Let’s put the question of whether you have a good resume aside for the moment. Rather, let’s talk about what your résumé should be doing.
For starters, your résumé is a marketing document. It should lay out clearly what you offer and entice the person reading it sufficiently to meet you face-to-face. The best resumes are custom-made for the jobs they are submitted for; one unique resume made specifically for that single job. As the reader looks it over, they should be struck with how what you offer aligns with or meets their own needs. The more effective you are at making this potential match clear and the benefit they’ll receive in having a conversation with you, the more likely that is to happen.
Now let’s look at this idea of your specific resume being a marketing document. At this point, it would be an excellent idea if you pulled out your résumé so you can look it over as you read on.
Looking at your résumé, does it communicate how the organization you are applying to will benefit from bringing you on board, or does it focus more on how you want to benefit from working at a company? In reality, a good fit will ultimately benefit both you and the organization you ultimately work for, but on paper you put what you’ll bring to the company ahead of your own interests.
This is where many fail. So often I pick up a résumé and/or an accompanying cover letter and all I read is how the person hopes to grow or advance with the company, learn more skills or use the skills they picked up in earlier work places. “Seeking a full-time job where I can grow with the company and develop my customer service skills” is such an example; and a bad one too.
You see, this sentence in the previous paragraph is all about what the person wants and says nothing about what they’ll contribute or add. Companies aren’t in the business of charitably developing people’s talents as their primary business. Organizations are looking for skilled workers who fill an immediate or emerging need. Rather than what can we do for you, they read your résumé asking themselves the question, “What can this person do for us?” Fail to clearly communicate this key information and your résumé will fall by the wayside.
Now, even though you’d like to think otherwise, you don’t have their full attention very long. If they look at your résumé for 8 – 20 seconds on first glance, you’re getting the typical once-over. So how do you make sure that the hour you pour into making this résumé and cover letter are going to get more than 20 seconds of their time? Better Marketing.
Think of any ad you see on television, hear on the radio or read in print. Take a car commercial as an example. Depending on the product, the company will pitch the lifestyle that goes with the car. Whether it’s being environmentally responsible by consuming less gas and emitting fewer emissions, being surrounded by laughing, happy friends or getting away from it all on open, curvy roads where yours is the only car on a scenic roadway, they pitch much more than the metal and steel you buy. Buy the car and you’ll live the experience.
This is a very different approach than asking you to buy their cars so they can stay in business and make more profit selling more cars. That pitch would fall on deaf ears. Why should you buy a car to help a big company make more money? But this is exactly what many people do on their own resumes; maybe even you. The pitch on paper is … hire me so I can develop and grow while you pay me. Again, no sale.
Your résumé, cover letter, thank you letter, emails and interview(s) should all communicate the same thing; hire me and here’s how YOU benefit. If you’re unclear after re-reading your own resume how a company would benefit from hiring you, it’s a safe bet they won’t figure it out either.
Okay still with me? So now you may be wondering how you can guarantee that what you offer will be what they want even when you do make it clear. Good question! The answer is in the job posting itself and in what you uncover from a little research. Sometimes a company will even say, “Here’s what you bring:”, or they list qualifications required and, “What you’ll do”.
One of the very BEST things you can do when preparing to send your résumé is something that very few applicants bother with, because it actually takes some initiative. What is it? Have a conversation with an employee who is doing the job you are interested in. Find out:
- What personal characteristics are most desirable to succeed?
- What are the challenges in the job?
- What qualities do people have that excel in the job?
Research takes some initiative and it separates the go-getters who want to stand out from those who aren’t really all that motivated. If you’re looking for an edge, there are few things you could do better than reach out to an employee and ask to sit down with them and hear about what they do, what they like, the job challenges etc.
A line in your cover letter could start with, “Having done extensive research before applying, including meeting with __________,”