With hundreds of thousands of people looking for jobs and the employment situation as competitive as it has been for decades, finding a job is not easy. More people are applying for each job opening than ever. And the rivalry among highly qualified candidates is tough. So, being the “right” person for the job does not guarantee your success. What matters now is how you sell yourself in the job search to those with the power to hire you. When all else is equal, it is how job seekers market themselves that is important.
To sell yourself to hiring managers, you have to stand out from the crowd and attract their attention. And your first and main tool to do this is your resume. It is the first point of contact a prospective employer has with you, and if it is not interesting enough for them to follow up on, your chance of getting the job ends then and there.
Look at the question of how you sell yourself to hiring managers from their perspective. A hiring manager is like a man buying a car. The model he is looking for will depend on what he needs to use the car for. The types of candidates he will put in the first short list are those that fit the job description. But after deciding on what type of car he wants, he will look to get the best car of that type that he can. He doesn’t have the time to test drive each one so he relies on brochures and reviews to help him decide. In the same way, the hiring manager cannot meet each candidate. He will use resumes to decide which candidates are best and only they will be called for interviews.
Just like a car buyer, the hiring manager is spoiled for choice. But, he also knows how to quickly separate the grain from the chaff. The resumes he keeps aside for further consideration are those that meet his specific requirements – the ones he consider to be the best and the ones that convince him that the candidate understands and can meet his needs. It is their opinion that counts and that is why knowing how to use your resume as a marketing tool to sell yourself is so important.
Hiring managers look for:
- Clarity of language and expression. A resume that requires them to re-read any part of it to be sure they understood it, is a less-than-effective resume. Everything must be clear and unambiguous.An old trick that some hiring managers utilize is to use a red pencil to put a tick mark next to every positive point in a resume and a cross next to a negative one. Unclear points have a question mark next to them. Often, the candidates called for interviews are those who exceed some minimum number of check marks or the five or ten best in terms of check marks. The crosses are not counted and neither are the question marks – this makes them as bad as the crosses. In other words, being unclear is as bad as having something negative in the resume. That’s not the way to sell yourself!
- Conciseness of content. Most hiring managers do not have the time to read full resumes – they get far too many. They will usually read the first half page and go further only if what they have seen so far interests them. Even that first “read” isn’t really a full read. Many just scan quickly for key points. But whether read or scanned, even if they do go ahead, their attention will quickly begin to fade.The most important qualifications that make you suitable for the job should be emphasized at the beginning of your resume. Additionally, the entire resume should be written and presented in a way that makes it easy to scan and come away with the most compelling and important information in 30 seconds or less. Know what differentiates you from your competition in the job market and sell that. Accomplishments and results sell. Don’t waste the hiring manager’s time by going on in detail about job responsibilities. If you do, you will lose them.
- Provide relevant information. Provide pertinent qualifications and past accomplishments that illustrate how you are the ideal candidate for the job. Providing irrelevant information will cause the hiring manager to think that you do not understand the specifics of the job you are applying for. This is not the impression you want to make!
- Use bullet points to provide the critical information about why you should be considered for the job. You shouldn’t write a “polka-dot” resume that is nothing but bullet points. But, used selectively and strategically, hiring managers appreciate bullet points because they help to call attention to key qualifications and accomplishments.
- Tailor the resume to the industry and profession you are applying for. While you should be careful not to overdo it, using some industry jargon and buzz words will help the hiring manager realize they are dealing with a candidate who understands the open position. While a complete discussion is beyond this post, industry jargon and buzz words are also important when your resume is entered into applicant tracking systems, so that it can be recalled and brought to the forefront during keyword searches.If you are not from the industry you are applying to, take the trouble to learn and understand a bit about it, and find ways to incorporate pertinent keywords into your resume. Using keywords correctly in the resume can help you to sell yourself to hiring managers, but incorrect usage or stumbling over them in an interview will often spell the end of the road.
If your resume succeeds and you get an interview, the same principles of being succinct and to the point apply. Experienced hiring managers will have formed an opinion based on the resume and if at the interview it appears that the person in front of them does not match the picture the resume creates, they will begin to wonder which one is the real applicant. And the last thing you want, when trying to sell yourself to hiring managers, is to have them confused about you.
Finally, when trying to sell yourself in the job search, do not try the “take a chance on me” approach. People forget that the reputation and professional standing of hiring managers suffer if the people they recruit are found to be unsuitable. With so many people out there who can do the job, they have no reason to take a chance on anyone. Why should they take the risk? You need to sell the fact that you are the best person for the job – one that cannot just do all that is expected, but also someone who brings value to the employer and will be a long-term asset to the company.