The stakes have been raised in the job search. Employers and recruiters receive a deluge of resumes every day and in response to every job opening. The online resume databases are packed full with tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of resumes! How will you ensure that your resume will make the cut and that you will capture attention and get the call for an interview? Here are a few crucial tips that are absolutely essential to the creation of a killer, results-generating resume in such competitive times.
Resume Writing Tip #1: It isn’t about you, it’s about the employer.
Yes, I know it is a resume and I know that the traditional foundation of a resume is a listing of your employment and educational history. But guess what? Your resume ISN’T about you. Very few of the actual recipients of your resume actually care where you went to school, where you worked ten years ago, and what training classes you completed last year. The simple truth is that the ONLY reason these facts are useful at all are because they give important clues as to the value you have to offer to your next employer. Keep this truth in mind as your write your resume.
Yes, you should still include the traditional elements of a resume, but that should be secondary. Your focus and emphasis should be on creating content that is employer-centered and focused on how you have the unique and superior ability to meet their needs and solve their problems. Present your facts within this context. This means that you must know your audience, understand their needs, and tell your career “story” in a way that will be relevant to their needs. In this excerpt taken from a resume written by Distinctive Documents, the client was targeting manufacturing companies in distress, and wanted to show how he had the proven ability to turn them around. That was the focus of the entire resume. This example shows just a portion of that resume.
Resume Writing Tip #2: Employers don’t care about what you know how to do. They care about what you DO with what you know how to do.
Qualifications are the baseline for a position, but they don’t distinguish you from your competitors in the job market, and they certainly don’t sell. On the other hand, achievements do sell, but results sell even better. Just telling the reader that you have achievements and accomplishments isn’t very effective unless you present them in terms of the results and benefits they have produced for past employers. Continually ask yourself “so what?” in terms of your achievement. What did you improve, save, increase, enhance, etc? What impact did the work you do have on the companies? While numbers are always best, even if you are unable to quantify achievements, the emphasis should still be on the results and benefits of your work.
For the maximum impact, accomplishments should be presented as concise “success studies” complete with challenge faced, action taken, immediate result, and strategic importance. The reason is simple: what you know how to do (your qualifications, knowledge, and skills) are of absolutely no value unless you know how to put them into practice for the benefit of the organization. Show that you do. Prove impact! Here is an excerpt taken from a resume written by Distinctive Documents that shows this principle in practice.
Resume Writing Tip #3: Illustrate passion. Don’t be afraid to show yourself!
Infuse your resume with your personality and your authentic passion. Forget the self-promotion, the cliches, and the jargon. You want to let the facts speak for themselves, but you want to do so in a way that tells the reader about your personality. Yes, the return on investment (ROI) that an employer reaps from hiring you is paramount, but of almost equal importance in the hiring decision will be the chemistry and the fit. Forget the bland, self-effacing, autobiographical style of resume writing that you may have been taught in college. Let your personality and your authentic personal brand shine through, and illustrate your passion for your job target with succinct success stories that demonstrate to the reader your unique value. By doing so, you will attract the right opportunities – the ones for which you are the perfect fit and for which the corporate culture is a perfect fit for you.
The following is an example of another resume written by Distinctive Documents. In this excerpt showing the profile section of the resume, we chose to emphasize the personality of this “techie” who was unusually people-oriented and outgoing–traits that we expected to be truly differentiating and appealing to the companies that he had in mind. In working with him, we realized he could also be described as having a really “bold” communication style, so we chose to create a design that was equally bold.
Resume Writing Tip #4: Rip your resume in half.
Go ahead. Do it. Print a copy of your resume and then take the first page and rip it in half. Now throw away the bottom half and concentrate on the top half. This is the most important section of your resume. This top half of your resume must be absolutely compelling. It must seize the reader’s attention and draw them in with content that leaves absolutely no doubt that you are the perfect candidate to fulfill their needs and solve their problems. With just a five-second glance at this section, the reader should come away with a crystal clear understanding of your focus and exactly how you would fit in their organization; they must come away with an accurate perception of your brand and the unique promise of value that differentiates you from your peers and competitors. And remember, you must not only tell the reader about your value proposition. You must show them with examples of past accomplishments.
I said it before and I’ll say it again. Prove value! Prove impact! In short, within moments of picking up your resume and without looking any further than the beginning of the first page, the recipient of your resume must come away with the perception of a dynamic, result-proven individual. And, of equal importance, of a professional who has clear career direction, and more importantly, who understands the parameters and challenges of the position and exactly how she will add unique value and a superior return on investment in relation to those challenges. It is a tall order, but with clear, succinct, brand-driven and results-focused writing it is absolutely possible to achieve all of these goals.
In this final example of a resume written by Distinctive Documents, the former technology executive had a unique value proposition, but one that was very hard to pinpoint with a specific job title. Her career had evolved from technology management and now incorporated her passions for improving processes and working with people. We captured this with a branding statement that immediately conveyed her unique value proposition: Leveraging people, process, and technology to bring corporate vision to life. This excerpt, which shows the profile section of her resume–to whole top section of the first page–captured immediate attention and absolutely drew the readers in with examples that clearly illustrated how she would put her talents and personal brand to work for the benefit of the company.
See complete powerpoint presentation of the 4-step guide in writing a killer resume prepared by Michelle Dumas below.