There are lots of reasons most of us struggle to write an effective resume, but one of the primary problems is focusing too much on ourselves. We dwell on specific aspects of our background (how do I address the fact that I didn’t get a degree? What about that one time I was fired? How do I explain the gap while I raised my kids?) rather than broadening our focus.
But wait, I hear you say. It’s my resume! Who should I be focused on?
My answer is simple. Your resume isn’t about YOU. If you want your resume to grab the attention of employers, it needs to be about THEM.
The most important question to ask when you’re writing a resume
In my first post in this series, I showed you how to identify what I call your \”awesome sauce\” – the thing that sets you apart from everyone else. That\’s a very important first step, but it\’s not the only one.
There is one question I ask myself at the start of every resume project and it’s this: What do my client’s target employers need?
What are their business challenges? What keeps them up at night? What are their opportunities? (those things they know would bring in extra sales if they only had the time to focus on them). What kind of employee is their ideal?
If you answer these questions before you start writing, you’ll automatically know what to include in your resume and what to omit. Decisions about which skills to highlight, or how to handle that employment gap, will become much clearer when you put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes and work out how to address his needs.
As an example, one recent client had been a successful marketing manager before taking a career detour to run political campaigns. But after 3 years, she had tired of the demands of that world and wanted to return to marketing.
Her instinct was to “be honest” as she put it, and lay out all her experience for employers. She wanted to show the political jobs first and then go back chronologically through her career.
But I persuaded her to try things my way. Knowing that her target employers were looking for pure marketing skills, and may be turned off by that 3 year detour, I structured the resume so that her political work appeared on the second page. She had continued to work on freelance marketing assignments during some of this period, and so I used that to fill the gap in her work history, positioning her as a marketing consultant.
By doing this, I was able to lift work experience from 7 years ago on to the first page. I also created a strong profile that addressed the main concerns of employers (content marketing expertise and social media for example, which have become so important in recent years).
Within 2 months of starting to use the new resume, my client was hired as a marketing director in one of her target industries. This happened for one reason and one reason only – we thought about the needs of target employers before we started to write one word.
How Do You Know What Employers Need?
Think about your target industry… what challenges is it facing?
Think about other people who have succeeded in your target job… what traits to they have in common?
Picture the hiring manager. What are his concerns? Why is he hiring for this position? (If you know someone who hires people like you, ask if you can have a chat to find out more about their needs and concerns).
If you know the company advertising a vacancy, research them to find out all you can about their goals and culture and market position.
Tap into your network. Reach out to social media connections. Scour the web for job postings and note any common themes.
This may seem like a lot of work but it’s vital. What you learn will help you create an irresistible resume. Because you understand the needs of your hiring manager, when he opens our email, he will see a resume that resonates with his deepest needs and concerns. And that means he will call you.
Now We Get to the Good Part!
Once you know the answer to the question ‘what do my target employers want?’ you are ready to start thinking about your resume strategy.
This strategy will guide you as you make decisions about content and layout and font choice and all that good stuff. And developing that strategy will be the subject of my next post in this series.
If you’d like to be notified when that post goes up, just drop your email address here and I’ll shoot you a note as soon as it’s published.
And if you’re ready to really take your resume (and your career) to the next level, take my free resume writing course. It comes in 10 email installments and takes you through every step of the Blue Sky resume writing process. By the time you’re finished, you’ll have all the tools you need to transform your resume. Sign up now.
photo credit: FotoRita [Allstar maniac] via photopin cc
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