Throughout my decades-long career as a wealth manager, I've read thousands of resumes, many of them from young job seekers. Almost all of them are plain and boring: Education, work experience and skills — that's it.
The vast majority of them get tossed in the wastebasket. So what should you put on your resume that will actually help you get the job, or at least land an interview?
They're the things that may seem trivial, but that jump out at the person scanning the resume. And despite what you may have heard from career experts, they're the little details that possibly have nothing to do with where you worked or went to school.
Here are my top five resume tips that you've probably never heard before:
1. Include at least one unusual thing about you
Instead of padding your resume with lots of menial tasks, like "client interface" or "presenting sales materials," save room for at least one unusual thing that not even your peers may know about you.
If you're applying for an entry-level job, and graduated with honors in college and wrote a thesis, for example, put: "Honors. Senior thesis on the mysteries of Joseph Conrad."
This will likely spark up a conversation with the hiring manager.
Remember, many of us aren't boring. Don't be afraid to add color to your resume, even if you think it has nothing to do with the position you want to be considered for.
2. Be creative without going overboard
Hiring managers don't want a decked out brochure with bright designs and funky fonts; they want a resume that is easy to skim. But this doesn't mean you can't get a little creative and add a subtle pop.
Several years ago, a young woman just out of college gave me her resume to review, asking for advice. Her dream job, she told me, was "to get a job in advertising."
"What makes you think you'd be qualified for that?" I asked, to which she smiled and responded: "Because I'd kick down a door to get business for the agency that hires me."
I told her she had to think creatively. "Go out and buy a red ink pad. Then order a custom stamp that says, 'I can sell anything.' Stamp that on top of your resume."
She did just that, a little fearfully. But within a few weeks got multiple job offers, and now has a great career in advertising and marketing. She really could sell anything. But it was the stamp that got everyone's attention ... and her foot in the door.
3. Adjectives can be powerful
I once reviewed a resume in which the applicant put "played lacrosse in college."
When I asked her what position she played, she answered, "Attack."
"Why not put 'played attack in lacrosse" on your resume? It means much more to the reader, and it defines you better," I told her. "I want to hire someone in sales who played attack, because it indicates that they are aggressive and have a winning mentality."
The right adjective can paint a powerful picture.
4. Don't leave out that peculiar hobby
I never overlook a hobby that's out of the ordinary — and we all have at least one. But most people don't bother to put it on their resumes because they think it's irrelevant. Or, they're so immersed in their hobbies that they don't find it "unusual" at all.
School radio stations, coin collecting, playing in a heavy metal band, aquascaping — these are all great things to put on your resume.
The unexpected passions — past or present — will get you jobs more readily than academic achievement these days. Never lie about these hobbies or interests, but trumpet them vigorously.
Aside from getting you jobs, they make you look much more interesting than everyone else.
5. Do your homework and email the hiring manager
If you're applying for a job online, it's likely that you're submitting your resume through a web-based portal. Often, that means there's only a small chance that it'll get read by a real person.
So after submitting your resume, do some research on who the hiring manager is so you can email your resume directly to them, along with a note expressing your interest.
Want to go the extra mile? Do a bit of Googling on their interests, where they worked and went to school. This will give you some sense of who they are, and you'll be prepared if you end up getting an interview.
For instance, if you discover that they went to Notre Dame, at some point, you can say, "I always loved that the statue on the your campus is called 'Touchdown Jesus.'"
The interviewer will know you did your homework. And if you can make this person smile, it can go a long way.
John D. Spooner is a wealth manager and best-selling author of several books, including "Do You Want to Make Money or Would You Rather Fool Around?", "Confessions of a Stockbroker," and "No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons to My Grandchildren."
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