You’ve heard it before: employers spend an average of six seconds scanning a resume before they decide whether it should be tossed or kept. As a telecommuter, your livelihood depends upon stoking the attention of a recruiter in those few seconds, and the best way to achieve this goal is through modern, effective telecommuting resume writing.
It’s not enough to have raw talent, great experience, and well-developed skills—you need to know how to distinguish yourself from all other remote professionals (i.e. your competition). Your telecommuting resume writing mission, if you choose to accept it, is to not only handle the requirements of the job, but also convince an employer that you can do the job without supervision.
Due to an increasing number of people who are abandoning the traditional workplace for one of flexibility and autonomy, we’ve been ushered into a new economic reality. Work done anywhere, at any time, by telecommuting employees and freelancers, is not just the wave of the future: it’s here now.
According to one U.S. Census Bureau survey, the percentage of all workers who worked from home at least one day a week was a mere 7% in 1997 which, by 2010, had increased to 9.5%. In a more recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, individuals doing work at home grew to 24% in 2015, contributing to an economy in which wage earners are less likely to be tied to their company because of its proximity to home. Other telecommuting statistics, like those from GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, reinforce these numbers.
What Are the Latest Trends in Telecommuting Resume Writing?
Many businesses, including Fortune 500 companies, are now taking the leap to offering more comprehensive telecommuting policies, so to nab some of these great gigs you’ll need an equally great marketing strategy—starting with your resume. In fact, effective telecommuting resume writing will prove to be the essential tool in helping you score your next work-from-home assignment from organizations who are tapping into the many benefits of a remote workforce.
Related: Resume Revival: 6 Creative Ideas from Around the Web
To template, or not to template?
The latest trends in telecommuting resume writing formats call for a redesign, but not a complete overhaul, of the layouts of long ago. Your first step is to start fresh with a blank Word document. Fancy templates may look appealing, but once you have set up your resume using a template, you’ll have your hands full trying to revise it! Templates are notorious for making what should be a simple fix into a time-consuming struggle. Unless you relish wasting time on fruitless pursuits, avoid pre-formatted prototypes and textbox formats at all costs.
The great formatting debate
There’s long been a tug of war between proponents of the chronological format (listing items in reverse chronological order) versus those who prefer the functional format (listing items by function or skill set). One of the most effective telecommuting resume writing formats combines the best of both chronological and functional formats, and is known as a hybrid format. The takeaway? Organization and clarity are crucial, no matter which you choose.
Heading dos and don’ts
List your name and contact information at the top of the page, including one preferred phone number and one email address. Since you hope to hear from employers, ensure that you have listened to and updated your voicemail message.
Distracting auditory elements such as barking dogs, crying babies, loud neighbors or thumping music in the background will automatically eliminate you from consideration. All employers want staff members who understand protocol, but professional behavior is a must-have when the boss is considering you for a work-from-home arrangement.
One last item in the Heading may be a link to either your online portfolio or LinkedIn profile, either of which will enable you to further elaborate on your background.
How Do I Set up the Body of My Resume?
Choose a summary or profile over an objective statement
The trouble with an Objective is that recruiters gloss right over it. Think about whether you would want to hire the person who is
Looking for a challenging opportunity to apply a wide range of skills to a position with a dynamic company allowing me to develop and advance within the organization.
I didn’t think so.
A Summary is more potent in telecommuting resume writing when it does what it implies: Summarizes. The fastest way to make the reader’s eyes glaze over is if your Summary looks more like an essay. Limit what you say here to no more than three brief bulleted items—and make sure you include some telecommuting ‘buzzwords’ that will really catch an employer’s attention. If you don’t, an experienced recruiter will find something more pleasing to read—like someone else’s resume.
Below are Summary section examples that demonstrate telecommuting experience. Note the telecommuting resume writing buzzwords in parentheses:
- Administrative Assistant with over seven years’ experience in financial administration (work performed remotely)
- Marketing professional with ad agency background (telecommuter)
- Social media strategist, technically competent in print, digital and app platforms, and other online communication tools (via home office)
- Multimedia Content Provider with strong writing, editing and time management (online)
- Executive with over 15 years of experience managing remote teams
The next three sections: Education, Experience, and Skills will occupy most of the real estate on your resume. For most candidates, particularly those seeking entry-level positions, fit your background onto one page. For more experienced candidates, a second page may be appropriate.
Related: 8 Ways to Shorten Your Resume and Increase Your Hirability
An education on Education
In the Education section, you’ll list the name of colleges or other schools attended, followed by their locations. On the line beneath, list the exact name of your degree, followed by the month and year that degree was earned (or when it will be earned). There’s no need to list inclusive dates of attendance, as the only thing an employer wants to know is when you have earned the degree. Here’s an example:
XYZ University Charlottesville, VA
Bachelor of Arts in Marketing, May 2016
Honors: Dean’s List all semesters
The use of bold or italics is optional, but will help certain items to stand out. Recent grads can include their GPA if it is 3.0 or above, but if you’ve been out of school for five years or longer, there’s no need to list it. By all means, add Honors such as scholarships, honor societies and other accolades if you have the room for them.
Related: 8 Resume Strategies to Make You More Marketable
Most effectively highlighting your experience
Experience will be the central piece of telecommuting resume writing that sells your brand to a prospective employer. While describing responsibilities and achievements, this section enables you to define what you do that sets you apart from others in your field. Here you’ll tailor the content to emphasize your accomplishments and skills—particularly those relevant to the job you are seeking, rather than the one you are leaving behind—with a nod or two to the fact that you are a telecommuter. Buzzwords will also be welcome in this section.
Start by listing the name of your most recent employer, and their location. Underneath, list your title and the dates, as in this example:
ABC Marketing Kalmazoo, Michigan
Virtual Marketing Manager, February 2015-August 2016
Pinpoint specific accomplishments in your Experience section, into which you’ll also throw buzzwords like “remote” and “Skype” to really demonstrate your effectiveness as a telecommuter:
- Created $25MM media plan for brand of breath mints to increase sales among millennials
- Implemented target market analysis and devised collaborative media strategy, along with remote team, to creatively and cost effectively reach the target audience
- Presented media plan to panel of industry executives via Skype
- Performed research to assist in business development, candidate sourcing, marketing and branding efforts and remotely provided deliverables prior to deadline
- Communicated effectively with project team across time zones and workplace settings
Modernizing the Skills section
Lastly, your Skills section should contain technical skills such as computer programs you use on a regular basis, any proficiency with coding, app software and social media, keyboard speed (wpm), and language skills. Add your level of expertise for each if you have the room to do so.
Years ago, it was enough to say that you were proficient in Microsoft Word and knew a little Excel. Nowadays, the Information Age necessitates that cutting-edge technologies which continuously flood the marketplace make their way into your skill toolbox. As your competition integrates new technology into their own repertoire of skills, there’s a corresponding rise in employer expectations of each candidate’s exposure to and knowledge of these tools.
Lest you think that employers are all about technical skills, check out the top characteristics that employers seek in their remote employees: the ability to work independently, professionalism in virtual communications, self-discipline, a team player attitude, and ability to manage time.
Whether it’s in the Summary, Experience or Skills section, incorporate some of this content into your telecommuting resume writing:
- Ability to set and keep to a schedule, and meet deadlines
- Proactivity and regular follow-up (i.e. setting reminders)
- Conscientiousness / dedication to the organization’s mission
- Independence in performing your work
- Clear, effective communications
- Responding to colleagues’ communications in a timely manner
- Commitment to organizational goals
- Collaboration with colleagues in other locations
- Comfort level with use of technology
Related: Never Include These 13 Things on Your Resume
In her book Becoming the Boss, best-selling author Lindsay Pollack suggests that telecommuters have a “style conversation” to recognize each team member’s communications styles, and, while you’re at it, to convey your own. This is one great idea that you can work into your resume as well; something like:
Streamline remote team interaction by gauging communications preferences.
Your core strengths of self-regulation, collaborative ability and time management should find their way into your telecommuting resume. You can also mention them on your well-crafted cover letter—but that’s another article.
Far-flung workers have been improving many companies’ bottom lines for years while reducing each teleworker’s carbon footprint. After all, if you don’t drive to work, you don’t add to greenhouse gases. This upsurge in nontraditional collaborations is partially due to technology advancements, but is also due to a shift in mindset.
Chuck Wilsker, president and CEO of the Telework Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, has been promoting the benefits of telework for years. Chuck has seen how remote work addresses the needs of both worker and workplace.
A relatively inexpensive and effective means of providing opportunities for non-traditional workers, telecommuting has also been shown to be a critical part of disaster mitigation and business continuity, and lessens our dependence on imported energy. Liberating yourself from a wearying daily commute, traffic tie-ups and parking issues can serve to alleviate the stress that all that shuttling back and forth brings. Throw in some of that beautiful work/life balance we all seek, and telecommuting looks better all the time.
Tips for Navigating Resume Screening Software
Each resume is typically scanned by Applicant Tracking Software (ATS for short) before a pair of eyes ever gets a chance to review it. This helps HR Departments filter through the qualifications of hundreds of applicants. Once the ATS has done its job, the hiring manager has a smaller pool from which to choose.
What important pieces of information are ATS (and actual human recruiters) visually targeting? Among other things, relevant skills, essential qualifications such as degrees and certifications, and areas of expertise. As long as key words are incorporated into your resume in some way, it doesn’t matter whether those words are within your Summary, your Skills section, or in bulleted descriptions within the Experience section.
Due to the nature of remote jobs, your likely competitors may be as close as the next city, or they might be across the ocean. At any rate, there will be a lot of them. When companies scan applicants’ documents using ATS, they are simply trying to make their job easier by limiting the influx of resumes.
To ensure your resume gets past the filter intact, you must find out what key words are being used in your field. So where do you find key words? The best place to look is in job descriptions for which you are qualified. When you read these job descriptions in your industry, you will start to see patterns emerge. As you read, you’ll get better at identifying which key phrases (key words) you’ll need to have on your own telecommuting resume. It’s not magic, but it takes work, and the results will be well worth your time.
Is That All I Need to Know about Telecommuting Resume Writing?
Not by a long shot. Of course, you know to proactively add projects to your resume’s list of assignments as you complete each one. Long lists of completed tasks are not enough to draw a prospective employer’s attention to your brand, however. That’s right; your brand—a unique product called YOU—needs focus, effort, and plenty of marketing.
Your telecommuting resume is the first step in making sure that the prospective employer knows specific things about you—what you stand for, what you bring to the table. Incorporate these useful nuggets into your game plan when setting up your resume, so that you’re at the top of the list of telecommuter candidates:
- Resume length hasn’t really changed all that much in 50 years. Your telecommuting resume should be a one-pager that conveys your abilities and experiences clearly and concisely to someone who doesn’t yet know you. The takeaway? Be succinct.
- Visually speaking, the less you rely on unusual font styles, idiosyncratic text placement and colorful imagery, the more likely that your resume will gain the right kind of attention. The takeaway? Don’t get fancy.
- Since your resume is your marketing material, keep it simple. The Nike motto: Just Do It, got right to the point. Think about whether it would have been as effective if Nike’s marketing people had dreamed up a slogan like Sneakers this Stylish May not help you Run Faster than Everybody Else, but You’ll Look so Good that You Won’t Care. The takeaway? Don’t over explain.
- If you’ve ever been on a blind date, you know the importance of those first seconds as your eyes initially alight on each other. Something similar happens when a recruiter takes a gander at your resume for the first time. Instead of sizing up your outfit, however, a hiring manager is checking out whether you’ve bothered to spell check. The takeaway? Details count.
- Hiring managers scan resumes for viable candidates who know what their organization does. If everything on your resume and cover letter screams, Me! Me! Me! it’s time to shift your focus a bit. Do you know the organization’s mission? No? Have you integrated industry jargon into your resume? No? If you’re not interested in your own industry, what makes you think that the employer is going to have an interest in you, or the work arrangement that you seek? The takeaway? It’s not about you.
How Can I Demonstrate on My Resume that I Can Work from Home?
- Squelching reservations that an employer may have about you is your telecommuting resume’s most important job. Employers want to know whether you have the diligence, self-discipline, and communication skills to ace the job. The importance of detailing these specific things on your resume is huge. The takeaway? Don’t just state—demonstrate that you can do the job.
- Vague and unfocused phrases typically don’t go over well in telecommuting resume writing. If you assisted your supervisor or colleagues on a remote project, bring yourself closer to the action by scrapping the worn-out verb “assisted.” Instead, why not say you “collaborated with remote team in three time zones to reach online fundraising goal of $2500 in 10 days” to really make an impact? The takeaway? Strong action verbs rule.
- With 60% of today’s workforce comprised of knowledge and/or information workers, much of what we do is measured in qualitative terms. Nevertheless, it’s important that you try to pinpoint numbers when you can. Jack Nilles, the originator of the term telecommuter, recognized the difficulty of knowledge workers quantifying their accomplishments in terms of output, because results can be subtle, and less tied to numbers. However, it’s still important that you try. The takeaway? Quantitative measures are still highly prized.
- To you, there are many observable benefits of working from home: increased time with family, greater work-life balance, and savings from exorbitant commutation costs, just to name a few. But to your employer, your self-reliance and productivity are the observable benefits of having you on board as a telecommuter. Your effectiveness and dedication to the organization are good for the bottom line—and that’s your employer’s primary concern. The takeaway? If your boss is happy, you’ll be happy!
You’ve chosen the right vocation at just the right time. With an explosion of technology making home-based work possible, the advantages of pursuing telework are many. While format is important, the factor most responsible for attracting recruiters to your resume is its content.
As an employee who works offsite, you play an integral role in furthering your organization’s mission, so it’s up to you to underscore your ability to do so. Expertise in your industry is the starting point for sure, but as a telecommuter, you must market yourself wisely. After all, your boss is not looking over your shoulder. Your ability to utilize effective, modern telecommuting resume writing to articulate and promote your skill set—and ultimately your value—is fundamental.
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