Be Clear-Cut and Specific
We live in a time where specialization is demanded. If you have a heart problem you go to a cardiologist, for example, instead of a general physician. Have you even seen a job description that read: “We’re looking for a jack of all trades—someone who can do 10 things fairly well versus one or two exceptionally well?” Of course you don’t see that. Because in our society we demand experts. It’s no different when it comes to job searching. Employers want to hire the most-qualified expert available.
Be clear about the position you want (name it at the top of your resume, in bold font, for everyone to see), the industry (don’t be afraid to list them) and how your past experience, accomplishments, and results align with both the position and industry. Every sentence, bullet, and keyword in your resume needs to support, prove, and position you as the best fit for the industry and job you’re seeking. It’s fine to keep a master resume at home to reference as you work on a targeted one that you will use when you apply. Do not use your master resume to job search with; you’ll just be spinning your wheels and going nowhere.
Write to Your Audience
You need to know who (what companies) you’re targeting, which industries, AND their greatest pain points, needs, and problems.
To get to the bottom of defining your target audience you need to ask yourself a few questions:
* Are there specific companies I’m interested in?
* Am I aiming to secure a position in a particular industry?
* What advantage does this position bring to the business?
* What will the company be lacking if there’s no one in this position?
* What struggles and obstacles do the employer and/or industry face? Make a list of the most-critical ones and reflect on times you’ve confronted similar challenges.
Once you’ve answered these questions you can look for the ways you’ve benefited businesses in similar roles, and how you’ve overcome struggles and obstacles to deliver results. Use this to prove to the employer that YOU are the resolution to their greatest pains.
Use a Modern and Visually Appealing Resume Design
We are a visually mediated society. We’re inundated with social media, TV, videos, and screens everywhere. Visually appealing and modern design will matter when it comes to the effectiveness of your resume to capture the eye of the employer. Color can be incorporated into your branding and has been shown in studies to draw the eye into the resume. Don’t be afraid to use it.
If you’re getting only six seconds from the employer before they make a fit/no fit decision, then it makes sense to use a resume design that’s pleasing to the eye, helps the content flow, and makes important information like contact information, position titles, company names and employment dates easy to locate.
The most important point to remember is that you don’t want the employer to have to invest time searching for the information they’re trying to scan.
Use bold type to draw attention to position titles, key metrics, keywords, or important accomplishments.
Use color to bring the eye in to the resume. Text boxes, shading, and borders all help to segment information and draw the reader’s attention.
Incorporate graphics and visuals that tell your story. Sales numbers are great to use in a graphic, but if you don’t have those, consider creating a pie chart with industry-specific keywords to show where your greatest strengths lie.
Not sure if your resume design is modern or visually appealing enough? Split-test it against another design to see which version people prefer. Ask them which resume design they like and why. You’d be surprised what information you can gain by polling only five people. Put the winning design to the test and see what type of response you get from employers.
Authentic to You
Resumes are meant to be a genuine reflection of who YOU are, not everyone else. If it reads like a worn out line you’ve heard before or something that could be put on someone else’s and it would describe them—then it’s not authentic.
A practical way to be more authentic is to remove adjectives. Especially multiple adjectives in a row. Replace adjectives with accomplishments. Your accomplishments are unique to you and compelling to employers.
Don’t use canned, overused phrases from templates because you think that’s what employers want to see. On the contrary, they want to get to know the real you and the unique promise of value you offer.
So, how do you define your unique promise of value?
Start by asking yourself some questions to uncover the distinct benefits you offer the employer.
* What benefit or contribution do you add?
* What key accomplishments or successes have you delivered time and time again?
* What would you say is unique about you and how you do what you do?
Ask others what they think about you.
* Ask others what words they would use to describe you.
* Read through your LinkedIn recommendations and past performance evaluations and look for themes.
* When you put similar words and phrases together what picture do you get?
* What do others say are your greatest strengths?
* What do your boss, team, or direct reports come to you for on a regular basis?
Use the answers to your questions and the questions that you ask others to help you clarify your personal brand. Once you’ve discovered your brand you can incorporate it into your resume and it immediately becomes a distinct document.
Remove Fluffy Sales Talk and Clichés
When we write resumes for our clients, part of the process is listening carefully to our clients and the words that they use so that when we write their resumes we’re using their own words, personality, and voice. You want your resume to be a reflection of yourself—and not a random resume found on the Internet that thousands of other people are using.
STAY AWAY FROM TEMPLATES
Templates and fluffy sales talk, clichéd phrases, and overused terms are glanced over when employers screen resumes. You know which ones I’m talking about—because when you read them, you say to yourself, “What does that even mean?”
Part of being authentic in representing your brand is proving who you are and the accomplishments you’ve achieved. You can validate your personal brand by writing about accomplishments with tangible results. Here are a few ways to do that:
Numbers are very persuasive and hard to argue against. They provide tangible proof that you provide real results. Use numbers throughout your resume. We all have quantifiable accomplishments—you just have to know where to look. Here’s an article I wrote a few years ago to help you do just that. Using Metrics in a Resume When You Have None.
Testimonials are third-person endorsements. What someone else says about us can be even more impressive or impactful than what we say about ourselves. It’s having someone else validate your brand and successes.
LinkedIn can be a great resource to support and validate your brand, career successes, and what others have to say about you. It’s hard to argue with recommendations, and now endorsements have become a vital part of your job search and personal brand.
Recommendations: Be proactive about requesting recommendations. Be specific about what you’d like them to share in their recommendation. Perhaps there’s a certain theme of accomplishments you want to highlight or facet of your personal brand you want to bring attention to—don’t be afraid to ask your network to recommend you for those topics.
Endorsements: Endorsements show employers key strengths. Employers are also able to see any mutual connections you share and which skills they endorsed. When you apply to positions on LinkedIn it automatically culls any endorsements you’ve received that match the keywords for the position and alerts the hiring manager to how many skills are a match. This is another way to prove you’re a great fit.
If you enjoyed this article, your network might too; please feel free to share it.
Feel free to send me an invite on LinkedIn, I enjoy networking. If you’re struggling with your resume and think you want expert help, check out my website Great Resumes Fast where you can also find lots of hope, encouragement, and inspiration for your job search on my blog.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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