Remember when there were only three kinds of resumes? There was the historical, the functional and, for professionals, the CV. Even then, everyone was encouraged to customize their type for the job they were after. However, these days the landscape has changed.
Alternative resumes accomplish the same goal - to stand out, get attention and hopefully get your foot in the door. Not surprisingly, these are just the sorts of things any marketer seeks to do; only you are the product for sale. And this has led to more techniques moving from the marketing and sales side over to the seeking-employment side.
Alternative Resume Basics
Visual - Remember the pretty colored paper and scrollwork on the side of a paper resume? No more! The problem with that was it looked (and was) an unnecessary add-on to what should have been a clean and clear business document. It's still a bad idea.
But what about a brochure or PowerPoint? The difference between these and the tacky pink- paper resume is that business people are used to the formats. Taken directly from the sales environment a brochure that looks like a professional tri-fold is a known quantity. It can highlight your strengths and lay out your selling points.
Idealy, you want to create something that catches the eye and engages much more than text alone. Copy's of your past work or a powerpoint diagram, all capture attention. The downside? Because businesspeople are familiar with either format, they will be turned off by a poor presentation. You are judged by the quality of the presentation as much as by the content.
Video - I would highly reccomend gettin professional help, unless you are a professional videographer yourself. The danger here is inadvertently exposing something you don't want - poor image quality, inattention to background scenes, music, a solid script - any and all of these can effect your potential employers view of you.
The best use of video comes when you have a natural charisma and energy that won't come across any other way. But be mindful that some corporate HR departments are sensitive about images of prospective employees. They don't want to get accused of racial or gender preference and may reject any and all submissions that show a candidate's appearance.
Website - A great choice for anyone who intends to market themselves on the Internet. A website can use visual and written text in combination to show you as a full person - a great advantage when the stats alone on your resume don't show off all of your talents.
The problems come in when you want to customize a fixed site for a specific employer. Perhaps you need to appear like a hard-driving manager type to one and a soft-spoken, friendly advisor type to another. Along with this comes the problem of keeping it fresh. A blog helps present your "inner self", but it needs constant attention.
Finally, a decent website should be more than a throw away template. Design and functionality might mean spending time learning the ins and outs of html and flash. Because Internet savvy employers are familiar with web pages, they will spot an amateur effort and that may not reflect kindly on you.
Professional networks - Sites like LinkedIn or professional groups offer a middle ground for online applications. You can establish a good profile and resume at different sites and link to them. They work best when you are involved in a community in your industry and can actually participate in said community by way of a blog or other material.
Be wary about what personal information you put up. The general rule is to have an offsite contact email that prospective employers can use to initiate contact.
Gimmick - What's a gimmick? Anything and everything that straddles the line between acceptable and over the top. The 30-foot, arm waving inflatable man outside the car dealership is a gimmick. A gimmick gets attention. This can work for or against you, depending on what happens after you get attention.
You can bet that a gimmick will either work wonderfully or fall flat. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground. If there is a lot of competition that is on par with you and the gimmick is well thought out, it can mean the difference between you and your competition. An exmaple of a resume gimmick may mean portraying yourself in a humorous way, and not in the standard "Education/Experience/References" format.
Combination - There is no rule that says you can only use one technique. Sending a memory stick with a short video that has a link to your website - with the gimmick of a huge flash screen welcoming the person you contacted - can communicate your willingness to spend the time and energy to make your best effort.
Don't make the mistake of sending a CD to someone who doesn't have the time or interest in watching a half hour movie about how great you are. Keep it as simple as possible. There is one advantage paper has over electronic media - everyone knows how to use it.
That said, don't be afraid to push the envelope if you know you are dealing with a technologically savvy person or company. Showing you already know how to use the medium tells employers much more than a line on your resume that says computer literate.
Memory sticks are a better choice than CDs as they can be reused. They have a value all their own and people are less likely to just throw out a thumb drive.
Check your website and profile in different browsers. Pay attention to font and layout. An online resume is not the same as a paper resume. Bullet points and links give you the chance to shape the experience for readers.
The best case for alternative resumes is when you can demonstrate something the employer is seeking right in the resume itself. While you can rely on your alternative resume getting more eyeballs, you still have to deliver on your promises. Remember, the idea is to sell yourself to prospective employers/customers. Keep an eye out for anything new that might fit you. All the rules of marketing apply.
Brendan Cruickshank (Vice President of Client Services) - Brendan is a veteran of the online job search and recruiting industry, having spent the past 8 years in senior client services roles with major sites like Juju.com and JobsInTheMoney.com. He is quoted regularly as an expert in employment and jobs trends in major media outlets like the Washington Post, US News & World Report, and Forbes and has spoken at recruiting industry events such as Onrec and Kennedy Information’s Corporate Recruiting Conference.