An effective resume is a finely tuned document that has to pack a lot of relevant information into a limited amount of space.
Today, an effective resume cannot simply be a recitation of your work history.
This isn’t your father’s resume, because that strategy no longer has traction.
Why Someone Is Hired
No one is added to the payroll for the love of mankind. They are added to make a contribution in a particular area and in a very specific way.
When employers add someone to the payroll, the job title and its responsibilities have been analyzed, justified, and budgeted months before that position opens up.
Every job, in its own small way, is there to help a department, and in turn a company, make a positive contribution to the end goal of profitability by delivery of either product or service.
So, when an employer looks at your resume it is with a very specific objective in mind:
Does this resume reflect a person who can help me deliver on these specific challenges?
From this question, we get employers conceiving a job in terms of its deliverable, rather than solely in terms of education and years experience required, etc.
Goal: Survive the Resume Screen
For any employer, the resume screening process is one of the most mind-numbing steps of the interview cycle.
Typically, if resumes are found in the employers’ applicant tracking system (“ATS”), resumes get a first time screen by a human that spans no more than 30-45 seconds with the majority of that time spent on the first page.
Remember that the human reader is looking solely for people with specific experience related to the needs of a carefully defined position.
Read How Top ATS Systems Analyze Resumes, Understanding Keywords for Job Search, and 10 Tips for Stronger Resume Branding for more information.
Page One Must Connect You to the Job’s Deliverables
The first page of your resume needs to pack a knockout punch, and the best odds for achieving that is with a clear focus on a target job.
Only with a clear focus can you demonstrate your understanding of a job’s deliverables, along with your experience and achievements in each of the deliverable areas.
Obviously, a generalized/unfocused resume will not stand out in the resume screening process. Most likely, an unfocused resume will be ignored, and, in fact, will likely not be seen by a human because, lacking the relevant keywords, it will not make it out of the ATS.
Focus Your Resume for Success in 3 Steps
This means that for your resume to be effective, it must begin with a clear focus on — and understanding of — the deliverables for a specific target job. Only when you have this focus can you begin to look backwards into your work history for those experiences that best position you for the target job, and enable you to tailor a killer resume.
1. Research to Understand the Job and Your Target Market
If you are new to the professional world, engaged in a career shift, or just want to be sure that you are on target, you might want to execute a little research to ensure your resume has the proper focus:
- If you want clarification on a target job, analyze job postings, like those Indeed.com, currently the largest job board in the world.
- Visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook pages at BLS.gov, which gives you detailed analysis of hundreds of jobs.
Then, analyze the people:
- Talk to people who are actually doing the work. Have them deconstruct the job for you. If you already work in the field, think about the best people you have known doing this job. Analyze what they did, and how they did it.
- Apply the same analysis to people who have failed in the job. What did they do? How and why did they fail?
This kind of strategic thinking will give you the focus you need. Yes, work is involved, but the payoff will make the time invested worthwhile.
2. Apply Your Analysis to Your Resume
Experienced professionals have to be fully conscious that employers are not looking for Swiss Army knives. They are looking for someone with critical “must have” skills to apply in a specific area.
Those additional “nice-to-have” skills are just that, and they don’t need to be in a resume (beyond presence in a keyword section) because they will take focus away from your primary thrust.
3. Resist the Instinct to “Generalize” Your Resume
As the years pass and you gain more experience, the analysis described above becomes increasingly important as a tool to keep you on track.
The reason for continued observation and analysis? After just five years in the professional world, there are usually two or three jobs you can do; and when you get fifteen and twenty years down the road you could have twice that many professional options.
The Bottom Line
Often resumes that attempt to reflect great breadth of experience can seem unfocused. And, an unfocused resume is — today — an ineffective resume.
More About Resume Success:
- Why 95% of Resumes Don’t Get Read and What You Can Do About It
- 4 Killer Tactics to Get Your Resume Read
- How to Create an Achievement Resume
- Why a General Work-History Resume Doesn’t Work Now
- Integrating Your Professional Brand into Your Resume
- What Recruiters and Hiring Managers Want in a Resume
- Understanding Keywords for Job Search
- 10 Tips for Stronger Resume Branding
About the author…
Successful careers don’t happen by accident. Professional resume writing expert Martin Yate CPC is a New York Times best-seller and the author of 17 Knock Em Dead career management books. As Dun & Bradstreet says, “He’s about the best in the business.” For FREE resume-building advice and to view Martin’s resume samples, visit the Knock Em Dead website. Join Martin on Twitter at @KnockEmDead.
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