I’ve seen more resumes from friends, former colleagues, and other people that I respect in the last 6 months than I have seen in the last 6 years. It sucks. There’s obviously no mystery as to why. And sadly, almost anyone that has ever gone out job hunting knows – looking for a job is in itself, a full-time job.
Although I am not claiming to be an expert at resume writing, we do write an awful lot of marketing decks and other materials that involve meaningful introspection and thoughtful positioning. Writing a resume is very similar to writing a marketing deck. Both are brutally hard to put together. First, because most people are genuinely humble; they water down their accomplishments so much to avoid appearing even remotely arrogant that they can come off looking incredibly ordinary.
Second – and much more importantly – people tend to make their resume far too broad and generic, often writing with a universal audience in mind. You know, just in case an opportunity arises that doesn’t fit all of your real talents, maybe the hiring manager (or the algorithm) will notice one of those hidden, under-the-radar skills of yours.
Seriously – stop it.
Not saying these aren’t important – particularly for those with experience and open to a career change. But like you, recruiters are busy – they aren’t spending 10 minutes deciphering your resume. They aren’t even spending 10 seconds (sadly, just 7.4 according to Ladders).
Be Great…at Something
Generally speaking, most non-entry level corporate roles fall into two buckets – a very specific position or the “best athlete.” In NFL draft terms – a team looking for a linebacker isn’t choosing a wide receiver. The team knows what it needs and your ability to run a 4.3 forty or catch a ball in double coverage is meaningless if you can’t stop a 240-pound halfback on contact.
But the opposite is true in the second case. The team might even decide you fit in a different role (career changers) – in the case of the athletic wide receiver, maybe a kick returner or a slotback. Maybe even a defensive back – depending on his skills and the team’s needs.
Either way, the strongest chance you have to stand out and get their attention is to be narrowly-focused. Either you are great a particular role or you have a particular transferrable skill.
The key is to be seen as great at something. If it’s not a specific role then get recognized for a specific skill. One skill – maybe two. NOT ten. Telling them you can run, jump, tackle, catch, throw, coach, block is the same as saying nothing – because that is all they will hear.
Tell a Story
Resumes don’t have to be written like a sterile, non-fiction scholarly article. Think creative non-fiction. You’re not simply trying to demonstrate ability – lots of people can do what you do. You’re also demonstrating that there is a reason for a stranger to find you more interesting or a better fit than they find hundreds of other people.
If you can shine a big, bright light on that thing that makes you truly exceptional, it won’t get missed. The best way to do this is to create a story within the resume. Reinforce that skill everywhere. Each role should highlight how you made a difference based on that particular qualification. And that goes to the non-job specific elements of the resume – your summary statement, education, hobbies and interests…they should all tie back to a specific anchor point.
It’s easier than you think – particularly if you apply some creativity.
If you want someone to make the leap that your history as a Division III nose guard makes you uniquely qualified to coach an NFL team then you need to focus on your leadership experiences, ability to organize your team, or ability to think critically under pressure. Simply being the best at hitting people isn’t likely to do it.