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Why 95% of Resumes Never Get Read, and What You Can Do About It

By Martin Yate

Ninety-five percent of resumes today never get read, and the reason is surprising: it's because they are honest recitations of everything the resume writer has done and thinks important. Let's look at why this doesn't work.

The Resume Database - a.k.a. the "Black Hole"

Resumes today rarely go straight to a recruiter's desk; typically they go into a resume database. Now, because no one ever reads resumes for the fun of it, before anyone actually reads yours, it must first be pulled from that database by a recruiter who is focused on filling a specific job opening and who is naturally doing so with the priorities and language of that job description firmly in mind.

So you can see that, if your resume is a gumbo of everything you've ever done and of everything that you happen to think is important (without reference to what your customers are actually buying), it is never going to work.

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Understand Your Customer

The first lessons a professional learns in any job are that, "the customer comes first," and "understand your customer's needs and sell to them."

We all know this, yet when it comes to creating the most financially valuable document we'll ever own, this most basic of professional lessons flies right out the window. In the same way that corporations tailor products to appeal to their customers' needs, you need to create a resume tailored to your customers' needs.

A resume works best when it tells a compelling story that matches your skills and experiences to the responsibilities and deliverables of a specific target job. This means your resume must focus on how employers—your customers—think about, prioritize, and describe the job's deliverables.

A resume focused on a specific target job, and built from the ground up with the customer's needs for that job in mind, will perform better in resume database searches, and will resonate far more effectively with recruiters, whose eyes are already glazed from the tedium of reading resumes.

It's All About Credentials, Not Potential

When you are changing jobs, you will invariably be hired for a job that you can already do, a job for which you have the credentials. Writing a resume that targets a job you'd like to do, but for which you don't have the experience/credentials, will put you up against other candidates who all have the experience and the credentials for that job, and this reduces your chances to the negligible. Jobs you pursue because of your potential are usually landed within the context of a job you already have and a company where you are a known quantity; we'll talk about this in an upcoming blog.

How to Decide on a Target Job Title

With just a few years' experience in the professional world, most people reach a point where they have experience that qualifies them for more than one job. Right now, there are probably two or more jobs you can do, but with the way recruitment works today, you have no choice but to go with a resume that focuses on a single target job. So your first task is to look at all the jobs you can do (they are all probably closely related in many ways) and choose which one will give you the best chance of reaching your goal.

You can make this decision on many unique criteria, but assuming your main goal is to get back to work, or out of the hellhole you work in today, your best bet is to go with the job you can nail. This is the job that you can make the most convincing case for on paper, the strongest argument for in person, and the job where, when you hit the ground running, you won't trip over your shoelaces. Once you've decided, build your primary resume around this target job, the one that offers the greatest odds of success.

Resumes for Those Other Jobs You Can Do

Those other jobs you can do? The layout and much of the data from your prime resume will remain the same: all you'll need to do to create these additional resumes is understand how employers define them and then, replacing the Target Job Title, edit each new resume version to reflect your credentials for this specific option.

More About Getting Your Resume Read


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 and also on Google+.


2017 Knock Em Dead
Includes: 385 pages, 4 hours of video, and a free resume review

Guide to Effective Resumes:

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