Understanding a Resume

There are three key issues to understanding a resume. They are The Audience, The Author and The Content. Each of these components requires careful consideration when developing your resume to ensure that you achieve the best possible results. At times such as now when the job market is tight it is more important than ever that your resume stands out from the crowd. Remember a simple rule, Less is More, you would not tell all on a first date, you would tell enough to make yourself interesting and the same rule applies to writing your resume.

The Audience in this case can be either human or mechanical and we have to consider both of these entities. We also have to consider another scenario, that of networking where the resume is used as an introductory tool rather than as a direct job application. In the case of the human audience we are most often considering a recruiter and secondly the networking contact. The recruiter is usually busy and pushed to giving each resume the briefest of scans. To overcome this issue we need to make the resume easy to read, so easy in fact that the information jumps off the page straight into their mind. Long, complicated sentences in the opening summary can jeopardize your chances of having your resume passed on to the hiring manager. The mechanical audience is usually some form of scanning system that is looking for key words. The objective is to make sure the correct words are in your resume.

The Author can either be the person who is the subject of the resume or someone who is employed by that individual. Every time that you show your resume to someone else and ask for their opinion your will receive constructive criticism. There is a fine line between constantly changing your resume for the needs of the opportunity you are chasing and doing it because someone else has made a comment. When choosing a writer to work with make sure that they understand you and your goals, this is not a five minute exercise but requires multiple conversations before a satisfactory result can be obtained.

The Content is the most important piece of the puzzle. This is normally divided into 3 main sections, The Summary, Experience and Education. There are many variations on this theme but in essence the goal in all resumes is to know your target position, research it carefully and focus your resume on answering the needs of the company. The Summary is where you make your first impression; this is the area where you have the first 20 seconds of the recruiters time. Make the best of this and deliver a clear, easy to read section. In the Experience section we are dealing with your accomplishments, we are looking for thoughts and ideas that make you stand out from the crowd. The final section, Education is where we list College and Corporate training information unless we have recently left school where we may also list our High School information.

In summary, a well written summary section focused on what you can deliver to an organization, an author focused on building a great resume that is focused on them and a content section that demonstrates your strengths and accomplishments will provide you with the finest resume.

Remove “soft-skills” clutter from your resume.

Would you ever dream of writing on your resume something like “takes long lunches”, “fears change”,  “is lazy” or even “argues a lot with peers”

Then why do a lot of job seekers feel they need to communicate their soft-skills to the employer to make them appear unique. Lets face it “soft-skills” are claimed by nearly all job candidates and are so common that hiring managers virtually pay no attention to them.

Soft-skill phrases to avoid:

  • excellent communication skills
  • goal-driven
  • strong work ethic
  • multi-tasker
  • personable presenter
  • goal-oriented
  • detail-oriented

Get the picture? Using these tired old phrases is going to bore the reader and just clutter up your resume.

It’s much more effective to write descriptions that are action-based and demonstrate these abilities rather than just laying claim to them; show, don’t tell.

For example, rather than just stating you are an “excellent presenter,” you could say something like “Developed and presented 50+ multi-media presentations to C-level prospects resulting in 35 new accounts totaling $300,000 in new revenues.”

Simon Clay Michael at VirtualJobCoach.com

Related Posts:

Always use the strongest Action Verbs in your resume

How to write a resume – Achievement Statements

How to write a resume – Summary Statement

Writing a resume – where to start. Part 4

Writing a resume using this easy approach will now let you focus on the last two remaining pieces, namely: the summary statement, and your achievement statements.

So which do you approach first?

Here’s my suggestion: since your summary statement is a distillation of all your achievements, start with your achievement statements first.

Once you have all your achievement statements written, you’ll find writing your summary statement easier.

Remember, your achievement statements need to start with a powerful action verb (full list here) and include a numeric measure of that achievement (e.g. 20% improvement or doubled sales etc…).

Each achievement statement will tell the reader what skills you used, and it’s when you look back over all these skills you’ll see common themes emerge. This way, when you write your summary statement it will be aligned with your achievements.

But what if you wanted to write your summary statement first, and then write your achievements? that’s o.k., just make sure that your summary statement speaks to your achievement statements and vice versa.

What I mean by that? probably best if I use an example:

Say your summary statement speaks to you being a great supervisor, when you write the achievement statements, they need to show your skill in supervising others and the achievements you and the team had.

One last tip, don’t feel constrained to just write one achievement statement, or summary statement for that matter, write as many as you want to describe the same thing. You can always pick and choose which ones to use later. For now, just write as many as you can.

12 Days of Job Hunting. Days 9 to 12

9th Day. So far we have written a resume, developed our marketing pitches and constructed a networking list, moving forward we are now going to start building our target company lists and add some other items to the mix including cover letters and some general tips. The primary task for Day 9 is to identify a list of organizations that you wish to target as potential employers. This is important at a number of levels, firstly it provides you with a focus, and you are not shooting resumes every which way rather you are focused on networking your way into an organization and insuring that your pitch, resume and cover letter (coming soon) are targeted. We are also going to use this list as part of our networking activities.

10th Day. The days are rushing by and as we call or email our network contacts our primary goal is to set up meetings either in person or if that is not practical by phone. With our target company list we can now provide a focus to our contacts on the types of people we are trying to connect with. Often when we ask the question “who else should I be talking with?” you are met with a blank stare as your contact has not been prepared. With the target company list we can now provide this information in advance and have a better chance of success in getting that elusive next step. To summarize, Day 10 is focused on setting up networking meetings and from now on we should allocate a portion of the day to setting up those meetings. Set a weekly goal as to the number of meeting you need to make in order to build out your network.

11th Day. Let us now start stretching our wings and adding some additional tools to our arsenal. As part of reaching out to our contacts it is necessary for us to utilize as many tools as possible and LinkedIn dot com and Plaxo dot com are two well known and business focused web sites. Build out your profile and connect with ex-colleagues from previous employers. This works just as well if you are employed and looking for the next great opportunity, make sure that your digital profile is out there and up to date. Recruiters troll the networking sites looking for strong potential candidates and in my experience I have seen senior level appointments being made as a result of these profiles. Our final piece of marketing collateral is the cover letter. Many recruiters will tell you that they never read it and they are a waste of time, others will say that they are crucial to the decision as to inviting the candidate in for an interview. As we are unable to determine which recruiter is which from an advertisement it is better to err on the side of caution and prepare a strong letter that clearly lays out your qualifications for the position. The worst that can happen is that is ignored.

12th Day. The last day in our program, this day is being devoted to summarizing important To Dos and adding some addition tricks and tips.

1. Create a professional email address; barefootwrestler @ xxxxx dot com does not portray a great impression.

2. A resume is not a chapter in a book. Focus on information that is relevant to your future employer. They do not want a life story. Ensure that your industry key words are in the resume.

3. The cover letter should clearly lay out your qualifications for the position.

4. The “Why I am no longer with?” and “Tell me about yourself” pitches should be practiced and focused on delivering success. No criticism of previous employers.

5. A solid list of contacts to build your network is vital.

6. Create a list of target companies.

7. Build your digital profile (You own your brand, make it work for you)

8. Set achievable targets and keep to them.

9. Network, network and network.

10. Success is directly proportional to the amount of effort you invest.

Good Hunting.

12 Days of Job Hunting. Days 1 through 6

1st Day.  This is the time to start a plan, do not run round in circles shooting out resumes to every company you have ever heard of  like some crazy paper shredder on steroids. To use the old saw, failing to plan is planning to fail. Make sure you know what your target job is. Create a financial plan. Make sure you have signed up for unemployment if appropriate. Organize an office space at home where you can block yourself away from other distractions. Remember that finding a new job is a full time job.

2nd Day. Having created the plan now is the time to start building your marketing materials. Start with sketching out a resume (for help visit www.virtualjobcoach.com). Decide on the type of resume; is this a chronological or functional resume? How hard do you want to make the recruiters life? Make the summary section at the top easy to read and compelling. There is no reason to explain your life history, keep it simple, and make it easy to say YES to you. Writing a great resume takes time and you will need to revise and review a number of times before you get it right. Check the spelling, check that grammar what you wrote, and most of all get at least one or two other people to check it out as well. This will take you in the region of two or three days so we will pick this trek up on day 5. While you are working on this also think about the other components of your marketing strategy, these include your cover letters, letters to recruiters and networking profiles.

5th Day.  The fifth day sees us straining at the reins, anxious to be out there smashing down doors and leaping tall buildings. Our first decision today is to think about where we might want to post our resume. There are many thousands of web sites where you register and post your information, there are some where you have to pay and there are some where you need to create a Bio and then send your resume along when someone expresses an interest. Choose the site that best matches your interest, register with recruiters who specialize in your area of expertise. Now take a short break and spend some time with family and friends, you have worked hard for a full week and developed the marketing kit that is going to make you successful.

6th Day. Sitting back and waiting for prospective employers to come knocking at your door is probably not going to work. Now is the time for you to start thinking about networking and research. Start by making a list of everyone you have worked with, think about members of groups that you know, this could be a social, religious or a professional organization. Everyone you know is a potential lead to a new position. Day 7 is going to involve some more marketing information you need to create but let us start with the networking list first. See you on day 7.

Good luck

How to write a resume – Work History (part 2)

Most people find the achievement statements to be the hardest part of the work history section to complete. For each position you’ve held, you need to have a number of achievement statements that show the both the skill and the level of ability. Part 1 refers to the employer and positions details

Work History

Achievement statements describe the skills you have and the result of applying those skills. When constructing achievement statements, write them with a focus on the needs of the position, this will make it easier for the reader to understand how you will be able to help them, and address the needs they have. Each achievement statement will need to provide the reader with 3 pieces of information; what you did (the action), to what or whom (the focus) and the positive affect you achieved (the result).

What you did – describes the action you took, such as “negotiated”, “designed”, “constructed” etc. Use the strongest action verb you can as this will catch the readers’ attention.

To what or who – you may also add in here the context to the statement, for example time or money constraints especially if it helps to highlight the level of skill you’re describing, and can directly speak to the needs of the open position.

The result – what impact did you achieve. The strongest achievement statements quantify the impact. Choose either percentages or numbers depending on which one makes the result more powerful. Statements which include a number quantifying the result are more powerful than statements without them. For more senior positions all your achievement statements need to be quantified.

Creating achievement statements.

There are essentially three steps to creating achievement statements:

Step 1.

List all your achievements for each position. Don’t worry about the wording in this instance, we just want a list of achievements. To help you identify your achievements, think of times or events when you have been successful. If you get stuck, try going through this list to jog your memory:

  • Job Description: Since you want to show the new employer you can do the job they’re advertising, use their job description to guide you. Ideally you want to come up with at least one achievement for each requirement they have.
  • Performance Reviews: If your previous organizations conducted regular performance feedback reviews or appraisals, look through your those.
  • Feedback: Can you recall times when you received positive feedback or praise about some work you did? Capture what the feedback focused on and the context in which it was given.
  • Think back: When something may not have been documented, think back to times when you have felt good about an event or action. Feeling good about something usually indicates an achievement.

Step 2.
Review each situation and capture the problem, the context or situation, the actions you took, the skills used and the outcome achieved.

Step 3.
Take each statement and tweak it, keep tweaking and polishing each achievement statement until you get the final version. Make sure your sentences start with a powerful action verb.

Example:
Sales: Nurtured the existing customer base achieving a 20% increase in sales per customer.

Business Development: Increased customer base by 150%, and driving a further $2m in revenue through successfully identifying target markets.

Customer Service: Achieved a 98% customer satisfaction survey rating consistently for last two years and reduced the number of customer initiated contacts by 8% year on year.

Negotiation: Influenced three Unions to accept and support a revised pay scheme reducing costs by 5% and increasing margins by 4%.

or

Sales: Cultivated a positive relationship with each customer, keeping them aware of existing promotions and new products.

Business Development: Analyzed industry players, identified target market and successfully established a contact and relationship with each target organization

Customer Service: Maintained a 99%+ call quality rating without increasing average call duration.

Negotiation: Successfully negotiated several rounds of discussions, over several years, with employee groups covering topics such as overtime, performance appraisals and disciplinary and appeals processes.

Tailoring each resume to match the particular needs of each position may take more time, but will be worth it in the long run.You’ll often find that you used more than one skill in certain events or situations. Rather than discarding these, consider creating additional statements that display each skill. You can use the “category” to label which statements relate to which skill.

Managing all the different versions of achievement statements can be a challenge, but by using VirtualJobCoach all your achievement statements can be saved in the “My Resume Data – Data Sheet” and, with a single click, inserted into a new resume.

Why not try it out, sign up now and create a resume.