What’s Old is New Again: Getting Attention to Your Résumé May Be As Simple As This
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Once upon a time, in a real world far, far in the past, people got jobs by a method apparently unheard of in today’s technological heaven. They typed résumés and cover letters on paper and mailed them through the post office to possible employers’ actual street addresses.
Recently I read an article on line that offered a number of tips to job seekers. One of those tips was to send a paper résumé instead of an email. I was appalled. Although I suppose it was inevitable that most people would take the easiest way, I hadn't updated myself on the new practice of using email exclusively in the job hunt. However, I guess that's the trend. Scary.
As the article pointed out, because of automatic scanning software, your email résumé has little chance of getting through to a hiring manager. Since so few people send real letters, your paper résumé (along with a paper cover letter) has an excellent chance of getting through and read by a human being, perhaps one with the power to give you an interview. Furthermore, with a real letter, you can target the recipient more precisely and perhaps save several steps in the process of getting to the right person.
In my wild and misspent youth, when I had day jobs and went to college at night, I had a couple of gigs as an employment counselor in agencies. So, I learned a good deal about writing résumés and cover letters and about where and how to send them.
I also learned how to cold call to find out what employers wanted in ideal and in acceptable candidates, so that I'd know how to tailor the résumé to fit the job available. One of the things I learned was that tailoring the résumé involved more than just the words. It involved layout and design as well.
It was about that time that something new was developing: some candidates were using nicely designed letterheads, often including graphics, for their résumés. It was more prevalent among candidates who were in the graphic arts and other "creative" professionals, but the trend was even making its way into other fields -- like accounting! The head of HR in one of the firms who regularly hired from the agency where I was employed spent a good half-hour on the phone with me describing some of the new graphic résumés he and colleagues at other companies had found intriguing. Candidates who were astute enough to try to make their résumés stand out were candidates they wanted to interview.
Perhaps we've come full circle today. HR and other hiring management are tired of all the emails. They may enjoy the variety of having something that's actually interesting to look at on the face of it.
The old advice is still the same for paper résumés. Choose good paper; paper that looks like high quality and feels to the touch like high quality. Don't get flamboyant, unless extreme design is part of the job itself. Use subtle colors. Don't use background images -- they're distracting from the text and make it hard for the hiring manager to copy to send to others in the organization. Make every résumé and cover letter you send an original: don't just send someone a photocopy of it.
Get samples and templates of good letterhead and résumés. Or even part with the cash to have a design made just for you. Zazzle.com has a few specific résumé templates, but look at their entire line of letterhead templates for inspiration. Also, GoogleDocs has a number of free letterhead templates made specifically for résumés.
Whether you go for the graphics or just type your name and address at the top of the page, try some real paper résumés. You may finally get noticed and get an interview. Good luck.