Building a resume is about creating your primary marketing document. Throughout life, most of us have been taught “to be a good team player,” or have heard “your accomplishments will speak for themselves.” When approaching the job market, this logic no longer applies.
Winning the job you want places you in a highly competitive situation and you must present yourself in the best possible manner. Far too many people think of the resume as a necessary evil, a requirement for human resources and the personnel file, and they think of it as something to be developed quickly and effortlessly. After all, they think, “The resume doesn’t get me the job.”
The fallacy here is thinking that the resume and the job interview are mutually exclusive. This is absolutely incorrect. A well-constructed resume will help you get in the door. But, in addition, the focus of the interview will center on the competencies, accomplishments and experiences you’ve included in the resume. In effect, it is your agenda for an interview – the outline for the discussion about your abilities and achievements that you ideally want to have with the interviewer.
The resume, then, becomes a critical means of preparing for a winning interview, as well as a means for securing the interview in the first place.
The thought process you use to develop a winning resume will help you force rank your accomplishments so you will only have room for your best. Furthermore, you will need to analyze each accomplishment in detail in order to present it as effectively as possible. This detailed analysis enables you to lock each accomplishment into your memory system to be called on when you are being interviewed.
There are three things that any interviewer, in any company, in any industry, in any part of the world, needs to find out about you:
- Can you be successful in this job?
- Will you fit in here?
- Do you want the job?
To get at the first, and most important, issue the interviewer might ask, “What are your three or four critical abilities that will help you be successful here?” What’s really being asked couldn’t be clearer! “Why should I hire you? What skills will you bring to my organization?” Some people say that a question like that isn’t so tough. They rattle on about, “New business generation…my ability to deal with people…my marketing and research background…solving problems.” Wrong answer.
What’s wrong with that answer? It just isn’t that easy. You must be sure the three to four competencies you highlight are your best abilities. There is no second chance. You probably have a great number of competencies, but that isn’t what you were asked. You were asked to select your best competencies for this organization. Think of the presentation of your competencies as focusing the interviewer on the skill sets you could bring to the organization. (See Competencies and Accomplishments)
Since the interviewer is a busy person who hasn’t been thinking much about you before you arrive, it is helpful for the interviewer to understand your competencies. One further point — do not be concerned that other candidates might have some or all of the same competencies you do, especially when you are just starting out. It is your accomplishments that will separate you from the rest.
Starting with the Profile (or Summary), you describe your professional self in terms of your three or four most important competencies. This immediately calls attention to your strongest points.
The Experience section, which is usually seen simply as a “job history listing” is actually your opportunity to list your major accomplishments that serve as illustrations of your competencies. Thus, the resume focuses the interviewer on those competencies that you feel are your strongest and most relevant to the job you are applying for. The accomplishments are a listing of the “proof” that you not only have the skills you say you do but that you have used them to benefit your prior employers. That is why it is important to follow the prescribed format for listing them on your resume.
For each of your key competencies, you should have at least three to five accomplishments (ideally in recent jobs) that clearly demonstrate each one. In addition, you must be thoroughly prepared to fully describe each accomplishment in under 60 seconds (see 60-Second Rule) – explaining what you did, why and how you did it, and what the quantifiable benefit was to the organization. It is these examples and your telling of them that will set you above your competition.
Education should come before Experience only when you are receiving an undergraduate degree and have no full time experience. Once you have full time employment then Education comes after Experience. If you have limited work experience, be sure to include any extra curricular activities, GPA, honors and internships. The ability to perform academically and in extracurricular activities demonstrates energy, drive, passion, ability to multi-task etc.
Finally, the Personal Interests section is critical for several reasons. Almost every senior executive we have ever spoken to on the subject says that the personal section is the first place they look on the resume when doing an interview! Why? Two main reasons:
- First, they are looking for an “ice breaker”. Chances are they have never met you and they are looking for a way to open the interview and put you (and, frankly, themselves) at ease. An interest you may share with the interviewer, or an unusual one, is a great way to do that.
- Secondly, one of the things they want to determine is, are you the type of person they can spend 40 to 60 hours a week with? Do you have interests beyond work? What type? Etc. The Personal section gives you an opportunity to present that other side of yourself.