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January 25th, 2011

A New Breed of Resume

Blog Post written by Andrew Turnbull

Here I am, fresh out of school and, after a tiring search in post-recession adland, I’ve landed my dream job in Critical Mass’ exciting Calgary office. From creatives to project managers to developers, from augmented reality to iPad – this is where it all happens, and for some of the biggest names in the business. I was one of many students armed with only a degree and no experience to back it up, so how was I lucky enough to end up here?

I did what I was taught and used digital tools to make a new kind of resume, one that highlighted my marketing skillset instead of my restaurant know-how and proficiency with a cash register. This isn’t a top ten mash-up you’ll read on a thousand other blogs and it’s not a kooky MadMen-esque story from advertising’s infancy. It’s worthwhile advice that actually works; or, at least it did for this (former) student.

By now it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many employers do online background checks to study up on candidates before the actual interview. As a job seeker, it’s becoming increasingly important to manage your online presence. As a result, some opt out entirely, or use an abbreviated name to make themselves harder to find – seemingly a clever response to a new kind of problem, but it’s not bulletproof. After all, others can still write about you or tag pictures that you would prefer they don’t. Information is going to slip through the cracks and when it comes down to it, burying your head in the sand isn’t sound strategy.

A BETTER WAY

A different approach is to embrace new technology and use it to your advantage. The fact that recruiters are willing to do extra research and really get to know a candidate is a good thing. This is an opportunity to add a personal element to an otherwise impersonal job application! Even better, being transparent about your opinions and interests – and showing that you have a functioning social filter – reduces the risk to a potential employer because you’re no longer an unknown. It isn’t a handshake introduction, but it’s the next best thing – and taking advantage of this opportunity is downright simple; include digital content in your resume that points recruiters to tailored social feeds, blogs and profiles.

There’s another perk to using this type of tool though: it makes your application stand out. A surprising number of candidates in the U.S. pay lip service to their innovative qualities, so it seems like this is something employers are actively seeking. The problem is that it’s generally hard to prove whether you’re actually innovative or just think it sounds like a good buzzword. A digital resume is proof that you’re not afraid to think or act differently.

By embracing and controlling the digital channels, you can highlight job skills that will make you attractive to employers. If somebody types your name into Google, it can be difficult to control what pops up, but, if the information is on your resume and easily accessible, you can cut out the middle man and control the process in your own way.

SEVEN THOUGHT STARTERS

1. You’ve got headings for “Education,” “Work Experience,” and “Interests” – maybe it’s time to add a social header to the mix. Some possible titles: “Connect with Me,” “Buzz,” or any other name you like. This is new territory for most so enjoy the freedom of blazing a new trail! For example, I included a short description of my career goals and aspirations under the heading “140 or less.”

2. Use about.me as a single launch pad for your online profiles. Better yet, buy yourname.com and design your own. Giving your potential future employer a single, clean link and placing it in a prominent location will help encourage them to make the cross-channel leap.

3. Don’t dismiss your online contacts. Relationships online, and how you manage them can have an impact in the real world. There’s a lot of noise on a site like Twitter, but you should always try to remember the person on the other side of the screen. I actually got introduced to a Creative Director at Critical Mass through a contact I met on Twitter and something like that can definitely help you get your foot in the door.

4. Blogs demonstrate thought leadership. Good blogs are the result of time spent reflecting on and responding to the problems and issues faced by professionals. Another option if you’re time-stressed is to use a platform such as Tumblr or Posterous to link and react to articles across the web (presumably you’re reading them already so this is fairly low effort). Finally, there’s another benefit to blogging that people don’t talk about often – when you go to the interview, you’ll already have answers prepared for the tough questions.

5. LinkedIn is a no brainer. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve already built yourself an account there, so I’ll just share a few quick pointers. Connect with a few local groups, and if you can make real world contactsthrough those groups then you’re doing better than most. You can also put up an online portfolio if you have some work worth sharing and be sure to get a few recommendations from your peers. A word of caution: LinkedIn has an option to distribute either all of your tweets or some of them. Remember that this is a conservative audience, so don’t blindly dump your Tweets into LinkedIn. The nice thing about this network? If an employer takes a look at your profile, you’ll know.

6. YouTube is more than silly videos. Try creating a personalized interview before the interview (be enthusiastic, but also professional) as an introduction to the person reading the cover letters. Explain why you would be a good fit in sixty seconds or less. Practice, practice, practice and don’t post it until you’ve got your elevator pitch perfected.

7. Consider QR codes (2D bar codes that link mobile phones to a web page) as your call to action on the physical page. If you do, be sure to optimize your profile for mobile and show them you’re on the ball with up-and-coming technology. Also, remember that QR codes are designed to solve a problem in print. A QR code on a computer screen is just a gimmick (unless you have a good reason for switching to the smaller screen).

FINAL THOUGHTS

Connect your online profiles. An integrated strategy works better for marketing campaigns and the same is true with your social presence. Answer questions on Quora, write blog posts about ideas you get from Twitter and put a deck that condenses the topic on SlideShare. Then bring it all back to LinkedIn and About.Me as well as any other tools you’re using. Save clippings of interesting articles using a service such as InstapaperTrunk.lyDelicious or Pinboard.

Remember that there will always be new tools, but sometimes it’s the originals that are most effective. Here’s an example: I made some connections through a local hockey message board because other users began to read my blog. Keep your eyes open for opportunities, sometimes they come from the most unexpected places.

Deciding what you’re going to do with Facebook is a tough call. I prefer to keep it personal, but you might have another strategy – be sure to manage it appropriately because nobody’s going to believe that you ‘get’ social media if they see the pictures from last weekend’s party plastered over the Internet.

Consider your audience. Social Media is a perfect fit for advertising/creative-type jobs or even smaller businesses looking into the social space but in some positions, especially where confidentiality is important, being open could be seen as a liability. In this case do your best to keep an untarnished image online and tread softly.

Lastly, be awesome (seriously). It doesn’t hurt to be human, but you do need to approach social with the same kind of attitude and work ethic that you would the office. Remember that everything online happens in the open and is permanent so try to play to your strengths and always put your best foot forward. Select a template if you’re not a web designer; think carefully about YouTube if you’re not an editor – these are personal selling tools, not magic pills.

Hopefully these ideas will inspire you to build your first digital resume and maybe they’ll be as helpful for you as they were for me. But here’s a closing question for you… What’s the best way to describe this new breed of resumes? Are they Digital, Social or eResumes? Do you think we’ll witness a shift in how job applicants approach their search in the next couple years or is the traditional resume simply an untouchable part of corporate culture? Let us know what you think and good luck in your own job searches!