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July 22, 2011
How Do You Plead? Qualified, Your Honor!
 
In a court of law, one is considered innocent until proven guilty; but in the trials (forgive the pun) and tribulations of unemployment, it is very important to recognize that one is presumed unqualified until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.
 
How often has one read a job description and said, “I am perfect for that job?”
 
It is virtually a guarantee that dozens, if not hundreds, of others also read the same description and uttered the exact same phrase. Yet, only a lucky few will receive any positive reaction from their resume submission beyond a confirmation email that one’s application has been received.
 
The sad truth is that each individual is likely lying to him or herself with these declarations. There is a problem, though, and it was highlighted in the recent courtroom drama in Orlando: What may seem apparent on the surface or circumstantially obvious to any reasonable onlooker does not always generate the most logical of conclusions. You still have to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt.
 
Irrespective of one’s personal beliefs as to Casey Anthony’s guilt or innocence, the inevitable result of the case seemed incredibly unlikely based on the way she was portrayed in the media. This should have been a slam dunk — it seemed as “common sense” a case as could exist.
 
Similarly, it is very reasonable for one to make the assumption: “How could anyone look at my education, background, and experience and not recognize that I should be their number one person of interest in this matter?”
 
So, how does one prove his or her case?
 
If your resume is Exhibit A of the evidence, then your cover letter is your opening argument. With both, details are going to reign supreme: remember that allusions, allegories, and blanket statements carry very little weight. Conclusions are reached through concrete evidence alone and something is not necessarily true just because you state or even restate it to be.
 
Data and details, specifically numbers, are excellent ways of reinforcing your initial argument — that you are the best person for the opportunity. Statistics and financial calculations add excellent bolstering to your case, often providing the ability to answer both what your suggested skills are and how you have demonstrated them. One can claim that they streamlined processes for a previous employer, but if there is no numerical representation, it is simply hearsay.
 
To a certain degree, almost any number can work: Can you quantify an accomplishment in months, years, dollars and cents, percentage increases or decreases, even a number of employees? Even projections may be acceptable at times. If one is stuck, consider revenue increases generated, budget surpluses created, or employees you trained who received promotions.
 
While it is true that any quantification is better than none at all, the more frequently one can translate results into monetary figures (if at all applicable to the position for which one is applying) the more impactful the detail. That is, unless the relevant or relative percentage appears more impressive.
 
Witnesses that can corroborate your story may also prove very crucial to proving your case. Having some references readily available, therefore, has the potential to add a lot of support to your argument of being the best candidate for the opportunity.
 
Having professional or even character references not only puts you in a superior position to those of similar qualifications who do not have them, but it also proves certain intangible qualities, like the ability to build positive relationships in a professional manner and in a professional environment. What many do not recognize is that a very powerful decision factor for a hiring manager (and frequently the ultimate decision) is whether one would or would not fit into the company’s work environment or culture. These references also shift your “case” from being circumstantial to a material one: this person actually “saw you do it.” He or she witnessed you accomplishing your stated achievements.
 
Any misstep, any error in your details, may throw your entire case out of court, however. It is crucial, beyond anything else, that your case is not only comprehensive and conclusive, but free of mistakes upon which the opposition can capitalize. Customizing a resume to a job description and covering all of the key demands is invaluable, but eliminating errors in spelling, punctuation, or personal details (i.e., email, address, phone number) is supremely mandatory. After all, your jury is looking for precedence in your behavior, not your method of contact.
 
Much like a conviction, one’s resume getting recognized is never a guarantee, but odds should always be improved when possible. Hopefully now it will become more possible to have the opportunity to make one’s closing arguments face to face.

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Jared Kohn is a marketing professional in Tampa, FL who spent five years studying consumer buying behavior with top companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Sprint. More recently, he has developed both regional and national new product launches for Coca-Cola.  Contact him on LinkedIn or friend him on Facebook.
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