Few would doubt the importance of a resume in the job process. It is the first chance you have to convince an employer you’re the person for the job. According to a report in the George Washington University Office of Career Services, job seekers compete with 75 to 100 other candidates for every job opening. Your resume needs to show you have the skills and experience for the job, but also it needs to stand out from all the resumes listing similar skills and experiences. So it’s always a surprise to me when people treat their resume like a laundry list of accomplishments instead of what it really is, a marketing piece. To stand out in the crowd, use the same strategies that successful marketers do to reach their market.
Odds are you know what skills and experience you have that make you a good candidate for a job, but that isn’t all you have to offer. The resume is where you market yourself as a brand, including what you stand for, what you’re known for, what sets you apart from your competitors and your value to the employer. Deliver your brand through a resume by crafting a statement that illustrates your professional identity, work style and ethic, and the value you bring to the workplace. For example, my background is in social work, so my statement might look like:
“Passionate, empowering family social worker with drive and patience to help families identify negative patterns, determine relationships goals, and make a plan to build a strong, healthy family.”
Know your market
Many job titles can be found in a variety of settings and industries, but that doesn’t mean you can send the same generic resume to every employer. Showing your knowledge of the clients or customers, products or services, and industry language of each potential employer will improve your chances of getting an interview. Using the social work example, my education makes me eligible to work in schools, health clinics, and social services. But while these agencies need social workers, the social work conducted in each setting is slightly, if not drastically, different. Applying to a school social work position, I’d want to demonstrate my understanding of what school social workers do and how school systems work. But working at a health clinic, my chances of getting hired improve if I show my knowledge of public health, poverty and social issues that impact health. Same job title — social worker– but different skill sets, services, language and knowledge base.
Speak to your market
Recommended resume length is one to two pages, which means you have to convey a great deal of information in very little space. As a result, many resumes ask that the employer to make assumptions about how the candidate’s skills and experience will fit the job. But it doesn’t take much to create a resume that shows you’re exactly what the employer is looking for simply by incorporating what you’ve learned about your market. Using the social work example, if I was applying to a job as adoption social worker, instead of saying I know how to write psycho-social histories, I’d say I know how to write home studies, which is what the background reports are called in adoption. Connecting your skills, experience, and knowledge of the company to the requirements of the job, you’ll appear to be the person the employer is looking for.
Showcasing your skills and experience is the goal of a resume, but using the strategies businesses use to market, including conveying your brand and speaking directly to your market, you can leap frog your resume to the top of pile giving you a better chance of earning an interview.
Leslie Truex is a career design expert who has been helping people find or create work that fits their lifestyle goals since 1998 through her website Work-At-Home Success. She is the author of “The Work-At-Home Success Bible” and “Jobs Online: How To Find a Get Hired to a Work-At-Home Job”. She speaks regularly on career-related topics including telecommuting and home business.