Before and After Resume - from common clone to distinguished candidate

I continue to be dismayed by how generic most "before" resumes sound. I am pretty sure it comes from copying and pasting statements from job postings or position descriptions. (One tip-off is that sometimes people leave these statements in the 3rd person, as in "(s'he) liaises with vendors regarding quality issues." Resume content is generally written in the 1st person as in "(I) liaise with..." NB - the pronoun she, he or I is implied in bulleted statements.)

And so, because 99.9% (okay, maybe 90%) of job applicants do precisely this - copy and paste statements from the job postings - everyone reads like a bunch of clones. How boring for recruiters and no wonder they give most resumes a 7-second scan!

What, you may be asking, can one do? How does one throw in enough of those "key words and key phrases" that are key to landing an interview? Well, the key words and phrases are only part of the duo that's instrumental to landing an interview. The other half is all about communicating value, and actually, these go nicely hand in hand.

Take a recent quality assurance client (let's call him Jim). What Jim didn't have on his resume were  specifics that speak to his value, for example, having been selected to conduct a quality audit on a 50,000 sq. ft. manufacturing plant in another country. That provided an ideal opportunity to integrate key words without resorting to the position description/job posting bullets!

That's one tactic to demonstrating the value you bring while incorporating those pesky key words. You can tie the two together by citing that you were selected for that audit project because of your skills in (and list these), because you had provided an outstanding report on an internal audit (from Jim's perspective), because you'd scored expectionally well in a quailty training course. The reasons could be many, and it's this level of customization to your actual experience that makes your resume interesting to read, aligns your skills with the position's needs, and tells the recruiter that you're a viable new hire prospect.

Now it's your turn. Challenge yourself to pull in specific-to-you projects, assignments, recognition, secondments, training opportunities, mentorship ... something from your work history that will allow you to combine a statement of value and of skills (as the key words and phrases are generally hard skills that are quite specific to that position).

In this way you'll customize or personalize your resume and distinguish yourself from the long line of resume-clones!



Rescuing the "ho-hum" resume

Sometimes I am at a loss how to convey to a person, someone who is used to seeing the same dull, non-strategic, ho-hum resume content in all resumes, that a resume can be an interesting read, a dynamic piece of writing, an influential document.

This quote inspired today's blog. I can't begin to count the number of times a potential client has claimed "I'd write my own resume but I just don't have the time." Not the writing skill, not the knowledge, not the ability to compose meaningful and strategic content, but time alone.

The quote speaks volumes. Writing is difficult. I find it challenging to source just the right verb with which to begin a bullet; to identify which of a client's many skills should be showcased in an accomplishment that may have required multiple skills to execute; to portray the client, weaving words and phrases to express his personality, motivations, and abilities with the utmost integrity to his authentic being. I obsess over the details.

And all the above points must, MUST, address the needs of the positions to which the client will be applying. (Consider that sometimes zealous clients provide me with 70 pages of documentation. Job postings, performance reviews, career portfolio ... some people know how to truly manage a career!)

Yes, it's a daunting task, but, it's one that I, as a writer, relish! I have no skills in organizing complex and detailed events and I'll not be training to be a project manager or event planner. But I do have skills in organizing content and developing strategic messaging.

Examples are perhaps the best way to illustrate, so here's a before and after that captures the difference.

BEFORE (taken from an actual client's resume):

- Provided purchasing services Corporate Stakeholders from all Business groups. Tactical procurement for global expansions, with a focus for R&D laboratories, & Corporate Sites.

- Contract negotiations and renewals. Peer Mentor on boarding new Buyers into the department.

AFTER (from client's new resume):

- Provided procurement support to global business groups, collaborating with stakeholders on their CAPEX and OPEX budgets, annual contract renewals, and contract negotiations.

- Supported rapid corporate expansion by onboarding and cross-training four buyers, and by maintaining consistently productive internal client service levels through positive, business-building relationships.

- Selected to corporate assignments, for example, a 2-year project supporting transition to new business software; the corporate team that onboarded acquisitions; to lead teams opening global satellite locations; and to represent employer at global business conference.

The "before" builds no story, has no momentum, and confuses rather than illuminates (not to mention errors in capitalization and grammar). The "after" speaks to the reader as it holds phrases or key words from the job posting. It also offers insight into how this person executes the purchasing position's duties - throught collaborations and relationship building. The "after" also speaks to the prospective employer's "buying motivators," that is, what the employer needs from a new hire: productivity, effectiveness, emotional maturity.

Yes, writing takes a great deal of training. Strategy takes skill to develop. And together, the resume and other self-marketing documents take time and skill to develop an effecive premise, an interesting narrative, and an influential message.