The Purpose of a Resume
FIRST THINGS FIRST — YOUR RESUME IS NOT GOING TO GET YOU THE JOB.
…. But it might get you an interview. So, how about this? I’ll give you about six seconds to quickly tell me what you have to bring to the table. Then maybe we’ll talk.
Unfortunately, that’s about how long recruiters will spend screening your resume. So, if your current resume begins with a detailed account of your education, your accomplishments, your achievements, your history, your personality, and what an all-around-badass you are …. I’m afraid you might be out of luck.
SELL ME THIS PEN
“Sell me this pen.” In the world of sales, the proposition is a trap. The unseasoned novice will immediately focus all of his or her nervous energy on the pen — trying desperately to describe it in the best possible light. The experienced pro knows it has nothing to do with the pen. Instead, it is all about the customer, because you can’t sell anything to anyone until you know who you’re trying to sell it to.
Think of your resume as a marketing device. Its fundamental purpose is to introduce you to prospective employers — showing what you have to offer that sets you apart from the crowd, enticing them to want to know more, and to do all of the above as quickly as possible. But don’t make it about the pen.
So who are you marketing to? As with all marketing, it is important to understand your audience. Do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the company you are applying to, the position you are applying for, and what they are looking for in an employee. Then you’ll be in a position to sell yourself by pinpointing exactly what they need.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Boil it down. Start with a professional summary of your talents and intent. This should be a 3 to 8 line synopsis of what you have to offer. In this section you are proactively painting a picture for the resume reader rather than letting him form that image reactively (perhaps incorrectly or unfavorably). This section is the proverbial first impression, and (if well done) they will see the details of this summary as they continue reading the resume. Ask yourself two questions: 1) How can I convey my strengths and assets as succinctly as possible, and 2) How can I differentiate myself from my peers?
Show don’t tell. Next provide an accurate, compelling, and concise written inventory of your work experience. You want to convey two things in the work history section: 1) your previous responsibilities and duties, and 2) your accomplishments. When describing your responsibilities, make it work for you — focus on those aspects that are most relevant to the position you are applying for. And make sure to qualify or quantify your accomplishments, being as specific as possible with numbers (e.g. in dollars, percentages, time, etc). Show them what they want to see — money made, money saved, and problems solved.
Define your skills. Now you may provide the details of your education, certifications, and relevant skill set. When documenting your education and certifications, be accurate with dates and spelling. And when defining your skill set, make sure they are skills the employer will find valuable.
Resume writing is not a science. But with a little attention and a solid understanding of what your audience is looking for you’ll be able to identify those aspects of your skills, professional qualifications, and specialized education that set you apart from the crowd.