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Resumes Adapt to the New Media

The rules for resumes have changed.

August 16, 2007
from Accountemps

As have so many things, professional resumes have evolved to catch up with the Internet age. For job seekers, updating a resume — or creating one from scratch — involves discarding some restrictions from the past and adopting a few new ones. Here’s how you can take advantage of the new world of job applications by mastering resume guidelines for the 21st century.

You can use more than one page. Formerly, it was inadvisable for your resume to exceed a single page unless you had a long career with a variety of employers, and many executives still think a one-page resume is best. In a recent survey by our company, 52 percent of executives polled said the one-page resume is optimal for staff-level applicants. But almost as many — 44 percent of respondents — now prefer a two-page resume. This is quite an evolution; when we conducted the same survey 10 years ago, only 25 percent of hiring managers thought a two-page resume was acceptable.

Using more than one page does not mean you no longer need to be concise and targeted in what you present, however. Prune anything not germane to your specific job search. Leave off personal, biographical details and omit items from the distant past.

Format your resume for electronic transmission. Previously, job seekers printed out resumes on good-quality paper and sent them through the mail. Today your resume is more likely to live out its life electronically, posted to job boards and company Web sites or sent via e-mail to a hiring manager.

Sending your resume as an attachment is not a good idea, since some virus protection systems quarantine attachments from unknown sources. Instead, paste your resume within the text of e-mail messages or onto a job board or employer’s Web portal using a plain-text version that has no formatting codes. And make sure each line is limited to 72 characters — many e-mail programs wrap text using that limit.

Incorporate keywords. Your resume may be one of thousands that are scanned into a database and searched for keywords relevant to that opening. To have it survive the filtering software, use keywords that are likely to be accepted, such as terms describing specific tasks or responsibilities you have had. Examples include budgeting or cost accounting, languages you speak or write and certifications you’ve earned. Your job title, such as tax accountant or internal auditor, can be a keyword.

Customize your resume for the position you’re applying for by including terminology from the job description. For example, if the position requires specific computer systems you have had experience with, mention them by name. Integrate keywords into the text of your job descriptions or your career goal, but make sure they fit the context. If you pepper your resume with obvious keywords that stand out, it will look contrived.

When choosing keywords, be aware of spam filters. Watch out for words that could be taken as suggestive or sound like a sweepstakes or marketing promotion. These may trigger a spam filter that consigns your resume to the junk e-mail folder. So, for example, instead of saying you “won awards” or “prizes,” you could note that you were “formally recognized” for your accomplishments.

Use video resumes with care. Borrowing a tool used in the entertainment industry, adventurous job hunters create short videos of themselves in an effort to portray a positive impression. In fact, several online job boards have special sections featuring video resumes. But job seekers should remember that any video posted online can develop a life of its own. In a well-known example, a tasteless, poorly-conceived video resume sent to an investment banking firm became a widely circulated joke.

Employers, though intrigued by the possibilities of video resumes, are not universally ready to embrace them. Many human resources professionals won’t even accept applicant photographs for fear of lawsuits claiming discrimination; they are understandably leery of video resumes. These presentations are better accepted in creative industries like advertising and public relations; applicants in more conservative professions, such as accounting, are safer using the traditional resume.

Although many of the rules have changed, resume basics remain in force: Be concise, represent your experience fairly and clearly and edit for typos. Maintain a professional demeanor and show your interest in the position by following through with an e-mail or phone call. With an up-to-date resume, you’ll present yourself as a forward-thinking applicant who keeps abreast of developments.

Accountemps is one of the world’s first and largest temporary staffing service specializing in the placement of accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The company has more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com.