Last week, a busy executive asked me to tell him briefly what I needed to do a great resume. It’s a simple question but many of us do not have the best answer.
Most job seekers, I’ve found, know the basics. They have their identifying information—name, location, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile link–at their fingertips. Nearly everyone I speak with can rattle off their recent work history, including the companies they worked for, locations, and their job titles. Often, they can provide their official job descriptions because this information frequently is available online.
The vast majority of resumes I receive from prospective clients include the basics listed above and stop there. The problem is that this is not an effective resume strategy. A great resume and LinkedIn profile should include three elements:
- Your job target,
- Business accomplishments during your career, and
- Your credentials.
My regular readers will recognize these ideas because I’ve mentioned them before in several posts. Nonetheless, it’s worth discussing again. You will be able to start preparing content for a great resume once you have the three items above in addition to your basic information. Then you’ll just have to fill in the details.
Your job target is what you want to do and where you want to do it. The question of what you want to do is straightforward if you have trained in and worked in one occupation for a while, and plan to continue in this occupation. It’s more complicated when you want to change careers. We’ve covered career change in a previous post.
Job candidates that find work faster, I’ve found, have a specific job target, and they are qualified to work in that job. For example, if you want to work as a certified public accountant, have a track record in the field, a degree in accounting, and have met state CPA requirements, you will land an accounting job more rapidly than a job seeker that does not have your experience and credentials.
It will also help to narrow down where you want to work. This includes defining your industry and geographic location. For example, are you a CPA that specializes in real estate work?
Geographic location is important, too. Employers often prefer to hire job candidates that live within commuting distance of the job so they do not have to pay relocation costs.
Your location could matter even if you are seeking remote work. Remote workers sometimes tell me their location doesn’t matter because they can telecommute anywhere. Employers, though, may feel that the location of their remote team members does matter. For example, if you live in high-wage markets such as New York or San Francisco, an employer in a low-wage metropolitan area may not be willing to pay you a competitive wage because they can hire a local employee at lower cost.
So, consider both your industry expertise and geographic work preferences as you develop your resume and job search strategies. Both considerations will help you refine your job target.
About 25 years ago, an expert coach told me “if your job target is wrong (or nonexistent), everything is wrong.” This continues to be true.
Know your business accomplishments.
Most of the resumes that come across my screen have one thing in common—they include a litany of tasks the job seeker has performed at their jobs. The tasks you performed tells prospective employers almost nothing. Even worse, a task-focused resume and profile tells nothing to those of us that want to help you find work.
We need to know what sets you apart from others that have been doing the same job. What business or organizational problems have you addressed, by taking what actions, to get what quantifiable results?
Employers love numbers. Describe your results up front for each job. For example, start bullet points with statements such as “Drove a 400% increase in revenue…”
We have covered this concept, referred to as the problem, action, result, or PAR model in more detail elsewhere.
Include your credentials.
Surprisingly, I see resumes that don’t include credentials the industry or profession expects or requires. Credentials today include professional certifications, as well as formal college and graduate degrees.
Job seekers sometimes miss out on an opportunity because they do not include their college degree on their resume. This results in being screened out by online systems.
Recently, recruiters have told me that industry and professional certifications are gaining in importance. Certifications, like accomplishments, can differentiate you from other candidates. They can also add relevant industry keywords to your resume and profile.
Of course, strategic information such as your job target, accomplishments, and credentials are not enough for us to build a complete resume. You still need the basics such as your contact information and work history. But this is, in a sense, just filling in the details once you have a strategic direction.