Finding a good job is a numbers game, especially in hard times. A game with rules. Unless your uncle owns the company you want to work for, the numbers game is stacked against you. If they are hiring at all, some employers interview only 2 people out of every 100 resumes they see.
Your resume and cover letter are more than your calling card. If you work at it, you can turn them into a tailor-made marketing document that will show the screener and hiring manager that you’re at least equal to your competition.
Win The Chance For An Interview
The purpose of a good resume and cover letter is to get you in the door for an interview, not to get you the job. Don’t attempt to put everything in your resume, but select things that will inspire interest. Make it “snap, crackle and pop.” If you put in too much detail, your resume will bog down and get tossed. The last thing a resume screener or hiring manager wants to read is another “same old, same old” resume, filed with abstract platitudes.
So… what’s your best approach?
1. Put yourself in the shoes of the resume screener and the manager who does the hiring. They are BUSY, with specific PROBLEMS to solve. Deadlines. Pressures from their bosses, customers and competitors.
2. Research the company before you apply. Do you have some idea what problems they face? If you don’t have a clue about the problems they face – and how you could help them solve their problems – you have “removed some powerful arrows from your quiver.”
3. In writing your resume and cover letter, be positive and imagine that you are in an interview with the employer, and that he or she asks this one question, “What makes you a stronger applicant than others seeking this job?”
Think about this one question while writing your resume and cover letter, and about your knowledge, skills and abilities. Answer it, something like this, “I understand that your company is facing challenges X, Y and Z. I believe I can help you solve X, Y and Z because I offer knowledge and experience in the form of A, B, and C – as shown in my resume.” Then, make sure your resume shows that you are a PROBLEM SOLVER with the knowledge, ability and skill to do A, B and C.
In other words, to the hiring employer the phrase “better than other applicants” means “fills the employer’s need.” Every section of your resume needs to show the employer that you solve problems. That you are ready, willing and able to help him.
4. To sell your assets and qualifications, describe your KSA’s – the “knowledge, skills and abilities” required and developed while you were working for each former employer. The new employer will look for “transferable knowledge, skills and abilities” when he or she hires someone. Tell him or her which part of your knowledge, skills or abilities will transfer to the new job. Don’t assume he or she will see it. Spell it out.
5. To sell the relevance and usefulness of your KSA’s for each past job, explain the “task, duties and accomplishments” of the position. This will show how you used your personal assets to be productive at work. If an old job had unusual tasks, or duties that would pertain to the new job, explain it in plain English.
6. On your resume, for each former job, highlight your best achievements with bullet points. Be specific. Use quantitative measures (“I increased sales by 32% in the first 2 years” or “I cut costs by 15%”). Or, you can use qualitative measures (“while I was there, our team became known for its excellent service”).
7. Make your resume visually attractive and easy to read. Revise and sharpen it, until it will get and hold their attention. Go to the library or bookstore and find a good resume book, if you don’t understand acceptable format. Depending upon your work experience and industry, select a chronological or functional format. Keep the resume to within one page, unless you’re shooting for a new job over $100,000 or a job with complex qualifications.
You only have 10 to 15 seconds to catch the attention of the resume screener and the hiring manager. Kill them with your bullet points. For people who scan resumes, bullet points are helpful, so use them. Guide their eyes to the very best things from your background that show you’re a problem solver, a team player who will “add value” to their company.
Most employers don’t hire the education on a resume. They don’t hire the years of experience working at some job. While they insist upon “minimum qualifications” for education and level of experience, they hire someone with the minimum qualifications who looks like a problem-solver they can work with – the one who provided evidence that he or she was productive in a similar job. If your resume is limp and has a “same old, same old” look about it, you won’t get a sniff. All resumes from outsiders start out in big piles. If yours doesn’t stand apart from the others, it won’t make it to the small pile – the “to be interviewed” pile.
Make them remember you, without being cutesy. You get one chance for that first impression – an window that lasts as little as 10 seconds – to make the cut and be invited for an interview. Find their problems. Show how you can help them solve them.