Many people approach writing their resumé with a long list of “woulda-shoulda-couldas” based on what they think a resumé should include. Stop to consider the process that your resumé will go through on its way to landing you a job, and you’ll realize there are no rules, but there are smart things you can do to increase your odds.
First food for thought: There are hiring managers who will reject a resumé instantly if they find typographic errors or misspellings on their first scan. Read on to learn why.
What is the purpose of a resumé?
If you’re like most people, your first instinctive answer is “to get a job,” and you’re wrong. Likely, nobody was ever hired just based on the resumé they submitted. There are many more steps before you actually get a job.
You might answer “to let a company know what you do,” and that is the answer many others assume. The problem is if all of them are simply informing hiring managers about themselves, they probably all look the same, and so will yours.
You Are Worth Meeting
The simple truth is that the role of your resumé is to clearly convince hiring managers that you’re worth meeting. An effectively developed resumé, one that really rocks, is only meant to earn you the interview. That’s it. Nothing more. But that’s a lot! Here’s why.
The Resumé Reality
How many resumés do you think the typical hiring manager receives in response to the typical job posting? Depending upon the position, the company seeking to hire, and several other factors, anywhere from a few dozens to a few hundred, in some cases to a few thousand resumés may be submitted. Bet you suddenly think it's totally hopeless if you’re only one among thousands. Again, you’re wrong. If your resumé truly rocks, it will make you stand out from the crowd and capture the attention that leads to the interview.
Some companies still have reviewers or screeners take the first pass through all the resumés received so as to eliminate as many as possible before they are submitted to the hiring manager. These are often junior people who won’t be nearly as sophisticated as the hiring manager, so your resumé will have to be readily understandable to them for you to make it up the line.
Many companies are adopting automated reviewing software to help cull out the unlikely candidates. Many of these simply compare words and word pairs in the resumé to words and word pairs in the job description. This suggests that you make sure you use the words and word pairs found in the job posting in writing your resumé. Pay attention to the little things! If the posting says “international” experience, don’t use “global” in your resumé instead. The scanners will reject your resumé.
Many of these automated systems pass the accepted resumés on in text only. That means that all the fancy fonts, formatting, and tables you used to make your resumé look awesome will shoot you in the foot.
Your goal is to make your document as easy to read as possible for the reviewers. Clarify everything, even your name, if it’s hard to pronounce. Clean, crisp text without excessive formatting makes for a clean, crisp-looking document. The simpler it really is, the better. Provide a professional email address from a current provider—no AOL, Earthlink, Netcom, etc. Your resumé is all about tomorrow, not yesteryear. Be sure that your LinkedIn URL is clear and sensible. Many hiring managers will seek deeper information from that profile, so be sure it’s complete and compelling.
Unless you’re pursuing a graphic design position, the hiring manager is not looking for the best layout. They are looking for the best candidate.
How Do You Define “Best”?
Here’s a very difficult concept to confront but very important to embrace. Since they don’t know you, it’s a great bet that the hiring managers and screeners don’t care about you and your history. Don’t write an autobiography. Don’t craft a legal document. They simply don’t care.
They only care about one thing; hiring someone who can make very significant contributions to their company and its profitability. That’s right; it’s all about them and what they need. Your resumé isn’t really about you. It’s about them, what they need, how you provide it.
Think in terms of the best, most effective marketing you’ve seen. Everything about it tells you why you want what is being marketed, what value it will bring to you. Your personal marketing brochure, your resumé, must do that for the hiring team.
Good is Not Good Enough
Describing ways in which you can benefit a company isn’t difficult, but it isn’t enough. You must also answer the question, “what is it you provide that others don’t!” In other words, what makes you special? What makes you stand out from the rest? What unique value do you provide that others cannot? Think about your degrees and certifications. If they are the same ones any other candidate pursuing the same job would also have, they’re useless to your campaign. They don’t differentiate you. They don’t make you stand out.
This may be the hardest part of crafting your resumé, but doing it successfully is the key to dramatically increase your odds of getting the interview. List everything that’s GREAT about you that would be valuable to a company that hires you. Then review each item you’ve listed, asking yourself, “Is this true only of me and not others?” If your answer is no, scratch it off the list. What you’re left with will be your sustainable competitive advantage, your secret sauce, your specialness.
If nothing is left after your review, start over and list more.
The Past is Prelude
The “Objective” section of your resumé may be the most important statement of all.
If your “Objective” begins with “I’m seeking…” or any other phrase that talks about what you want, you’re not going to get maximum impact. Your Objective must be focused on the future. Hiring managers don’t care about the past beyond what you’ve proven you’re capable of. This is your opportunity to translate your capabilities into high value for them. Value nobody else can deliver.
Your job history is really only important as far as it shows you to be a rising star. Hiring managers want to hire rising stars, people who will continue to rise within their company, successful people.
Describe What It Is, Not What It Was Called
Nobody will care much what your actual job titles were. List each job by describing what you actually did and the value it brought. Emphasize that over the name of the company you did it for. Describe every position in the context of the value you brought to each company, not just the activities you were involved in. Results really do speak louder.
At All Times Remember That Your Resumé is Not the Most Effective Way
Your resumé arrives as a document, perhaps on paper, more than likely digitally. Many people will read and review it. Each brings their own biases and may reject you for reasons you’d never dream of.
Many candidates have discovered that personal networking is a far more effective way to pursue a new position. How would you prefer to be introduced to a hiring manager; through a written document or by someone the hiring manager trusts who tells them all about you and how great you are? Yes, networking connects you more solidly to opportunity than anything else.
Until you have the right contacts, your resumé must clearly convey who you are and what you do. It must convince the reader that you bring tremendous value to their company that other candidates simply cannot. It will be far more effective when you offer proof of your claims which will convince the hiring manager that they must consider you further. That’s the fulfillment of the role of the resumé.