Resumes have traditionally been used to communicate the facts of your education and training that qualify you for job openings. More recently, job seekers have tried spicing up their resumes by using colored paper, fancy fonts, and other flourishes. Although artistically appealing, none of these approaches is effective in getting an interview. The most effective way to land an interview is to use your resume to tell your story – your work history – in such a way that you become irresistible to hiring managers. The effective resume balances current keywords while simultaneously conveying a compelling story of the applicant who is absolutely right for the open position. This is the strategy for becoming irresistible to potential employers.
1. Define Your Goals
Remember any class in which you had to write a paper. The teacher always told you to start with a thesis statement. That applies to your resume as well. As you prepare to write your resume, hone in on that goal. Organize every other part of your resume around this central goal, but remember that you will only be using the goal to create the resume. You will not spell out the goal in the actual resume. For example, your goal may be to transition into an upper management position. Begin with your goal and expand it using a formal outline, just like you did in class, to identify all the details that demonstrate your expertise and qualifications for upper management roles. Use the outline to effectively organize your work history to tell the story.
2. Support Your Goals with Experience
Take the goal that you have developed and review your work and educational experiences so that each item included clearly provides support of your ability to meet your goal. Perhaps you have just completed or begun an MBA program. Maybe you have many leadership roles in committee work or project management. Strategically explain each of these supporting experiences throughout the resume as you demonstrate your career progression. Each of these supporting experiences can be thought of as a step on the staircase to your upper management position.
3. Highlight Strengths
In addition to specific experiences, be certain to pull out skills and professional activities that will be important to the hiring manager who is reading the resume. Present how each of these accomplishments better prepares you to quickly master the requirements of the position than the 99 other candidates who are also applying. What problems can you solve for the company? Your strengths may demonstrate effective sales, increased profit, or expertise in obtaining grants.
Highlighting your strengths creates excitement for the hiring manager by showing you are the best candidate to solve their problem. Their problem is the open position because… (fill in the blank). You will fill in the blank with your research about the company that helps you identify exactly what is important to the hiring manager. The research may reveal the corporate vision, special projects, products in development, or company history. Align your strengths with what you have learned about the company.
4. Develop Your Sales Pitch
Use networking experiences to practice your “sales pitch” that you will use in the resume. Understanding your strengths, your history, and your direction allow you to speak with authority when someone at a networking event asks, “So what do you do?” Instead of patching together a response on the spot, be prepared with your story and everyone will be interested to learn more about you. It also helps convey your enthusiasm for the profession, which can be contagious, energizing the hiring manager to call you for an interview. Polish that networking pitch and include its main messages in key areas of the resume, such as the professional summary and cover letter.
Changing how you think about your resume may change the results you are getting. Land an interview by telling a story in your resume. Engage the reader and make them want to learn more about you. If you are beginning to think of an article or even a book that you recently read that you didn’t want to end, you are on the right track. That’s the approach that will have the hiring manager calling you to hear more of your story!
Alesia Benedict is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC)