutting away ‘the fluff’ I shrunk his resume down to two pages and he was interviewed by the first firm he applied to!   Increased white space, shorter statements, and easier-to-absorb key points helped the employer locate Travis’s value.