As I receive many questions from candidates finding it difficult to differentiate their skills from their competitors, I wanted to highlight actionable tactics you can use to make a better first impression.
“Jack-of-all-trades” job seeker: I am always hesitant when I hear a candidate tell me that they can do “anything.” Unfortunately while this may seem like a great positioning strategy is actually one of the worst things you can do when marketing yourself on a résumé.
In today’s very employer-centric market, hiring managers have the “pick of the litter” when it comes to finding a perfectly qualified candidate, meaning candidates have to be fairly specific in their job search (and résumé) and position themselves for something, not everything.
If you find yourself thinking that you want to pursue different career targets, consider having more than one version of your résumé so you are presenting a very targeted picture to each audience. While you may think that broadening your search with an “open” résumé might yield more responses, it is likely to do the opposite.
Creative candidate: One of the most concerning things creative candidates do is to create a résumé that does not reflect their personality or talent. If you are a creative individual it is imperative you take the time to brand yourself and showcase what you can do creatively.
Think about it, your ability to market yourself is a direct reflection of your ability to market a product or service. About 11 years ago, before I was in the résumé writing field, I was in marketing and conducting a job search of my own.
While understanding little about résumé writing at the time, I did know that I needed to prove that I could market myself. I created a simple theme throughout my résumé and cover letter, created personal business cards showcasing some of my key qualifications, and packaged my collateral in an inexpensive folder.
To make the presentation more unique, I printed a self-designed logo and some core competencies on a sheet of vellum paper and slipped it into the front of the folder in a swoosh-shaped die cut I made with an X-Acto knife. Sure, it took longer than hitting “apply now” online, but it reinforced my creativity and my willingness to do more than the average candidate.
The results spoke for themselves: I received a 100 percent response rate for the five packages I sent out during the first week of my search. I had 4 interviews lined up for the week of July 22. The fifth package I sent out yielded a call from the hiring manager to tell me he had filled the position but had to speak to someone who presented herself in such a unique and engaging manner.
So, a 100 percent response rate and four interviews in week one, all based on packaging and decent content (not stellar as I knew nothing about résumé writing at the time!).
On July 21, I went into premature labor with my first child and my daughter was born on July 22, so, my friend canceled all my interviews and my life took a different path! I tell you this personal story to illustrate the power you can have in your job search when you take the time — whether a creative person or not — to make your presentation targeted, engaging, and unique.
Human Resources Manager: Funnily enough, I work with more HR professionals than probably any other field. Why? Because those in HR understand the competitiveness of the market and know they need an edge.
The most common concern I hear from my HR clients is that they are puzzled as to why they can’t write their own résumé when they have reviewed thousands of résumés throughout their career. Just as with most clients I work with, often the candidate struggles when speaking openly about the value they have contributed, not knowing how to use, and not abuse, self-promotion.
When writing a HR résumé, be sure you are giving enough information to differentiate yourself from the other HR pros, knowing that the reviewer will likely understand your field very well so is looking a little deeper into what you did that was different than the norm.
50+ job seeker: While at this juncture in your career you probably have 25+ years of experience, it is important to present a strategic picture of what you have done in order to avoid being disqualified for fear of being overqualified or too expensive. With your objective in mind, review your experience and prioritize engagements, being sure to showcase achievements more so than responsibilities to reinforce the value of your experience.
Think about presenting about 10-15 years of experience, leaving earlier positions to fall into an additional experience subsection or omitting from your résumé entirely. Hiring managers do not expect to see every position you have ever held on a résumé, so be sure you are not writing an autobiography and instead developing a strong marketing document that strategically positions your candidacy based on your current career goals.
Salesperson: An effective sales résumé must contain quantifiers. Numbers jump off a page, and when significant, can be the differentiating factor. If your quotas are unimpressive, or if you had trouble meeting them, then quantifiers can be used sparingly, but there are almost always ways to incorporate numbers into a sales résumé.
If you worked with a smaller company, quantify your successes in percentages as opposed to dollars. Doing so will keep you in the running for positions in which you would handle higher volumes. I also find that some in the sales arena have never had solid goals and therefore think they don't have anything to measure their performance against.
If this is the case, compare the results you achieved with those of your peers, your competitors, or industry benchmarks. Lastly, if you just can't use quantifiers, maybe you have some sales-related awards you can showcase, comments from clients, or even pull excerpts from your annual reviews.
Administrative Assistant: The most common complaint I hear from administrative assistants is that they do not have any accomplishments to highlight. Most feel that they have played a supportive role and therefore cannot attribute any achievements solely to their efforts.
But I have yet to work with a client who didn't have achievements of some kind — increasing organizational effectiveness, performing their job despite limited guidance, or even helping others better perform their jobs by seeking out and taking on additional accountabilities. By showcasing where you have driven value for an organization, you will position yourself ahead of the competition.