Stop thinking of your resume as a history of everything you’ve done in the workforce and turn your resume into a marketing tool by using the strategies that successful marketers employ to sell their products. Get your head around the concept that you are the product and potential employers are the buyers. Marketers understand that the best way to sell a product is to position it as a response to the potential buyer’s need. In this scenario, the employer has a specific need: to identify the right candidate for the position they have open. Your resume is the tool you will use to show the employer how and why you are the right candidate.
Step into the shoes of the consumer (the employer). What matters to the hiring manager? The best way to find out is to read the job description completely because it’s typically hiring managers who supply their requirements to human resources or a recruiter. Think of specific examples of how you meet as many of those requirements as possible, and talk about them on your resume. Determine which requirements are deal breakers and which you can get around. For example, if the job posting says something along the lines of, “10 years experience in CPG,” and you’ve worked in the telecommunications industry, that’s likely a deal-breaker. On the other hand, if you see “MBA required,” and you bring some impressive accomplishments to the position despite not having earned the MBA, you’ll probably get interviewed so the hiring manager can learn more.
Position yourself in the best light. Of course, you should never misrepresent anything on your resume, but you shouldn’t make a point of things that could work against you. So leave off the year you graduated, even if you are relatively young. Ageism works both ways. Furthermore, don’t announce yourself as having “over 20 years’ experience in financial services.” Again, potential for ageism.
Don’t oversell or undersell. There’s a fine line between being overly modest and making yourself out to be a rainmaker 100% of the time. I’ve had clients whom I’m dying to ask, “did you rest on the seventh day?” But I also have clients who use verbs like “assisted with,” or “participated in” because they don’t want to take credit for what was a team effort. My advice to the self-effacing is to realize that employers know that no one accomplishes anything in a vacuum, so you can safely say, “developed business requirements for strategic initiatives” because we all know that you worked with others in doing so. On the other hand, if you oversell your role at a company, things can quickly fall apart at an interview. Junior employees who make it sound as though the company would fold without them, I’m looking at you!
Be relevant. Marketers would have an almost impossible time trying to create demand for products that are no longer relevant. Exceptions made for turntables and manual typewriters having a rebirth moment. In the spirit of relevance, don’t waste real estate on your resume by discussing prior employment that has absolutely nothing to do with your career. One client who is a concierge banker listed a job as cashier at a party good store. Why?
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