Eliminate the Noise from Your Resume

There is more than just TV vying for our attention today.
Radios, TV's, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, rss feeds, newspapers, magazines, books, and not to mention good old fashion people all vie for our attention on a minute by minute basis throughout most of our lives. That is a lot of noise. Most of us expend quite a bit of mental effort just sifting through all that noise to get to what is important. 

This is something I have been grappling with lately. I am regularly looking at over one hundred articles a day in my reader, along with pages of social media to monitor. The sheer volume is getting to be a bit much. Therefore I am ruthlessly taking a hatchet to much of it. Over and over I keep asking myself: what is important, and what is just noise?

Turning down the spigot of the information pouring into my life has been freeing, and it got me thinking about other aspects of our lives where turning down the noise would be beneficial. Then it hit me. The same principle applies to your resume. The difference is that this noise isn't affecting you, so much as the one who has the power to hire you. And recruiters are not going to expend the effort. You have to.

You have probably heard much of the advice before: 

You only have ten seconds to impress someone with your resume.

Keep it short- one page per ten years experience.

Don't list job descriptions, list accomplishments.

These are all well-heeled nuggets of advice for a reason. They work. However in the digital age and in a time of recession they become amplified. Just as the information age has buried us under a mountain of data and text, so too have recruiters and employers been inundated with applicants and bloated resumes. So, the question becomes, how do you make only what is important on your resume stand out?

Three Steps to Turn Down the Noise on Your Resume

First, decide exactly what job you want to apply for. Each position is going to require a targeted resume, so chose a job. Don't say "Sales" if what you really mean is "Software Sales" or "Car Sales" because each position is going to require unique terms and phrasing on your resume. Now, look at your resume an eliminate any jobs or background info that is not directly related to your intended position.

You may have done an excellent job as a preschool teacher for the first couple of years out of college. However, employers are much more interested in how you landed large accounts for an ad agency, or how you consistently sold above your monthly goal amounts. Taking valuable resume real estate to detail jobs that are not related to what you want to become is folly in the current job market.

Second, take a cold, objective look at the rest of your resume. The goal of this edit is to get your resume onto one, to one-and-a-half, pages. Take a hatchet to it. Don't fret over it, just cut. You can always add information back in later if need be. What you want to do here is get down to a bare bones version.

Every resume will have unnecessary noise on it. You just need to know where to look. Are some of the skills listed in the summary outdated? Do you have professional development listed in the education section that is more than ten years old? Do you have excessive information about the companies at which you were employed? All of this is just noise drowning out your accomplishments. Cut them out.

Third, reformat your resume so that it will be easily scannable. The end goal here is to create as much white space as possible. Do not list multiple phone numbers and emails. Never use paragraphs of text when a bullet list will do the job. Use tables and columns so that text is properly aligned and easy to scan. Do not include references. 

You want clean lines and current content. By clean lines I mean a document that is not afraid of white space, is easy on the eyes, and can be scanned quickly. A resume is like an advertisement. If an ad is cluttered it will often be skipped or key information will be lost in the excess verbiage. Current content means that the last ten years of employment should be the focus. In an economy that evolves as fast as ours, employers very much have a what-have-you-done-lately attitude.

Do yourself a favor and cut down on some of the noise in your life. And while you are at it take that old resume and give it a newer, cleaner, more current look too.