Executive white or sandstone? Mist gray or barely blue? It used to be that the résumé paper you chose was also the only way to differentiate your single-sheet biography from all the others vying for your dream job. But as more job seekers take their searches online, and more recruiters troll the Web for candidates, the look of many résumés is changing dramatically.
And why not? You're more than a dusty degree and some work experience lasered onto a piece of crisp white paper. So why confine yourself to an 8X10 format? Take your credentials online, where you can flaunt your talents in style.
"Web-based résumés can engage all different senses, not just reading print," explains Rebecca Smith, author of "Electronic Resumes and Online Networking," and host of the award-winning eRésumés and Resources Web site. "Your audience can choose what kind of information it wants to find out about you."
With an eRésumé, traditional guidelines no longer apply. Go ahead, use multiple fonts. Add some color. And don't just highlight your skills -- animate them. Better yet, create an interactive package complete with sound bytes, hyperlinks, and graphics. The more engaging your eRésumé, the more likely potential employers are to remember your name when it comes time to arrange an interview or extend an offer.
"What you see, you feel; what you hear, you absorb; what you read, you understand. If you have the opportunity to see it and hear it and read it, you learn it," explains Joel Donin, director of marketing for the insurance subsidiary of the World Bank of Canada in Toronto. Donin created an eRésumé as part of a self-promotion strategy at a time when he was unsure of his employment future. As it turned out, he didn't need to seek a new career opportunity -- but he still receives three or four inquiries a week from people who stumble across his qualifications on the Web.
"The medium allows for a great degree of personalization," Donin says. "You can give people an experience, and let them get a sense of your expertise." By requiring a password to access his site, Donin is able to qualify entrants and create a customized welcome page for each. "It's audience analysis," he explains.
A well-designed eRésumé is like a portfolio, a résumé, and a business card all rolled in to one. That makes for a slick presentation -- not to mention a more efficient attack when the job search begins.
"There's no more going door to door and beating the streets trying to sell yourself -- you just put your résumé online," says Richard G. Melfi, a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer with an impressive eRésumé. In fact, when Melfi stopped peddling his skills in person and posted his résumé online, recruiters started pounding down his door. He's now happily employed as a network engineer in Joliet, Illinois. "It definitely worked in my favor," he says.
The strategy also worked for an attorney who followed Smith's advice and personalized her eRésumé by including a photo alongside her contact information. "When she did get a call from a recruiter, she knew that recruiter already had a look at her, which is kind of what happens during an interview anyway," Smith explains. Before she even walked into the interview, she knew she'd made a favorable first impression.
"It gives you a chance to show your stuff," Melfi says. "The whole kit and caboodle." In Melfi's case, his "stuff" included knowledge of Java, DHTML, and Web animation. But even if you've got a host of computer skills to showcase, the golden rule of résumé building still applies: Keep it simple. It might be tempting to fill your opening page with flashy graphics, but some potential employers don't want to wait an extra five seconds while your animated icons download. Navigability is also crucial. As with a paper-based résumé, put the best of what you've got up front and make it easy to move from one section to another.
If you don't have the time to develop computer skills, you can also use one of the many templates available online to help create a simple text version of your résumé. It won't set you apart from the rest of the growing eRésumé crowd, but it will put you head-and-shoulders above all of the paper résumés cluttering the inbox of your future employer.
If that's not enough incentive to start readying your résumé for cyberspace, look to the Web for inspiration. Careerhunters.com features a weekly "Top 10" list featuring the best online résumés they can dig up, and Smith has numerous examples posted on her site. Some of them will dazzle you.
"Most people are still blown away by the World Wide Web to begin with," Donin says. "If it's done right -- if it's done professionally -- people will be even more blown away with what you can do with the World Wide Web."
Sidebar: An eRésumé in Action