If I had a dollar for each time in the past year I’ve heard friends and relatives say they need to find a new job…well… you get the picture. Nevertheless, many are frustrated, discouraged, and just plain tired of the job-seeking process, however necessary it may be. A major obstacle that leaves many job-seekers stuck in their tracks is building a winning resume. A task that more often than not, feels more like a major construction job than a simple modification. The truth is, revitalizing your resume doesn’t have to be difficult, or an obstacle that slows you down as long as you’re revamping it with the correct focus in mind.
Our case study, Sarah, like the estimated 15 million unemployed in the US, was out of work due to the current economic situation. In particular, she was laid off from her prior position and had spent the last 7 months unsuccessfully applying to countless job ads with little to no response.
“What gives? “, Sarah asked herself repeatedly, becoming increasingly discouraged with each resume she sent that immediately seemed to get lost in the job-seeking matrix. She knew many applicants were applying for the same positions she was pursuing and wanted advice on how to make her resume stand out in the crowd.
With a little solid advice, she realized there was a good reason why her resumes were seeing such a lack of response, and it was not because of some inexplicable, resume-consuming black hole. Although Sarah had good professional experiences to build upon for a recent grad, her main mistake was short-selling herself by focusing her resume on the features, rather than the benefits of her prior experience. By looking at her resume from the perspective of the reader, it was clear that she needed to convey why she would be valuable to them, in order to make a lasting impression. To better illustrate this, one such resume advisor, Leo Lam, shared 5 tips for those with similar resume hang-ups:
The 5-step fix:
- Write from your reader’s perspective. Think of the reader and how they would perceive what you write, rather than thinking about what you want to tell them.
- Demonstrate your value. Think first about why you are valuable to them, before thinking about why they are valuable to you.
- Relate prior experience to the new position. What’s the relevance of your prior experience to the new job you are applying for? Think in terms of the beneficial skills that you can carry over.
- Describe your accomplishments. Illustrate why those were valuable to your former employers so the new employers can see that you have achieved measurable and tangible results. (If you land the job you must be able to provide results for them, too!)
- And make it memorable. Employers should be able to finish reading your resume and say “Sarah is a savvy marketer, a detailed oriented person, a team player, a great writer, and is the one we are looking for!”, each one of them being one of your strengths. Repeat these strengths (up to five is a rule of thumb) throughout the resume and cover letter.
Another resume advisor, Fannie Rousset, offered Sarah some simple suggestions on formatting:
- Remove any vagueness in your resume. Be careful not to leave room for confusion in regards to dates. If you worked two jobs at a time, you should indicate this clearly. Also, one should never use the term ‘etc.’, as hiring managers do not know what that covers.
- Summarize your most relevant skills first. Job seekers need to capture the hiring manager’s attention within the first crucial glances, so a brief but powerful summary of skills as they relate to the position is needed at the top; additional skills that do not directly relate, are better placed at the end of the resume.
Simple adjustments such as this make it easier for hiring managers to read through your resume, and be more enticed to do so. Leaving ambiguity causes more work for the reader, confusion, and may simply cause your resume to be tossed out all-together.
By utilizing these concepts, focusing on the perspective of the reader, as well as making some simple formatting adjustments, Sarah was able to revive her resume. She more concisely indicated what position she was applying for, and most importantly, brought relevance to her experience that was directly targeted to the position’s needs. With new ammunition to succeed, Sarah received and accepted a job offer within a matter of a few weeks.
Often-times, reconstructing an entire new resume isn’t necessary. Consider using the foundations of your existing resume, and asking yourself what the benefits were in accomplishing those tasks you listed under your prior positions. What did you actually achieve in doing those tasks? How is this going to benefit the new employer? If you find yourself discouraged, experiencing a lack of responses, or getting stuck, consider doing some simple fine-tunings with these concepts in mind to boost your chances of being noticed so you can get your foot in the door and off to the interview. Happy hunting!
“Before” Resume – Focused on features
“After” Resume – Focused on benefits
In this feature, Jobfully presents the before and after resumes of an actual job seeker. The name of the candidate, their prior employers and contact information have been changed.