Many signs are pointing to a recovering job market. According to a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal, “The government snapshot of the labor market showed the U.S. created 244,000 jobs in April. The private sector added 268,000 positions—the largest jump since 2006….” That said, the pressure to impress in an improving job market is no less important now than it was three years ago. Merely describing the jobs you have held in a resume is no longer the order of the day. “You are what you achieve!” Unless you are able communicate your accomplishments in a clear, compelling way, you may be missing an opportunity to connect with potential employers.
Time and again I receive well-meaning resumes that describe a candidate’s job duties. What is missing is a compelling description of what the person accomplished for her/his employer and how the employer was helped in furthering its business goals. Employers today want to have a fairly good idea of whether a potential candidate can help them achieve their business goals. Employers want a higher level of certainty. And one of the chief means to ascertain that level of information is through the resume. So if you have performed above and beyond, make it visible in the resume.
Here are several recommendations to help you frame your accomplishments in a form that will get the attention of hiring managers and search professionals.
1. Tightly target to your audience. If your resume is directed to the CEO, use terms that resonate with the CEO or whatever is the management level be it CFO, CAO, engineering manager, CMO, etc. Put your mind into that of your target, imagine what he or she is thinking, and use words that are relevant, meaningful, and able to hit the right nerve.
2. Quantify and qualify. Think long and hard about every job you have ever had and get granular. Consider every time you hit the goal, went past go, or kicked a field goal. Companies want to know that you are able to go for the long ball or measurably move the needle. And if you have details, elaborate. Sit down in front of a piece of paper or a blank screen and do a data dump on every single hit you have ever made. Take as much time as you need, but write down the details and the quantities. If you saved a million dollars by re-engineering some marketing process or technique, write it down.
3. Tell a story to communicate what you have done. Everyone loves a good story, well told. Make your accomplishments come to life by employing words that are action oriented, vivid, creative, bold, and true. If you pitched, sold, and helped effect a major feature article on your firm’s latest gadget in an important publication, explain the challenge and final result in words that are colorful and compelling.
4. Customize. One size does not fit all. Your hit rate is likely to be higher if you customize the resume based on the actual job spec, the hiring manager’s profile, and the company type. So create and maintain a library of all of your accomplishments for every job you have ever held. With a readily accessible library you can then select appropriate examples of your achievements depending on the description of the position and the profile and preferences of the hiring manager, which, by the way, you can likely find on LinkedIn or Facebook.
The resume in 2011 is a far different beast than it ever was. It is as personal as a fingerprint and should truly express your character, personality, and what you have done in your career. Because it is likely the first piece of evidence of who and what you are, make certain that it tells the best story the first time around. You are what you write.
Gerry Corbett is the PRJobCoach at prjobcoach.com and CEO of Redphlag LLC, a strategy consultancy. He has served four decades in senior communications roles at Fortune 100 firms and earlier in his career in aerospace and computer engineering with NASA. He has a B.A. in public relations from San Jose State University and is a member of the International Advertising Association, National Investor Relations Institute; Arthur Page Society, National Association of Science Writers, and International Coaching Federation.
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