First and foremost, a great candidate with an underwhelming (a euphemism for “crappy”) resume will never even get up to bat, and therefore will never have a chance to show a potential client how great they truly are. So, let’s focus on the resume first.
A resume is ultimately nothing more than a big carrot, and should be designed and written to entice the reader into calling you. It’s no secret that hiring managers and recruiters are overwhelmed with applicants, especially under current market conditions, and it’s not their responsibility to derive the nuanced details of your background by reading between the lines. It’s YOUR job to ensure there is nothing that stands out as a big waving red flag. These include:
- Spelling errors
Do NOT rely on spell check; proof-read. You’re a writer, there should be NO excuse for poor grammar or incorrect spelling. One particular pet peeve: make absolutely sure to double check the accuracy of brand names. If you worked on a brand, you better know how to spell it! (JC Penney, not JC Penny; Barclays, not Barclay’s – yes, I’m that anal.)
- Odd/non-functional design
Your resume should get me the information I need as quickly and directly as possible. Please do not include background images, graphical elements or crazy illegible fonts. Keep in mind that most resumes get read on-screen these days, so use a basic system font that’s cross-platform.
- Check your page breaks
It’s shocking how many resumes I see that have full pages of white space, either in the middle of a resume, or on the tail end. Nothing screams “lacks attention to detail” like that!
Check your timeline to make sure it matches up. Most folks have done a mix of FT and contract work, so some overlap is expected. I usually recommend bulking freelance work together under a specific “Freelance” header. That way it doesn’t end up looking too choppy.
Since I’m reviewing resumes for writers, I expect you to be able to lay out information clearly and cleanly. If your resume looks haphazard, sloppy, and hastily done, it will create serious doubts about your abilities to manage the volume of info I need you to handle.
Now, let’s chat about some things you absolutely want to do with your resume:
- Use action verbs. Action verbs such as “initiated”, “concepted”, and “created” speak far more to your ownership of your role that phrases like “was responsible for”.
- Don’t tell me, show me, i.e. focus on accomplishments: each and everyone of us is tasked with adding value in our jobs. For some it’s easy to quantify; sales people are directly responsible for revenue, for example. For writers, it might be a bit more nebulous, so spend some time thinking about where you made a difference – Did your marketing copy generate $125K in additional sales? Did your blog post get 50K page views in week one? Did your event promotion poster result in a 30% attendance increase over last year? You’ve just added value.
- Name drop: it’s crass, people loathe to do it, but the resume is where you want to name drop like your life depends on it. Have you worked with large brands? Tell me! Show me that someone trusted you with a budget to deliver for a world-famous client! Once again: as a hiring manager I’ve got tons of resumes on my desk, so it’s your job as an applicant to capture my interest. Trust me, a line on a resume that reads: “pitched, concepted and wrote ad copy for Coca Cola’s 2008 Beijing Olympics digital & viral campaigns” will pique my interest more than “2008 – responsible for ideating and creating interactive advertising for a large soft drink brand.”
Dave Benach currently works as a recruiter in the advertising and marketing industry. In his spare time, he’s learning what it means to be an Internet publisher. You can read up on his efforts at www.bmwtuner.net.