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8 Ways Marketers Can Improve Their Résumés

Hal Conick

Businessman sitting next to four empty chairs

Résumés aren’t the only thing you need in a job search campaign, but they’re still important.

Marketers are experts at promoting products and services for brands, but when searching for a new job, many have trouble promoting themselves.

“It’s much more personal,” says Brand Your Career owner Michelle Robin, a former marketer who now works as a career coach for marketing and sales executives. “They’re just not comfortable promoting themselves or don’t know how to write about their accomplishments in the right way.”

It’s important for marketers to grow comfortable with promoting themselves, as employees in the U.S. now change jobs more readily than ever. The average U.S. worker changes jobs 12 times during their career, lasting a median four years at each job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A 2018 survey from Robert Half found that 64% of professionals believe that changing jobs every few years can be beneficial, up 22% from 2014.

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While real-life networking and social media platforms such as LinkedIn have become more important for job searches, résumés remain the key marketing tool in any job hunt. But very few résumés stand out to recruiters. According to Glassdoor, companies receive an average of 250 résumés for every corporate job posting; from this pile, between four and six people are interviewed and one is hired. Additionally, most recruiters don’t give résumés much time—Ladders reports that, on average, recruiters scan each résumé for six seconds.

With attention low and competition high, here are eight steps marketers can take to better promote themselves with their résumés.

1. Be Formulaic but Riveting

Résumés can’t be boring, but they must be formulaic to a point. Wendi Weiner, a career and branding coach for leaders and executives and owner of The Writing Guru, says that résumés must have a few things:

  • A Branding Statement: A short, ad-like statement telling hiring managers what kind of value you’ll bring.
  • A Professional Summary: These are quick-hitting versions of the rest of your résumé, summarizing the skills and achievements you will bring to a particular job.
  • Key Career Highlights: These are especially critical for experienced executives, Weiner says.
  • Professional Experience: For younger professionals, Weiner says that education should be higher up on the résumé, then moved further down as they gain career experience.

While everyone’s résumé should have the basics, Robin says that résumés should also stand out from others in the pile. She coined an acronym to help: TRASH. This stands for targeted, riveting, accomplished, succinct and honest. Few people may think of their résumé as riveting, but Robin says it can be done by showing personality.

“The riveting comes in by weaving in your personal brand,” Robin says. “Add a little spot of color here and there. You don’t even have to get all fancy unless maybe you’re a visual artist, but you can do something to stand out from the sea of gray that human resources sees.”

2. Be Succinct

The biggest problem Robin sees is marketers who don’t narrow the scope of their résumé.

“They feel like they’re going to miss out on opportunities,” Robin says. “They feel like they’re leaving opportunities on the table when it’s just the opposite. People don’t hire broad experience. They don’t care about that. They hire people to solve problems. You need to be clear on what problems you solve.”

Weiner says that even the most experienced executives need to fit their careers onto a two-page résumé. An executive may have many speaking engagements, articles published or board experience that could extend to a third page, she says, but they’re in the minority.

The most important rule, Robin says, is to let the content dictate the length. A two-page résumé of fluff will always look bad, but a two-page résumé filled with relevant experience can be a great marketing tool in a job search.

3. Talk Accomplishments, Not Activities

Instead of simply listing what you’ve done in each job, Robin says that the linchpin of a résumé should be accomplishments. An activity may be, “I led 20 campaigns,” but an accomplishment would be, “I increased traffic by 20%.”

The problem for many marketers—especially those who have worked at the same job for years—is that they may not remember specific accomplishments from past jobs. Weiner says that even those who are happily employed should keep an ongoing list of what they’ve accomplished to tell the story of their career.

“It used to be a summary of your work history, but today it’s got to be a strategic marketing document that sells your value in a branded way with storytelling,” Weiner says. “You want to make it results- and achievement-oriented rather than just a boring list of job responsibilities.”

[A résumé] used to be a summary of your work history, but today it’s got to be a strategic marketing document that sells your value in a branded way with storytelling.

4. LinkedIn is a Complement, Not the Centerpiece

LinkedIn will never replace the résumé, Robin says, but job recruiters will always search your name on Google.

“In marketing, it’s important to make sure that your digital brand is out there and that you can be found for what you do best,” she says. “LinkedIn needs to complement your résumé, but don’t ever dump your résumé into LinkedIn. It doesn’t add anything.”

When recruiters click on your LinkedIn profile, they should get a deeper look into your career story and your personality. If there are two candidates who have the same skill set, recruiters may look at each LinkedIn page to see who better fits into the company culture.

Marketers should also have a professional headshot taken for their LinkedIn profile image, Weiner says. Marketers should check that the dates on their résumé and LinkedIn match up. Recruiters will likely see it as a red flag if they don’t.

“Remember: Your LinkedIn profile is your digital footprint,” Weiner says. “Your résumé is only getting seen by a handful of people that you actually send it to, whereas your LinkedIn profile gives you visibility of 500 million users.”

5. Never Lie

Back to Robin’s TRASH acronym: H stands for honest. Never lie on your résumé.

“And people do it,” she says. A 2017 survey by CareerBuilder found that 75% of HR managers have caught a lie on a résumé.

“That’s such an easy thing to check,” Robin says. “It’ll come back to bite you at some point.”

6. Get Rid of…

For years, people looking for jobs would insert an “objective” into their résumé, calling out what kind of position they were looking for. But Weiner says that a résumé needs to be more strategic and instead include a branding statement or professional summary.

Robin agrees and adds that professionals should also rid their résumé of the phrase “responsible for.” “Nobody cares,” she says. “And it’s passive.”

She also advises against long paragraphs: “If you’re looking at more than three lines of text, it’s getting hard to read, especially when it goes all the way across the page.”

7. Leave Out Hobbies and Interests, Unless They Fit

Marketers should leave hobbies and interests off their résumé, unless they’re relevant to the career or show an accomplishment, Weiner says.

“I’ve had clients who have hiked the Grand Canyon, rim to rim,” she says. “That is an amazing thing to actually include in the résumé because it shows a type of determination that you’re not going to see every day. But for example, if your hobby is cooking, sewing or knitting and it doesn’t relate to an achievement for the industry that you’re in, it’s not going to be a value-add item to include in the résumé.”

8. To Start, Go Deeper Than the Résumé

The résumé is no longer the only marketing tool in a job search—many jobs are filled before they’re publicly posted.

“People end up spending too much time slaving over their résumé, wanting to get it to perfection when they should be spending more time networking and building relationships that can turn into career advocates,” Robin says.

Instead of starting a job search by rewriting your résumé, job searchers should start by figuring out where they want to go next in their career, how they can get there and who they know. Then, they can figure out how to revamp their résumé and target their search to the job that they want. In 2016, CareerBuilder surveyed recruiters and reported that 63% say that they want to see résumés tailored to the open position.

“There’s no magic bullet in your résumé,” Robin says. “You need to be targeted correctly for the right job.”

Hal Conick is a freelance writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at halconick@gmail.com or on Twitter at @HalConick.