How to make your resume a winner!
Your résumé is a brochure. It is a marketing document and the first requirement for a successful marketing document is that you understand your ‘customer’, in this case your prospective employer. What are the employer’s needs? How are you the best person to meet those needs? To answer these questions properly involves thorough research. Small businesses invest a lot of time and effort into market research and you, as a job seeker, can’t afford to skimp in this area.
Jeremy Ellens, writing in Entrepreneur, writes that ‘the best way for your business to stand out is by building emotional connections with your audience’. You need to show that not only do you meet the employer’s needs but that you will be a motivated team member as well. You want the employer to want to have you in their team.
This is done by showing keen interest in the organisation. The fact that you have researched the organisation thoroughly demonstrates keen interest and it allows you to include very specific detail in your application which will, in turn, attract their attention. If you are interested in them, they’ll be interested in you.
Janet Attard, writing an article entitled ’11 ways to make your brochures effective’ in her Business Know-How website, says ‘Plan your brochure for AIDA’ and the successful job hunter does exactly the same with the résumé. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Grab the employer’s attention with your masthead.
People don’t spend long looking at a brochure unless it grabs their attention straight away. A number of surveys have shown that employers spend on average about eight seconds to decide whether a résumé is worth further consideration or goes on the reject pile. In eight seconds, an employer can read about halfway down page one. If you are not talking about your motivation for that specific job in the top half of page one, you may have missed the boat.
The top half of page one also, of course, has to show your name and contact details which needs to take up some space so that your name is prominently displayed and your contact details easy to find. However, it doesn’t have to take up too much.
First get rid of any idea of writing Résumé or Curriculum Vitae in fancy letters across the top. Employers know that it’s a résumé and this wording takes up precious space.
Instead, ensure that your name is printed large and clearly because you want the employer to recognise and remember it.
Contact details should be brief. You don’t need to put in your street address because they are unlikely to respond to your application by letter. However, you do need to include your phone and email details, and a link to your LinkedIn profile or Facebook page. Employers will almost certainly google your name so help them by giving them the details to find your positive online presence.
All of this should take between three and five centimetres, no more.
The first textual section of the résumé, whether called Profile, Summary or Career Objective, needs to grab the employer’s interest. It is in effect the executive summary of your application and it needs to demonstrate the qualities that you will bring to the position and, more importantly, how you would like to use them to achieve the benefits that the employer is looking for.
It is a very important part of the résumé. If it grabs the employer’s interest, he or she will read on. If it doesn’t, they won’t. But there’s not enough space in this article to explain exactly how best to write one. If you would like more information on this important section, you will find some in the article 'The Career Objective is one of the most powerful parts of your resume' in this blog or read pages 76-81 in my book How to Get a Good Job After 50.
The next two or three sections of your résumé need to generate the employer’s desire to have you on their team. The need to show not just your skills but also something of your personality, your determination to get things done and how you get on with others. The best way to do this is to tell the stories of relevant achievements. For example, if I were applying to you for a position requiring someone physically fit and I told you ‘I am a very fast runner’, (a) you probably would not believe me and (b), if I continue to say ‘I am good at this’ and ‘…good at that’, you would think that I’m boasting which might well put you off hiring me. However, if instead I said ‘Ran the mile in 4 minutes 16, Caribbean Games, Barbados, 2012’, you would probably become more interested in me because I’m relating a fact (in this case, pure fiction!) and impressed with the commitment and determination to be successfully involved in international competition.
In a brochure, the call to action is evident; ‘Buy now’ or something similar. However, this is where job applications do differ. They need to be a bit more subtle. You know that the successful applications will result in an interview so, rather than blatantly asking the employer to give you an interview which may well put him or her off, finish the résumé with a bulleted list reiterating three of the key attributes that you would bring to the position. You want the employer to finish reading the résumé and think, ‘Yes; this is the person I want!’