If you’ve been out of the job market for a while and you’re either just dipping your toes in the water to see what’s out there, or you’re suddenly out of a job, you’re probably finding that job search looks and feels different than the last time you were out there.
Along with maneuvering the myriad of options available to you to secure a new job – job boards (monster.com, etc), online networking (LinkedIn, etc.), targeted search campaigns, recruiters, networking – your resume may desperately need help.
What was cutting-edge resume writing the last time you looked for a job, is standard resume writing now. Today’s top interview-generating executive resume, one that will get you where you want to be, looks and reads a lot differently than it did just a couple of years ago.
You know that you’re really good at what you do. You know that your unique combination of strengths, areas of expertise, and personal attributes have set you apart throughout your career. After all, you wouldn’t have gotten this far if you didn’t deliver the goods and deeply impact bottom line for your companies.
So how do you make yourself stand out in a flat document and best position yourself in front of decision-makers? By differentiating and branding the unique value you bring to your next employer.
You may have been in on hiring or screening new talent for your companies. Think of the resumes you had to look at. Some were downright awful, some were just mediocre, and some really stood out and drew you in.
What was it about the latter that hit home? Probably the fact that their resumes made them come to life somewhat on the page and made you want to meet them. They had branded themselves and their potential value, to some extent.
Before we go further, I’m assuming that you have a clear job target. You can’t effectively focus your resume without aligning the entire content to meet the required criteria and qualifications of a specific job or kind of position. You have to know what those reading your resume will be looking for.
As you write your resume, at all times consider the needs and imperatives of those reviewing your resume – the hiring decision-makers, whether they are recruiters, HR people, C-level leaders, or other hiring managers.
Here are 4 essential insider tips to get your less-than-stellar resume up to snuff. This is by no means the whole story on crafting a really great resume, but it’s a good start and hopefully will give you some things to consider and incite you as you move forward.
1. Branding is the “Great Differentiator”
Not many job seekers are branding their resumes yet so, in itself, branding will differentiate you. Jump on the “brand” wagon before it mainstreams and everyone’s doing it.
Personal or leadership branding illuminates your resume with the things that differentiate you and indicates all the best you have to offer your next employer. It helps breathe life into what is too often a dull, boring, same-old document.
Chemistry is very important to companies these days and is a prime qualifying factor when they’re sourcing new leaders. With the cost of hiring so high, they have to be sure candidates they bring into the interviewing process will be a good fit for their company. A branded resume creates chemistry by indicating how you work with people, how you get the most out of your teams, and other “softer” attributes that define your success in bringing great value to your companies.
For help in building your brand, read my article “Is Your Executive Resume Branded to Maximize Response?” on the Executive Resume Branding website.
2. You have to say it in no more than 2 pages.
You’re probably thinking that it’s impossible to tell your whole story in 2 pages. That’s the point. You don’t need to tell the whole story. The purpose of a resume and your mission is to provide the reader with just enough information in concise, easily accessible and digestible bites to:
• Capture their attention
• Generate interest in you
• Get them to read the entire document, and
• Compel them to want to meet and interview you.
It was only a couple of years ago that 3 or 4 page resumes were expected for executives. The advent of Blackberry-type devices has changed all that and drives the need for brevity.
Hiring decision makers can have short attention spans and many of them these days are reviewing resumes on their Blackberries, probably while they’re in transit. They simply don’t have the time or inclination to scroll through several pages of dense content.
Their job becomes easier when reading a resume that contains smaller chunks of differentiating, value-driven content, with each chunk jumping out at them and compelling them to read further. It makes sense that short statements surrounded by enough white space to make them stand out will have more impact than dense, run-on, repetitive paragraphs of 5 or more lines.
I generally follow the 4 – 5 – 2 rule when writing executive resumes (although there are always exceptions):
• No more than 4 lines in one paragraph or chunk of information
• No more than 5 bulleted short statements blocked together
• No more than 2 pages total for the resume
Literally, every word in your resume has to be carefully selected and every phrase refined. You have to keep paring down to the essentials. You’ll have the opportunity to provide deeper slices of contributions and achievements in your cover letter and collateral documents like a Leadership Initiatives or Achievement Summary, Career Bio, and Reference Dossier.
3. Pack the entire resume, from the top down, with relevant key words and content reinforcing your brand and showing evidence of how you brought value to companies.
Start your resume with a concise, compelling brand statement (1-2 lines) planted right near your name to immediately draw in the reader. The profile section — the top of the first page of your resume — is prime real estate because it will be read first and can make or break your chance to be considered.
Another very new trend is to also include an extended personal brand statement within the profile section. This usually sounds more personal and should truly come from your voice. Here’s part of a leadership brand I crafted with one of my clients, a C-level global operations management leader:
“I deliver concrete reality from conceptual vision – connecting downward, upward, and laterally to design business and communications models that envision the value. My strength is creating the best cost basis while delivering the highest value.”
Round out the profile section with 3 to 5 bulleted specific contributions you made in various areas to companies.
Drive home the value you’ve brought to your companies with relevant key word phrases. Include a list or graphic box of your key areas of expertise and/or pivotal strengths conveying your promise of value.
The profile section should be able to stand on its own, without the supporting evidence provided throughout the rest of your resume. If you ripped off the profile and presented it to a hiring decision-maker, it should be able to sell you.
You’ll probably only get 10 seconds with your resume to capture the reader’s attention and this is the location where you close the sale. Make it very clear how you get things done, how you fix things, how you build top-performing teams, build profitability, increase market share, improve bottom line, etc.
4. Continue branding your promise of value throughout your resume.
Don’t waste precious space in the “professional experience” section on repetitive job descriptions and obvious responsibilities. A comprehensive job description won’t convince the reader to consider you as a viable candidate. Evidence that you will impact bottom line will convince them. Encapsulate your responsibilities within as few lines as possible using relevant key words.
And please, don’t use the tired phrase “responsible for”. Instead, use robust verbs like “executed, innovated, pioneered, maximized, monetized”, etc.
Allow the most space for your recent experience (within the past 5 years or so). Describe one or two critical contributions you made at each company, if space allows. Don’t use the same ones you put in the profile section. Bring in fresh challenges you tackled, how you overcame them, and what the beneficial results were for the company.
Competition for executive-level jobs is fierce. To make your mark, be bold and savvy enough to differentiate yourself by embracing the latest trends in strategic resume writing.