Don’t bury the lead & other job tips from SXSW

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I recently had the pleasure of attending the interactive portion of SXSW last week in Austin. To say that it was overwhelming would be an understatement. With an estimated attendance of nearly 25,000 people there to learn, connect and talk about technology, there were so many sessions I wanted to attend that putting a schedule together made my head spin.

However, one of the sessions I attended offered some great advice on today’s digital job hunt. If you have no time to read the rest of this post, then just take away this piece of sage advice: Don’t bury the lead.

Don’t know what that means? “Burying the lead” comes from the old journalism principle that you should start with the most interesting and unique part of the story to grab a reader’s attention, versus “burying” it behind less important or secondary information.

Don’t bury the lead
You should also apply this principle to your résumé. Place your most relevant and interesting experience at the top. If you find yourself struggling to make your career tantalizing for a recruiter, always remember that substantial, quantifiable successes prove your abilities. Don’t just list out your day-to-day duties.

Remember, your résumé is the first opportunity you have to make an impression on a recruiter or hiring manager and should be strong enough to entice the employer to schedule an interview with you. Consider that the employer likely has a few minutes tops to review the résumé, so get to the point of why you are an outstanding candidate right away.

Supplement skills with your social passions
The panel went on to discuss that one of the keys to standing out is by identifying your social identity (via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) and syncing your social persona and passions with your résumé to create a stronger, cohesive online identity. When you can tie your passions into your career objectives or show how those passions are related or help you in your career, you are seen as the “whole package.” Skills are one thing, but to find a passionate employee who can fuse it all together – that’s a person who truly stands out.

Interview advice
In addition to the talk about résumés, there was some discussion about interviews, and the key takeaway was similar to what we always recommend: practice, practice, practice. Be able to speak through examples of your résumé and expand upon the statistics or figures you’ve used by telling how you achieved those results. Watch a video on the Do’s and Don’ts of interviews now.

Hear employers give advice on how to differentiate yourself from your competition in our expert advice video series:

Some other insights we took away from the session:

  • Reaching out to an employer to ask questions about a job shows your engagement, and employers respond to that. But know the line between asking questions and harassing, because too much of the latter could get you blacklisted.
  • Understand the context of the role and company you’re applying with to know how much personality to infuse into your résumé. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t go too wild — be aware of the company’s culture.
  • Personality of your résumé should be through the content more than the design –don’t rely on design as the sole way to show your personality to a potential employer. Many times the designed résumé is great for the person who may be your boss but may not make it past the HR person’s desk.
  • Know that employers are going to look you up via social media and through every search engine. Anything you put on the Web is public and permanent. It’s important to remember this as a job seeker. Pretend you are hiring yourself and see what a Web search turns up. Set up a Google alert for your name and know your online identity.
  • Always check the links in your résumé, and call the number on the top of your résumé to ensure it’s the right phone number and that it works. Proofread everything and triple check your work. Have a friend or mentor proof your résumé, because many times they can help identify what you should put at the top.
  • If you have to use or submit a text version of your résumé, include the Web address to your designed résumé at the top.
  • Make your keywords count – great point from the panel that skills are “like SEO for HR people and recruiters. HR folks searching through résumés only have the keywords they’re told to look for. To the final decision maker, they can show career trajectory, curiosity and an ability to learn.”
  • If you live and work on the Web, your résumé should be online. Always have multiple versions of your résumé ready (Word doc, PDF, ASCII, etc.)
  • Use your cover letter as the place to tell your story and be brief.
  • Consider adding a passions section with links to prove your interest in the position, company and how those passions align with your profession.
Final Thoughts 
Each of the panelists gave a final thought, and I thought I would share each of their insights here:
  • “Professional and personal lines blur into one another; show me how they intertwine.” – Carla Borsoi, vice president, Consumer Insights and Analytics, AOL
  • “Remember you’re telling a story. Don’t bury the lead.” — Kristy Duncan, senior program manager, Bing Social Search, Microsoft
  • “Proofread, proofread, proofread. Repeat.” – Jenn Jongsma, director of production, Annual Reviews
  • “If you want to work on the Web, you need to live there.” — Kevin Lawver, CEO, Music Intelligence Solutions

What other questions do you have for us? If you would actually like to listen to the presentation, visit the SXSW page now.

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