Wednesday, December 22, 2010

To Help Your Resume Rise to the Top of the Pile

Unlike when the economy was stronger, I must admit that I am not having great success in helping average and below-average candidates land decent jobs.

It's not easy even for excellent candidates, but these strategies are helping their resumes rise to the top of the applicant pile.

Focus on what would make you better than your competitors for the desired position. Examples:
  • Critical skills not held by your competitors. For example, I had a supply chain manager stress his expertise in sourcing not only from Beijing and Shanghai but also from even lower-cost suppliers: inland China, Viet Nam, and Thailand.
  • Quotes from customers or from your latest performance review. For example, "Jane Jones has the rare combination of brains, great work ethic, and being fun to work with." (from my most recent performance review.)
  • Evidence that you not only have experience critical in the target job but excel at it. Examples:
-- In each of my four past performances reviews, I received the top rating: "Exceeds Expectations."
-- A PAR (problem-approach-resolution) story(ies) that demonstrate your excellence: Our employees were unhappy with our desktop support. I created the concept of "Your Personal Geek," in which our IT staff were assigned to specific employees so a relationship could be developed. Satisfaction with desktop support has jumped.
-- Not a broadbrush statement like, "Spearheaded efforts that saved the company 20%." Even if that were true, few readers would believe you could attribute that solely to your efforts. Better: "Located better sources for components for the XPR video card, lowering the cost 9%, a saving of $64,000, while retaining its low MTBF rate."
You want a concentrated, not a dilute resume. Minimize the number of statements that don't present an important advantage you have over competing applicants: non-critical details, attributes that some of your competitors likely have, and redundancies with statements already in your resume.

Highlight your most compelling advantages over the competition. The top of your resume should usually include a highlights section with three or four easy-to-understand, one-line descriptions of your most compelling advantages over your competition for the desired position. Alternatively, present a one-or two-line summary that makes the case.

As always, I welcome your comments, for example, your favorite strategy for ethically helping your resume rise to the top of the pile.


Becky Washington said...

Edit everything! Once your resume is in the "yes/maybe" pile, you should assume that managers will look you up online and see what you are posting and how you communicate beyond your resume.

You wouldn't submit a resume that was not spell-checked and edited. Your "digital footprint" deserves the same attention.

Certified Prof. Resume Writer said...

What would you do if you client's only problem is lack of confidence and because of that, they're not presenting well and don't have a job? What if a counseling session with them didn't turn up anything in particular for them that would set them apart? What if it all came out only when you began asking the nitty-gritty detailed questions that a resume writer would need answered?

I struggle with this, knowing how much you disapprove. I had a long session with a client -- 4.5 hours -- where I thought I turned over every stone. I dug and dug and dug about all the great things this person had done -- all their skills, achievements, points of pride, unique gifts, etc., etc. Story after story about how he saved the day as a sys admin. But it wasn't until I was in the middle of working on his resume that it came out that he had built a couple of computer forensics labs, had served as a consultant to law enforcement and had presented in front of Janet Reno on telephony security. Basically, I was writing the resume of a cybersecurity expert! I accused him of such, he said, "Yeah, I guess." I said, "Why didn't you tell me that? I notice you say 'risk mgt' in your resume; why don't you use the word 'security'?" He said, "If I put that, they ask me if I carry a gun."

You know what I know is going to happen when I deliver this resume because I've seen it over and over again? He's going to say it helped him with his confidence. He works in a very hostile environment now where they put him down all the time. He's broken.

He really is the best person for the job for the kind of jobs he's going after. He has a unique set of credentials I've never seen before (because you usually don't see the personality of one in the field of the other); the sub-industry he's targeting is perfect for him. The way I see it, he just needs to be brought up to where he should be. He was in a ditch.

Sometimes having your resume put together by someone who can pull out your achievements levels the playing field. It's not like he can't write. He's written tons of IT evaluation reports. But it's very, very hard for him to write about himself because of he's been beaten up so much.

Marty Nemko said...

There is nothing wrong with interviewing a person to help unearth nuggets from his background that belong in a resume. The problem comes in your writing it for him. Not only does that create a misleading impression of the candidate's, writing and thinking ability, it LOWERS his confidence--he couldn't do it himself so you did it for him. Sure, in the short run, he's relieved it's done, but in the long run, he feels he couldn't do it and had to hire someone to create the phony impression he had. As I've asked before, if a resume writer sees no ethical problem in writing someone's resume, why don't they sign each resume they write, "Written by (insert your name) Certified Professional Resume Writer?

CPRW said...

Not phony impression. His self-written resume did not represent the truth about him. I always forget about the "Resume created by..." idea. I'm not against that, just haven't implemented it yet.

Marty Nemko said...

I'd be curious to know what percentage of your clients okay your writing, "Resume written by (insert name) Certified Professional Resume Writer."

Debra Oehlberg said...

Marty, I have problems with interviews because I hate self-promotion. I don't like to brag about all of my successes. I don't want to set someone up so high to think that I am not a real person who also has flaws and has made mistakes along the way. Any advice?

Marty Nemko said...

The short answer is Tell Your Truth: beauty marks and warts alike. A RIGHT employer will welcome you.


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