Thursday, February 3, 2011

Power Up Your Resume!

So first the good news: we’ve now seen 10 consecutive months of U.S. private sector employment gains.  College hiring is reportedly up 3% over prior year statistics, and according to the latest Manpower Annual Employment Outlook Survey, corporate America is “reporting the most optimistic hiring expectations in more than two years… The adjusted Outlook for Quarter 1 2011 is +9%, up from +5% during the same period last year and +5% during Quarter 4 2010. “ Sounds rosy, right?  If so, consider this; while some regions and individual sectors are showing signs of robust hiring agendas, many economists agree that the increase in newly created corporate roles does not yet outpace the amount of unemployed individuals actively seeking jobs.  Moreover, a more active hiring market will engage discouraged workers who had abandoned their job search, to again seek employment.  What does this mean to you if you are an active job seeker, or even an employed individual, considering a potential move?  It means that the job market is still uber-competitive and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.  You will clearly need to find a way to differentiate yourself from the pack if you want to land a great job in your chosen field.  You’ll need to build a strong personal brand and go to market with excellent marketing collateral…in the form of a Powered Up 21st century resume.

I’ve been in Staffing, Human Capital Management and Consulting Management for more than 17 years and have reviewed literally tens of thousands of resumes.  I’ve hired hundreds of people myself, and placed thousands more with clients.  Frequently, people come to me for advice on their resumes and the number one suggestion I have is “Toot your own horn!” Seriously, a resume is NOT the place for humility or shyness.  You absolutely need to be your own champion, highlight all of your significant accomplishments, and make it very simple for the folks reading your resume (or software programs parsing it) to quickly see how you stand out in a crowd. You need to be honest in self-representation, but don’t be afraid to sing your praises from the mountaintops!  There is plenty of time for modesty and a low profile once you get the job (or even in the interview!).

In my last blog entry, I offered tips on writing a resume that incorporated enough job description key words to be successfully recognized by Applicant Tracking Software.  By the way, if you somehow missed this extraordinarily witty, insightful and helpful read, please feel free to check it out here:
You should absolutely heed this advice and use the keywords you find time and again in job descriptions for your particular area of specialty throughout your resume.  You should also craft a credible, targeted career objective to open the resume – consider it your elevator pitch.  It is the first thing someone will read when they receive your resume so it should state who you are, why you are right for that particular job, and what you bring to the table that is unique to you.  However, beyond peppering your resume with job description key words and writing a great opening statement, there is a lot more to creating an engaging resume that will grab peoples’ attention, help them connect the dots on why you’ll help them accomplish their objectives in hiring for this role, and get you an interview.  So, here it is…

Tip #2: Power Up your resume!

Take a look at your current resume.  What does it say about you? Does it capture what you’ve really accomplished over the course of your career?  Does it speak clearly to your sense of pride and what you’ve done to drive positive and measurable business outcomes for your employer?    If it is just a ho-hum re-wording of your job description, technical skills, work history, blah blah blah…I assure you it will not get you noticed.  You must be accurate and honest about what you did, and its imperative to clearly demonstrate your key tasks and responsibilities, but that alone won’t get you noticed in today’s job safari. Following are some examples of how you can Power Up your resume in a few easy steps.

First remove all personal pronouns and identifiers from your resume; those are for amateurs.  You’re not writing an article about yourself in the society pages! Next, add a relevant level of detail to your key tasks and responsibilities that will really help employers understand how you spent your time and what your full range of competencies are.  As an example, instead of “I led a team of sales personnel”, consider “Selected, trained, mentored and managed the daily activities and ongoing metrics of a high performance sales team”.    Rather than, “I was responsible for keeping all accounting records”, try the Powered Up version:  “Managed and maintained a portfolio of 500+ accounts payable and receivable records and ensured fiscal reconciliation in support of corporate objectives”.

Think about each line on your resume as a chance to tell your story, to make the most of what you specifically did to benefit your employer, and to best highlight what skills and experience you bring to the party.  As you do this, consider not only the job that you had, but also the role to which you aspire.  Perhaps you are a successful sales professional applying for sales management roles.  You’d want to specifically highlight what you have done in your role as a superstar individual producer to select, train, mentor, and/or assist others on the sales team. If you are a software tester and are going for QA Manager roles, be sure to highlight your experience as a test lead, or even informal leadership tasks that you completed in your prior roles.   

Another key way to Power Up your resume is to quantify your results!  Everyone is interested in measurable business benefit and what you’ll be able to do for the organization if they hire you. So, instead of the ho-hum  “executed process improvements”, Power It Up!  Go with, “identified and implemented a major process improvement project increasing the firm’s targetable account base by 150,000 customers with expected annual value of $40M”. Rather than “opened new accounts and sold into an existing customer base”, how about “Developed a new business target pipeline of $3M in revenue and secured 8 new clients.  Managed a high value legacy customer and increased sales and margin by 25% in year over year performance. ”  Power Up the boring “oversaw collections and aging reports” and change it to “managed an aging portfolio of nearly 250 individual clients and reduced bad debt reserves by 75% while improving DSO metrics from average of Net 65 days to Net 40, improving corporate cash flow dramatically.” No matter what your role or industry, there are clear ways for you to spell out exactly what you set out to do, what you accomplished, and how your employer benefited from these accomplishments. 

These are just a few examples of how to Power Up your resume using action words and results-focused content that WILL get you noticed.  Take the time to really work on the resume and have someone you trust review it and provide candid feedback.  You’ll be glad that you did!  Resume writing is like almost everything else in life, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it! Uh oh, I sound like my mother hauling out that old adage, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all, right?  Now, get to work and start job hunting the smart way! And, don’t forget to check out my next blog; I’ll share some wisdom on how to use your network effectively to find the best jobs out there…stay tuned!!
Daphne Wotherspoon is an expert at getting the right people hired into the right jobs.  She has nearly 20 years of experience in the staffing, consulting, recruiting, and human capital management industries.  An industry leading sales professional, entrepreneur, general manager, and recruiter, Daphne has hired and placed more than 2000 job seekers at Fortune 500 and mid-market companies, not for profit institutions, and government agencies.  Currently, Daphne is a founding partner of Aligned360, a Talent on Demand Solutions firm located in Northern Virginia.  She is also a mother of two, an avid blogger, social media enthusiast, and an aspiring TV chef.  She has been featured in Staffing Industry Review, and the Washington Business Journal, and in 2009, she was selected to be a contestant on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, a nationally-televised game show (which did not unfortunately result in millionaire status!).  For more information and helpful suggestions, tips and notations on business trends, follow Daphne on Twitter @dspoon1 or check out Aligned360 on Facebook.

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