No BS Job Search Advice: Making Your Resume Shine

Making your resume shine

Resumes are still a critical part of the job-hunting process. Back when I was starting in the job market, the paper your resume was printed on was a big deal, but nowadays we’re more concerned with how the resume looks on a computer screen.

We don’t think of resumes as being documents anymore because most people don’t use computer screens that will show a full page at a time. Today, it’s how quickly the information is going to get delivered in little chunks to the potential employer that’s going to get you the interview. Well-designed layout supersedes fine quality paper these days because we’re going to look at a resume a third of a page at a time

But the most important thing we’re going to go over about resumes is not how they look, but what’s in them. The fact is that most people construct one resume and keep sending it out over and over again. It’s a flat-out mistake to proceed like that. What you have to do instead is start by thinking about who’s going to be reading this resume and what they care about. What the resume reader always cares about is if the content fits their needs and is presented beautifully, but is not distracting in any way. It should be in a readable font, but, most importantly, its content has to match the job description.

Yet most resumes end up being unacceptable on these counts, and the reason why is that most people are lazy. Most people submit the same resume over and over to job after job. Remember the story about the broken watch? The broken watch is right only twice a day, right?

So if you send the same resume out to 150 jobs, you might hit the mark a few times, but this blanket approach is gone with the wind for this reason: not all those jobs have the same job description. If you send the same resume out to every job, even though each job has a different position description, you’re taking the lazy way out. That is definitely not a way to impress someone!

In marketing, we talk about presenting the right message to the right target market. For example, let’s say you created a program on goal-setting for dentists. You would be foolish to advertise that goal-setting for dentists in your local newspaper. Some dentists might read the paper, but you’re more likely to get responses to your ad if you advertise in a journal that’s targeted at dentists. It’s the same when you walk into a store; they don’t have unlabeled produce on the shelf; they don’t just put cans up there without labels.

Well, as a job hunter, you need to think the same way as a marketer. In the case of job hunting, the audience is prospective employers, and your resume is the advertisement. You want to target a message that your audience cares about directly to your audience because your resume is your entrée point for most organizations. The organization has a problem; they have a vacancy that they need to be filled, and that need is very specific. Your resume must address how you can fill that need in a very specific way.

You may argue that this is going to take a lot of time. Yes, it is going to take a certain amount of time, and you are going to have to confront some of your laziness or bad habits or resistance to do this, to profit, to have the kinds of choices you want. Just turn the tables for a moment: if you’re in the role of hiring someone, wouldn’t you want to hire someone that fits your needs? Wouldn’t you select resumes of people who closely fit your requirements?

So, you have to think as you would if you were already in that role—as the person hiring. Yes, it is going to take some time and yes, you are going to have to confront some of your resistance to doing this. But the good news is that it isn’t as difficult as it seems. It’s simply a matter of calling attention to the experiences that you’ve had that fit that job description, just adding or deleting a paragraph here and there to fit in some information and present it in a way where the audience will find it easily.

Let’s go back to Jerry, whom I spoke about earlier. After 9/11, Jerry was doing just what I’ve cautioned against—sending out the same resume over and over again. So, one of the things that I did to help him was sit down and figure out, in that particular and extraordinary climate, what experiences did he have that fit the marketplace.

We honed in on his experience in disaster recovery and contingency planning because that was certainly a hot item in the aftermath of 9/11. Once we made those simple adjustments, the interviews started pouring in, because that was what the market was clamoring for, and he had targeted his resume directly to the bull’s-eye.

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020 



Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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