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Recipe for Resume Success!

Recipe for Resume Success!

Branding may be a new term to your repertoire, but it’s often used to describe how to market yourself for the purpose of any important opportunity you desire to achieve. Branding simply means knowing yourself well from every perspective, in every facet, so you can confidently and competently promote yourself successfully.

Resumes really do matter and, no, you cannot use the same one for every job posting. Each resume needs to be targeted to meet the requirements of the position you desire. So let’s start building a solid knowledge base for a successful job search that will serve you throughout your career. A well-written, targeted resume is the cornerstone to success as part of the job search management project.

If you are still in college, avail yourself of the services at the career development office and take full advantage of what is included in your tuition. Keep in mind that after graduation they may charge a fee. Use their professional staff as coaches to prepare you; most will be glad to accommodate your requests. If you are not in college, check out your state and local career centers for resume and employment services as they will offer free assistance as well.

Now for the resume writing gems. The results you have achieved in your experiences need to be based on self-promotion and self-advocacy. That’s right, the resume must hone in on how you can meet needs. Yes, this is one time in your life when you need to be boastful! It’s important to share how you achieved or helped to achieve a positive outcome, result or goal. This is the only way an employer can evaluate your projected value against their need.

If you’re not sure what their needs are, take a close look at the job description or posting and analyze the action verbs and tasks listed. Your challenge is this: you must clearly communicate how well you have mastered similar tasks in the past utilizing your skills and abilities. If you are not solid in knowledge of your skills and talents, please check out my previous blog. It details everything you need to do to develop a solid foundation for understanding your foremost skills and abilities. (You can also check our website and take our new AchieveWORKS® Skills assessment.) Those who can tie their accomplishments (which includes their skills and abilities) to what the posting is seeking are most likely to receive an invitation to interview.

Inside scoop! Here it is: the more you echo exactly how you fit the functions and challenges featured by concisely describing your experiences with a focus on quantitative results, the more you will create a hook with the reader, who is generally a human resources professional. Remember, the function of HR in the hiring process is to screen people out; that’s why it’s imperative that you make a good case for yourself in closely fitting the position.

Here’s one other tip: don’t fret if you don’t meet every qualification they seek. Think of the requirements as a wish list. Present as many as you can and develop a list of examples — more than you can use on the resume so you’ll have them ready, as different positions will demand different perspectives. The goal here is to make the cut. Then it’s on to the hiring manager or committee for interviewing.

The best way to start this process this is to analyze the job posting section-by-section and mirror the language in the actual posting as closely as possible to help create a psychological connection. Yes, it really does work. Remember, your utmost objective is to satisfy the need of the organization by illustrating evidence of how you have addressed similar challenges and issues in your experience and the results you attained.

My suggestion is to use the STAR approach, which is highly recommended for interviewing. If you follow this formula you will present everything necessary to be competitively evaluated:

S = Subject or Situation: what is the subject or situation you are describing

T = Topic or Task: what did you address or do in this experience?

A = Activity: did you do it as an individual or as part of a group?

R = Result: what were the quantitative results? Estimates are fine. And if you failed, what did you learn?

Here’s an example. If the job description required the ability to create competitive resumes, I could follow the formula and use:

Asked by three young professionals to help with career opportunities. After integrating their skills into results-oriented resumes, two received competitive job offers and one was offered a promotion with a $10,000 raise. All were able to achieve their career goals.

If I were asked in an interview setting about how I helped others develop competitive resumes, I would go into more detail with that same example and expand it, still using the same scenario and incorporating the STAR formula as above:

I was asked by a group of three young professionals to help them develop stronger resumes to pursue new career opportunities. I started by giving them our assessments and integrating their talents into results-based resumes, and coached them on negotiating. One got her first professional job offer within two weeks of posting the resume, one secured a lateral move from business to education and maintained his salary, and one got a promotion, including a $10,000 raise. Each one was able to meet their career goals within a two- to six-week period.

This process is uniquely customized to the individual and takes thought and time. A resume template won’t work; it’s too limiting and leaves you no room for creativity. Once you graduate, your education is no longer the foremost relevant feature. Employers want to see your professional experiences since attaining that degree. Even if you are coming up blank, use accomplishments from other areas of your life. Anything that demonstrates your motivation and ability to get results is acceptable. If you are highly involved in a group, non-profit or interest, it is fine to pull from that experience as long as it demonstrates an accomplishment and uses the formula above.

The majority of individuals I’ve met who are three to eight years out from graduation have been grossly underpaid or were passed over for promotion based on the resume(s) they submitted. Upon reviewing those resumes, I found the major problems were format and contents. Once you enter the professional job market, your resume from college has to go. The new version has to be just as stellar as those of the individuals you are competing against.

Things to nix on resumes are the objective, the duties of the job and the references. Objectives are a given and a waste of valuable space. It’s much better to highlight what you offer by selling yourself in a short overview statement about your experiences, academic focus, special knowledge, skills and industry know-how. Here are some ideas to use if appropriate: Foreign languages, travel, unique work or life experiences (cultural, technical or otherwise), specific coursework or certifications related to the position or the focus of the organization.

In dealing with the education section, list your major if it’s applicable to the job, and GPA if solid. If not, then avoid listing details and go with name of school, the degree obtained (such as B.A. or B.S.), and graduation year, if recent.

Secondly, instead of listing duties of the job, list your accomplishments in each job. This also allows you to prioritize the areas of work you preferred and excelled at doing and leave off the ones you do not want to keep.

As far as professional development, community involvement or community outreach, if you have room, those are nice to feature. As you grow in your career professional development will become a more heavily weighted section, along with education, and will eventually precede education.

References are a separate matter entirely. References are critical but should not be included in a resume as they should be selected on the basis of the position. Select references thoughtfully. Professionals who can speak to your ability in relation to the position you are pursuing will be better cheerleaders.

Since references will vary based on the resume, the reference list should be a totally separate document and should contain three to five professional cheerleaders. Be strategic and select strong oral and written communicators. Coach them on the job you want and exactly what they should share. They do not need to be a direct supervisor, but should have a professional title (they can be retired).

On the references document, along with your contact information at the top, list the following for each reference: title, company, email and phone, and perhaps how they know you — as a colleague, customer, team member or supervisor. Never use your spouse, family, friends or pastor.

Writing is an art and, like anything else in life, practice does make perfect. The bottom line on effectiveness is easy to evaluate. If your resume generates interview activity, it’s doing its job. If not, try a different approach.

Build your resume in Microsoft Word or Google Docs but check out these links to get ideas:

Check out these sites to find your worth in the marketplace:

 

About Susie Wood, BS, MA, MSSW
Human eSources’ Senior Career and Educational Consultant and Trainer

Susan WoodDevoted to helping others discover their gifts and talents and achieve their education and career goals, Susie loves sharing what she’s learned from her experience over the past 20 years in the field. Combining her background in college and career services with human resources management and masters in both social work and training & organizational change, Susie will empower you to find your perfect path.

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