This is the first of two resume writing articles. This article’s focus is on issues that an inexperienced resume writer needs to consider prior to putting pen to paper, while the second article will examine the mechanics of today’s most effective resumes.
Writing a superior resume, one that will stand out in a large group of competitors, while showcasing your key qualifications and experience, is one of the most difficult writing assignments we tackle in our adult lives. Consider the complexity of the task – in one or two pages, you have to convince the prospective employer that your qualifications, experience and accomplishments warrant an interview for a position that an employer values at sixty to one hundred thousand dollars annually, not counting the cost of benefits.
To be successful in this complex task, therefore, will take time, effort and a clear understanding on the writer’s part of what is essential to the target audience – the prospective employer. This understanding can only be achieved by occupational and industry research that focuses on our areas of interest. Today, employers are most interested in resumes that highlight answers to the following questions: “Why Should I Hire You?” and “What Company Problems Are You Going To Be Able to Fix?”
Hence, today’s most effective and successful resumes are not “catch-all” documents, reciting every detail of the candidate’s job responsibilities and accomplishments since he began work twenty or thirty years ago. An effective, successful resume is a focused and targeted document, with a clearly defined and concise objective, summary of qualifications, work experience and accomplishments (chronologically or functional skill based), with key education and training qualifications, with an optional section discussing miscellaneous related skills or personal items.
While a resume has a variety of uses, its principal function is a simple one – to convince a prospective employer or interviewer that you have the requisite skills, experience and specific accomplishments to warrant an interview for their particular needs or specific position. I am convinced that the sole measure of “resume success” is whether or not the resume is accomplishing the mission of obtaining interviews – if it is, regardless of the resume writing conventions you may flout, it is effective and should not be drastically altered. Conversely, if you are not receiving interview offers from your current resume, it may well be time to examine your work critically to determine its effectiveness in “selling your qualifications to the prospective employer. Please note that no quality employer is going to hire you on the basis of your wonderfully crafted resume, all will want to verify your claims through the interview process.
I have found that most clients find that the self examination and preparation required for quality resume writing is the worst part of the process. While this element of the process can be tedious at times, investing sufficient time here will reap benefits later. All too often, individuals believe they can skimp on this element, and attempt to put together a successful resume in less than two weeks. While some of us truly are that gifted, the vast majority are not – fifteen years of hands-on experience has shown that the average individual requires a minimum of thirty to forty five days of concentrated effort to produce the essential focused and effective “sales tool’ resume.
Effective and successful resume writers have learned how to use powerful and subtle advertising copy, and these lessons take time, as well as professional assistance, in order to craft the best possible sales tool. Complicating this effort further, most of us have to overcome an almost instinctive aversion to “selling ourselves”, as modesty and our unwillingness to “brag” about our skills, qualifications and accomplish act as a powerful drag on our personal marketing campaign. You must overcome these tendencies if you are to successfully “sell the product” in which you and your family have the largest personal investment – yourself. The successful resume writer has a firm grasp on this well known marketing fact:
People much more often buy the best advertised product than they buy the best product.
Applying this concept to the job search, we often find that the most technically qualified person, who doesn’t take the time to understand or apply himself, will lose a remarkable job opportunity due to a rushed and/or poorly crafted resume. Comprehensive industry research is essential for military personnel moving into the dreaded private sector, as these individuals must understand the following facts:
Hiring managers in the civilian sector are much more focused on the bottom line, compared to government managers, and this focus means that they tend to interview and hire those individuals who they believe can make an immediate contribution to the organization’s profitability.
Based on the information contained in your resume, which is often the only information the hiring manager has regarding you to make an initial decision, do you come across as fully qualified, a superior candidate, or something else? Remember that only fully qualified or superior candidate receive interviews, and without an interview, your candidacy is dead in the water.
If you feel that your career search is currently suffering from a lack of focus, or that your resume is less than adequate to your needs, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional assistance.
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