Employment Writing AdviceEmployment, Writing, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated
2003

Slant Your Résumé Toward Success

There is no job harder than selling yourself. Therefore, it is vital to focus the skills and experience on your résumé, so that document will do a good job for you in the marketplace.

Résumés today need a new approach. The level of competition in the job market is intense. Sending a "canned" résumé does not work as well anymore because there is too much information circulating in the Information Age and too many people with excellent credentials chasing the same positions.

Writing a good résumé can be tough as nails, or it can be an ongoing learning experience. Always remember that a résumé is a marketing document. Company recruiters' task is to look for what they need, rather than trying to fulfill your personal career ambitions.

Also, remember that for most managers, time is an enemy. You must sell yourself not only well, but also quickly. If you can succeed at that two-pronged task, you will get noticed. You will get that phone call, that interview, and that offer you want. Additionally, you'll gain the bonus of having your communication skills recognized by your next employer, and that's no small benefit to your career.

So what do you need besides the résumé basics we all know and have used? There are three definite "tricks of the trade" that can help you immediately:

  1. Focus your résumé on your strengths.
  2. Slant your qualifications to the specific opportunity.
  3. Mine your background for the unique details in your life that have prepared you for this position.

How to focus your résumé to communicate your strengths

This part is easy: look to accomplishments, not merely responsibilities or duties. While major responsibilities handled on a job are important and should be mentioned, the real key to getting your background noticed is describing what you accomplished as a result of having those responsibilities. For instance: You trained a sales force, so how did the sales force do? You headed a consulting team to solve a major organizational problem, so what were the outcome and your contribution to that outcome? You started a new branch office, so how well was it received? Your organization had bad customer service, so how did you turn it around? You were in the military, so what did you do that can transfer to a civilian position?

Slant your qualifications to the specific opportunity

Be sure to detail the specifics of your achievements, i.e., your publications, your promotions, your initiative, your sales records, your ability to train, and your ability to manage, create ideas, and help your employer be successful. In other words—slant your résumé to results and concepts that worked. You can't expect prospective employers to make assumptions about what you have done well. You have to tell them.

Edit your résumé every time you send it out. Regularly review your qualifications, so the details you pick will be the best possible match for each position. Never include everything you have ever done in your life on one résumé using a shotgun approach. Such an approach will overwhelm the employer or the recruiter. Pick your best experience and accomplishments for each opportunity. Focus the information, so it reflects well on the specific opportunity that you want to grab. For instance:

  • If you are not applying for a teaching position, don't stress your teaching experience. Instead, stress the management aspects of being a teacher.
  • Design focused sub-sections to highlight what you have done (bullets work well).
  • Focus on specific skills you can bring to a new employer. Examples of good subsections are Professional Qualifications; Technical Skills, Computer Skills; Internships and Seminars, Certifications; Communication Skills, Management Skills, Publication; Teaching Credentials, Research Experience, Consulting Expertise. (The topics here are as broad as your imagination.)

Mine your background for the unique details in your life that have prepared you for this position

Finally, mine your background for the professional skills and experiences that are hidden or forgotten or not presented fully on your résumé. Such skills can be volunteer work where you managed people or handled money; part-time jobs where you learned people skills; school activities where you learned self-discipline; or travel that expanded your view of the world. Always work to communicate your special qualities, those that make you uniquely able to handle the job you want.

It's important to design your résumé, so it reflects you as a person and a future, valuable employee. In order to do this, consider using the following as guidelines:

  • Use your résumé to speak for you, a mentor that will communicate a precise, exciting picture of who you are and what you can do.
  • Use your résumé to focus on the opportunity you want right now, not a job you want ten years from now.
  • Use your résumé to slant your experience and training, so it best fits your next employer's most urgent needs.
  • If necessary, design several focused résumés, each of which applies to a certain job arena. Make a list of the industries where you have competence and pick the most appropriate experiences and details for each field.
  • Use your résumé to focus on the lemonade in your background, not the lemons of past disappointments. Be careful of age references, track experience timelines to be sure that are representative, and don't include names and contacts for references (they change and you want to know who's talking to whom).

Today's résumé should be a creative, living document, a helpmate that changes and grows with you, as you move through the job search process to career success.

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