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Resume Connection: Resume Tips, #30

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Making Your Resume Believable and Effective

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The resume-based job search tends to fail, for a variety of reasons. By "fail" I mean it limits you to the less desirable jobs and it even hobbles your ability to get one of those. To compensate for these weaknesses, resume-based job searchers usually resort to embellishing their resumes. Don't do that.

Let your resume help you find a job. Don't use it as the basis for looking. And don't focus on the resume. Use it as part of your job search effort, not as the core.

To find good job leads:

  • Network within your professional associations. That means volunteering to be on a committee or help in some way, not showing up and handing out business cards.
     

  • Pick three companies in your industry. Research each one to see if it's a place you'd like to work and to find out more about the company and the markets it serves. Find ways to contact hiring managers at that company (for example, attend trade shows where that company will be hosting an exhibit).
     

  • Pick three recruiters in your industry. Have a frank conversation with each one about what you're looking for and what you offer. Make it clear that you are NOT blanketing a list of recruiters with a generic resume, but are instead working with three. If they ask who the other two are, it's OK to tell them.
     

  • Go to trade shows. If you're out of work, this option may be too expensive. But if you have money coming in, go to industry events. If you go on your employer's dollar, all the better. Don't go there with resume in hand, sneaking around trying to get an interview. Instead, visit booths of companies you're interested in and strike up a conversation. Don't talk about finding work at that company, talk about the industry. Keep things positive, and show you are a player by listening to the other person and making informed, intelligent responses. If possible go to lunch with a group. The point is to make contacts and get your name known. Talk about maybe collaborating on a technical paper, trade publication article, or presentation at another conference.
     

  • Present yourself. Talk with your boss about presenting at a couple of the trade shows in your industry. This helps your company, of course, which is why many companies encourage employees to do this. It also helps you by establishing you as an expert and getting your name out there. Wonderful stuff, when you're looking for a job. Don't bomb your chances out by inflicting Death by Powerpoint, though. Learn how to give an effective presentation.

OK, so you probably will need to give a resume to somebody at some point. In my own case, I avoided doing this and instead just made industry contacts. I got many job offers this way, often starting the new job without ever having provided a resume. Let me ask you this. If a friend said he could get Jimmy Page to play the guitar at your birthday party, would you ask to see his resume? Make yourself a star in your industry, and such commoditization can usually be set aside. Usually, but not always. In that vein, I present....

Some resume tips

  • Ideally, you will not send a resume before discussing the intended employer's needs and how you can meet them. A resume sent before this point generally makes you a commodity. Sometimes, that's OK. But you need to aim higher.
     

  • Use your network to identify job leads; a resume does not open doors and generate job offers, because employers are buried in resumes. They aren't going to read your resume, experience near rapture, and phone you up demanding an interview as soon as possible. Life just does not work that way.

  • More is not always better. Focus on what matters to the position you are seeking and the company you are providing it for. A general resume is not effective, so don't bother writing one or sending it out.
     

  • If you have identified six or fewer recruiters to work with, send a resume specific to the field in which you wish to work and then follow up with the recruiter about tailoring to a specific job order.
     

  • Don't bother with the keyword resume. The purpose of it is to put you into a database with 10,000 other resumes of people whose general background is similar to yours. Write compelling text for the human reader.
     

  • Try to monetize the accomplishments you list. If you can't monetize it, why are you listing it? Why should this person hire you, if you work on things that aren't worth much and those are your star accomplishments?
     

  • Don't say you "spearheaded" this and gobbledegooked that. It makes you sound desperate to say you accomplished something you didn't do. Emphasize your team role, not your individual role. "Part of team that..." If it's not obvious from your qualifications that you led the team, you can bring this out during conversation about the job. This approach also makes you look humble and honest, as opposed to the typical job seeker whose hyped up resume instills distrust. Stand out by not trying so hard to stand out.

  • When writing your resume, ignore all the "expert" advice that tells you which magic words to use. Following that advice makes you sound like everyone else; the other 750 applicants who have read the same books. You want it to sound original and honest, of course making sure that "your voice" is grammatically correct, logically correct, and factually accurate.
     

  • Write your resume with the reader in mind. What will help "sell" you to the hiring manager? You don't want to rely on the resume as your sales pitch, but you also don't want it to document that you are dishonest, desperate, and devoid of accomplishment. Let it speak honestly of your education and relevant experience, making sure it focuses on the value of your accomplishments.

 

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