In today’s challenging job market, it is not unusual for a hiring manager to receive over 500 resumes in response to a single ad on craigslist.com or cw-network.com Add to that the incredible popularity of and traffic generated by Internet job search sites such as indeed.com or 6figures.com and you are easily looking at thousands of resumes sent in response to one job opportunity.
Statistics like these can be incredibly disillusioning, but before you crawl back into bed and hide beneath the covers, you should know that research has proven ways to drastically improve your odds in the job search game and win a highly coveted interview with the company of your choice. As a career management consultant and coach, I have worked with literally hundreds of individuals ranging from new graduates to middle managers to top level executives and, in most cases, they first came to me with resumes guaranteed to land on the bottom of the “reject” heap.
So, how can you avoid the “reject” pile and dramatically improve your job search success? Simple. Think of yourself as the product and your resume as a television ad or “movie trailer”. A good movie preview or ad piques the audience’s interest and entices them to either run right out and buy that product or make plans to see that movie. They showcase the unique value and positioning of the product and highlight its features and benefits.
Likewise, a well-written and well-strategized resume should prompt the reader (hiring manager) to want to take time out of his busy schedule to set up a meeting with you. Out of the hundreds of resumes piled up on his desk, yours will stand out and win a place top-of-mind. Always remember that when job searching, you are the product or commodity and your ultimate goal is to be bid on by the prospective employer. Simple enough concept, right?
What should your resume include? A resume should highlight your achievements, qualifications, professional experience, skills and education. It should focus on your accomplishments and achievements and clearly showcase your value proposition, preferably in quantifiable terms. Above all, it should answer the questions of “what can you do for me?” and “why should I hire you instead of one of the other five hundred candidates?”
It should not be an inclusive biography of any and every job responsibility you have ever had. As much as we would all like to think that we are truly unique the truth is that hundreds of individuals can do our job. You need to convey why you are the best candidate and the skills and experience that you have that the competition clearly does not. Highlighting your quantifiable achievements will accomplish that goal. Rambling on and on and offering a laundry list of job responsibilities and processes will not.
Directly below your header (name and contact information) should be a professional summary ranging from three to eight sentences highlighting your experience, qualifications, expertise and skills – sort of like a snapshot. The summary should also include keywords or buzzwords endemic to the position and industry that you are targeting.
For example, following is the executive summary for a high-level finance professional:
Accomplished senior finance executive offering tradition of performance excellence with expertise building, leading and advising corporations through complex restructuring, expansion and capital market transactions. Impressive fast-track management career marked by outstanding business development, presentation, negotiation and strategic skills. Valued member of executive team contributing a seasoned, broad-based perspective to create aggressive revenue growth, improved profitability, increased productivity and enhanced internal processes. Expertise in start-up, fast-track growth operations, corporate long-range planning and reorganization, treasury functions and all facets of financial management. Noted as expert rainmaker, forceful dealmaker, and motivational leader. MBA in Corporate Finance/CPA.
Here is the qualifications summary for a OD professional:
Strategy and results-oriented organizational development and technology professional with ten-plus record of leadership success in high performing, global consulting and corporate environments. Areas of expertise include business and management principles involved in OD theory and application and human capital, multi-scale project management, technology, strategic and marketing analysis, resources planning, change and culture management, communications strategy, and performance management development, delivery, and evaluation. Expert in partnering the development of IT processes, policies and standards to achieve enterprise cross-functional strategies, initiatives and goals that guarantee significant positive impact on organizations and staff. M.S. Industrial/Organizational Psychology.
Research has proven that the average person spends about 20 seconds reading a resume. So, why make it difficult for them and get yourself knocked out of the running in the process? Including a well-written summary of qualifications will ensure that the reader (whether a human or scanner) will be able to see your skills and qualifications at a quick glance. Don’t expect the reader to read between the lines. Tell them who you are and what you can offer.
Include quantifiable and qualifiable achievements in the form of an accomplishment statement for each and every job you list. An example of a quantifiable accomplishment statement would be:
“Created and developed Chinese-language magazine edition resulting in a 32% increase in sales and a 7% increase in national market share.”
Another example-this time, qualifiable-would be:
“Developed and implemented customized database designed to manage production needs and track vendor activity resulting in reduced creative expenditures and improved strategic planning.” Always use strong action verbs such as “created”, “analyzed” and “spearheaded” in your accomplishment statements. This is not the time to use weak verbs such as “helped” and “coordinated”.
If you get stuck trying to come up with solid, quantifiable or qualifiable accomplishment statements, just think about all you achieved in your various positions. Did you increase sales? Perhaps you decreased the time needed to solve software problems at the help desk. Did you develop or create a database? Maybe you improved and streamlined an existing storage system or decreased turnaround time in the creative department. You may want to argue with me about it right now but everyone, and I do mean everyone, can lay claim to a number of achievements and accomplishments. You need not have discovered the cure for cancer for the accomplishment to be considered significant.
Remember, you are the brand and your resume is the marketing brochure featuring you, so you want to make certain that you include all of your features and benefits.
Concentrate on your most recent (10 years) experience. This does not mean, however, that if you have fifteen years’ professional experience, you must omit it. It all depends on the type of position you are pursuing. Exclude “I’, “me”, “my” and “we” from your accomplishment statements and professional summary.
Unless you are in academia or a C-level executive at a Fortune 200, keep your resume to a maximum of three pages. If you cannot fit it on two or three pages, you are writing too much of a biography. I guarantee you that nobody is going to read it-no matter how great it looks or how interesting you think it may be. And, of course, check your verb agreement and get another set of eyes to proofread it. The spell and grammar check features of Microsoft Word© miss at least 50% of errors. Use the time-proven editor’s trick of proofreading a document by reading the words and sentences backwards. Why run the risk of being rejected for poor spelling or syntax?
The majority of my clients are uncomfortable bragging about themselves and that is reflected in their resumes when they come to me. Searching for a job is much like the new “three-minute” dating craze. You have to wow them and wow them now or you will not get another opportunity. Your resume is the one time that you can brag to your heart’s content, shout off the rooftops, beat your chest-whatever! Forget what your parents taught you about being humble and not droning on about yourself. Remember what your goal is-to get the interview. If you do not succeed at winning the interview you surely are not going to ever be offered the position.
Remember the 20-second rule: to prolong your 20 seconds of fame, make sure that your resume is also well-designed and uncluttered. Even looking at a cluttered page is exhausting! Think about your favorite magazines and how they make maximum use of white space for higher impact. It will have the same desirable effect on your resume. Never use a font size of less than 11 or margins narrower than one inch. Those of us dependent on reading glasses will never be able to read it otherwise, and too small of a typeface will guarantee that the recipient receiving your fax will never be able to decipher it.
If you follow these rules, I guarantee that you will not only have a more successful job search, you will also be amazed at how much your interview percentage will increase. Writing a winning resume is an art, as well as a science. If after a couple of valiant tries, you find that it is not one of your vast talents, take advantage of the services of a good career coach. It will be worth every penny.
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