Resumes were the topic last week… well, at least after some professional resume writers pointed out the differences between what they do and what TheLadders does… Up to that point, the topic was my critique of TheLadders’ sales gaffe in its pitch for $1,375 resume services. One should not be pitching pricey perfection in resume writing when one fails to catch one’s own spelling errors. (Hey, I make spelling mistakes, too, but I’m not trying to get you to spend $1,375 to buy my spelling and writing expertise.)

I don’t write resumes for a living. But I do provide advice about how to get an interview and how to win a job. In this week’s (February 12, 2008) edition of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we’re discussing how to commit Resume Blasphemy. That is, how to turn that piece of paper you hand an employer into a Working Resume.

In the newsletter I offered 4 tips for how to structure an hypothetical resume so it works like a business plan. (Yah, you have to subscribe to the newsletter to get that stuff — and we’re going to be discussing newsletter topics here regularly. The newsletter is free.)

I promised a few more tips for how to structure it. The point is to show a manager how you will do the work. (A nifty novelty in the hiring process.) After the 4 bullets I listed in the newsletter, here are 3 more in the series for the hypothetical situation I presented:

  • My plan: Meet with product managers, marketing, and sales team to coordinate a new presentation of the product and a new strategy for promoting it. Get this done in 30 days. Roll out new campaign in next 30 days.
  • Steps: [week by week plan and schedule of tasks involved in your job]
  • Profit Estimate: Using these steps I believe I can help increase unit sales A% in 60 days without reducing price. Such sales would result in B% more collateral sales of associated products. I estimate this would increase total revenue by X% and possibly enhance overall profit by Y%.

Put it all together, and you’ve got a pretty compelling presentation that puts other candidates to shame. The manager should quickly see that you have a plan for doing the job, and something of substance to discuss in your meeting. But, as I pointed out in the newsletter, there is no fixed format and you must create and re-create the bullet points to suit your situation. It’s got to sound like you, not like me. For those who’ve thought about this, please post your ideas and examples — let’s have some fun with it!


  1. Hi Nick!

    Another on-target post (why am I not surprised ).

    In the careers profession a few of us have been coaching our clients to do just what you suggest. My enlightened clients (most of them do “get it”) and I partner on creating what I call an “employment proposal” that has a great similarity to your “working resume.”

    When you think about it, if they are going to interview with a target company and out-compete they need to know this stuff anyway. So why not get it on paper in a formalized plan and blow away the competition? In fact, the process of organizing and formulating the data and strategies and potential outcome crystallizes their thinking and they start talking as though they were already employed — they think in terms of “when we” (team together) rather than “if you” (hire me).

    In a world of “job graveyard” resumes, thanks for keeping it real, Nick!

    Deb Dib, the CEO Coach

  2. Regarding increasing unit sales or some other such specific metric. How, without actually having worked for the company or having some serious insider information, could you ever stand by such numbers. Sure, it is easy to promise big, but then when you start looking at the negatives if you get the job, how to stop it from being a short-lived job, or from permantently damaging your credibility within the organization when you come up short?

  3. Nobody,

    (It doesn’t pay to behave like nobody. Take a name. Have an identity! Heck, use your own name — don’t you want people to recognize your wit and wisdom?)

    You’re taking me very literally. Of course there’s a problem with this — you can use only estimates. The quality of your estimates matters, as does the work you did to arrive at them. Any manager with a brain recognizes this, and you need to be clear about that.

    But consider: What’s a manager really looking for? Someone who knows his company’s secrets? Or someone who knows how to put two and two together? It’s not the accuracy of your numbers that matters. It’s the soundness of your approach and your ideas. That’s what gets a manager’s attention. So, use your best estimates, be frank about what you’re assuming, and be ready to defend and explain how you put it all together. That leads to a conversation, also known as an interview.

  4. [Great newsletters and website, been reading them for over 3 years.] In the basic format (problem-solution-result) and the examples of the working resume it seems geared for people in sales or management, i.e. who create/use business plans.

    I am having problems applying the concepts to my situation. My approach thus far in using these ideas has been to show my skill sets and accomplishments outside the context of the positions held. But it is still a view to the past, whereas a real working resume is forward looking.

    Any suggestions for those in more technical jobs or in project environments? e.g. engineers, programmers, designers, Project Managers,

  5. Dear Nick,

    I’m thrilled you’re on track for syndication–congratulations! At the same time, I have to admit disappointment that everyone will now have access to your knowledge; rather like a favored band that’s about to get famous:) But to the point–how do you adapt this technique for jobs that don’t link as obviously to the bottom line? A situation where they have a clearly defined role and just want someone to fill it, like an editor or technician?



  6. You don’t have to work in sales or in a revenue-generating role to use this approach. It’s a common error — people confuse profit with revenue. The profit equation is simple (apologies to the heavy-duty analysts out there!): PROFIT=REVENUE-COST.

    ALL jobs affect profit. Either you help boost revenue, or you help control costs. Think of profit as efficiency, customer satisfaction, product improvement, business growth — it can be any of a number of benefits to the business. Then figure out how your job contributes, and discuss it.

    Again, it’s not the details that matter so much. It’s the fact that you are talking about profit to the manager. If you get stuck, ask the manager, “How does this job contribute to the department’s/company’s profitability?” You might be putting the manager on the spot, but this is good. Any manager who does not recognize the value of this discussion is questionable… (I’m not copping out here. I’m asking, do you really want to work for someone who doesn’t get it? At least to have an intelligent discussion about profitability?)

  7. **I have to admit disappointment that everyone will now have access to your knowledge**

    Ah, but knowledge is useless except to those who have the gumption to apply it! Don’t worry about your competition. There is little.

  8. What’s key to remember, IMO, is that any human intercourse, job interviews included, is most successful when you think of the other person more than you think of yourself.

    You hit on this when you said, “The point is to think about the work, rather than about yourself and your credentials.”

    What you are suggesting, the “Working Resume,” may seem very hard, even impossible, to many people. But anyone can teach himself to switch his focus from inner to outer. At least for the space of an interview.

    It’s a good place to start.

  9. Working Girl,

    You used a perspective that’s more general, but very true: Think of the other person more than of yourself.

    This reminds me of the motto of a kids’ camp in the Northeast: “The other fellow first.” (It’s a camp for boys.)

    I like how you couch it, because if we can learn a lesson like that in a general way, we apply it to everything without any trouble.

  10. On 2-12-08 Eric asked:

    “I am having problems applying the concepts to my situation. My approach thus far in using these ideas has been to show my skill sets and accomplishments outside the context of the positions held. But it is still a view to the past, whereas a real working resume is forward looking.

    “Any suggestions for those in more technical jobs or in project environments? e.g. engineers, programmers, designers, Project Managers,”

    A good way to get started toward an effective resume, is to take all your “past tense” achievements and write them in “future tense” capabilities.

    For example, an engineer who “designed embedded software applications for use in high vibration and high heat environments,” assuming she can replicate that achievement, might say, “design embedded software applications….”

    The idea is to state what you can do, not what you did. The method is to assume that anything you did successfully in the past you can do successfully in the future.

    Resumes, because of the ease of sending them electronically, are becoming the junk mail of the job-search process.

    The resume is one important element of an effective job search. The savvy job seeker typically (underline typically) does not send a resume to anyone until first having a face to face meeting (or at least a voice to voice telephone call) with THE person who makes the hiring decision. Even and especially when answering a posted / public job announcement.

    The tech person who thinks in terms of offering a service to someone who is focused on getting and keeping customers, making and saving money, and avoiding and solving problems, and who shows that he / she can accomplish those objectives will get noticed. The tech person who talks about what he / she did in the past (and today the past is six months ago) will likely get passed over.

    The time to discuss past achievements and successes often is after that first human to human contact.

    Because, again, a resume is an important element of a job search . . . it is NOT the silver bullet or magic formula.

  11. The Working Resume is a good strategy to stand out on the interview. One problem to guard against is that you may inadverdently over-promise and under-deliver. It takes time to really know how the organization works and what problems will come up that will impact the timetable you proposed during your interview.

  12. Mr. Nick. I was steps away from spending a huge chunk of change on a resume building site when I read your article on resumes. Basically I found a company I really wanted to work for and then in my cover letter, instead of telling them what I have done, I told them what I was going to do as soon as I joined the team. Just like your article stated.
    Out of many applicants, I was selected for what I would call a dream job (for me).
    So thank you very much. I appreciate it.

    Also if you get a chance, check out the site. It is I was hired to develop the website from start-up to 1 million+ users.

    Best to you,
    Mark Dorsey