Job searching is hard work. Depending on the industry or your career preference, it can even become a full-time job. It’s important, therefore, to utilize all the resources available to ensure that you conduct your search as effectively as possible. Online job boards, intensive and extensive networking, the use of social media, and almost countless “how-to” resources are all at your disposal and you should take advantage of each of them to the fullest extent possible. A word of caution, however: Don’t overlook your resume, the most traditional (and still most important) job search tool you have. Given all of the different aids designed to help you find a job, it may be tempting to assume that a “good enough” resume is sufficient. If you’re convinced that’s true, here are 7 things to remember so that you can write a resume which no one wants to read.
1) One size fits all. You’ve spent many hours to come up with a resume that looks professional, formatted in the style that the “experts” tell you is what employers are looking for. You’ve included all of your educational and work experience, so surely the resume will appeal to any and all employers, right? Nope.
When you write a resume, you are writing to an anonymous reader. If you submit a boilerplate resume, you aren’t likely to include anything targeted to a specific employer. In other words, you’re reaching out to an anonymous reader with whom you are building no connection.
The best resumes are employer centered. Take the time to envision your ideal job and the person you think will do the hiring for that job. Read the job description closely. Parse it so that you can determine the needs of the reader/company and then write a resume to appeal to that person.
2) Don’t distinguish yourself from others competing for the same job. Your reader is confused because you haven’t provided any clarity of focus. Your resume doesn’t describe why you should be hired. You haven’t shown examples of how what you know how to do (e.g., prospect for new customers, manage a staff) translates into the benefits they will produce (e.g., higher sales, increased productivity, cutting-edge products).
You haven’t conveyed a unique value proposition. How do you stand out? What makes your contribution special and unique among your peers and coworkers? Why should the employer hire you rather than one of the other 50+ applicants? Oh, you’ll wait until your interview to demonstrate that? Yeah, not so much if there isn’t an interview because your resume looked just like others who submitted cookie-cutter resumes who will also not be getting an interview.
3) Amateur hour. Your resume doesn’t look trustworthy. Perhaps you believe in the old maxim “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with B.S.”. Maybe you know someone at the employer who is shepherding your application through the hiring process. Either way, you’re pretty sure that your resume is good enough to get you to an interview. Good luck with that. If it is written (spellcheck anyone?) and/or designed in an amateurish way, you will not be taken seriously, no matter who you know.
4) Don’t anticipate objections to hiring you. Ignore the job description. No, really, disregard it. Just base your resume on the job title and what you think that means. That way, you’re sure to miss a requirement essential to the job (specific degree or training) or certain core competencies required for the position.
Do you have gaps in your work history? Go ahead and hope the reader doesn’t notice. Don’t worry about thinking strategically and creating your resume design, format, and wording specifically to minimize the problems and dispel the objections.
5) The proof is in the pudding. You haven’t provided proof. The most significant objection to hiring an individual is often credibility. When you write a resume that simply says you have the ability to do a job, it doesn’t automatically mean you have the ability to produce a result (e.g., increased sales). If your resume does not quantify or qualify your accomplishments, you’re ignoring what may be your only opportunity to illustrate them with numbers or to tell a compelling story. You need to write a resume that puts your experience into context relevant to the specific employer (e.g., Increasing sales 25% and adding $1.2 million to the top line as a direct result of your performance).
6) Pointless content or puffery, both of which are a waste of space (and the reader’s time). If your resume is written to “look impressive”, you’re pretty much assured that it will not impress. Every word in your resume should have a strategic purpose. Don’t include irrelevant data or other filler.
Once you’ve finished it, reread the job description/position requirements again. Think of every component as a question. Does your resume answer each one? And does it include any language not responsive to what the employer is seeking? If so, further editing is in order
7) Zzzzzzzzz… . Boring copy. Write a resume to tell a compelling story of the challenges you have faced, the actions you have taken to meet those challenges, the results of those actions, and the lasting impact you have had on each company. Your resume should engage the reader by creating an emotional connection based on your story.