There are a lot of people out there looking for jobs these days, so Personnel Managers and Recruitment Managers see a lot of resumes. Is yours working for you, or not?

Presumably you're qualified for the job you're applying for. The bad news is, most of the other candidates are too, so the hiring manager has a stack of applications to go through, and they all start to merge into one another. In fact, some hiring managers will tell you that they get confused even about the candidates they interview.

So, your goal is to make your Resume look different from the rest, but you want to maintain contrast in case it is photocopied or printed in black and white. You also want to showcase your skills, and demonstrate what you can do in a convincing fashion.

Here is the difference a simple change in your resume can make:- Jim had been out of work for several months, persistently applying for jobs for which he was well-qualified, and even with recommendations from employees within the company. He landed a couple of interviews as a result of his networking, but no offers. As a financial planning software developer he felt that his resume needed to look conservative and professional, so he was hesitant to be too experimental, but after all these months and rejections he decided to try something new.

At a job fair the following week, Jim approached several people with his new resume and received enthusiastic responses. Even more encouraging, within a week Jim was called for an interview, and within two weeks of handing out his new-style resume he had a job.

"I can't believe what a difference it made," he says. "I have the same qualifications and experience, I wore the same suit, but suddenly the interviewing committee seemed more encouraging and engaged with me."

What did Jim do to his resume? He included:-

  • Graphics - logos from other companies he'd worked for, and some graphics from projects he's worked on to emphasize his skills and provide a visual clue to his expertise. A picture really is worth a thousand words when it comes to forming emotional links, and they also reinforce the idea that you can use technology effectively - that you're not simply saying 'yes, I can do that'.
  • Testimonials - a few short quotations from employers and managers who are impressed with your abilities and enjoy working with you provide an instant impression of the kind of person you are in the office. No company wants to bring someone on board who has a history of slackness or interpersonal problems, so some positive quotes create a strong impression. Sure, they can (and will) check your references, but some positive affirmation before they hire you is always good.

There is a lot of debate about the appropriate length of a resume, with some people saying that under a page is essential, and others allowing a bit more leeway on the length, but in general my advice is to keep it as short as you can, while communicating as much as possible. Graphics and testimonials can help to summarize your experience while not requiring much reading, so that a personnel manager can scan it and see what you are capable of quickly. I think scannable is more important than short, but make every line of it count.

In an age where presentation is increasingly important your resume will either work for you or it will not. Do yourself a favor and make it as effective as possible.