Let me cut you off at the pass. I know you’re not a fan of resumes and you tell us not to rely on a resume to get a job. I get that. But if I’m going to use a resume anyway, what’s your advice about how to make it pay off? What good is a resume really? (Sorry for the affront but I’d really like some commando-style advice out in the job jungle.)
Your question is no affront — not any more than the in-your-face interview questions the best managers ask. And I welcome in-your-face questions. It’s the hard questions that are most important and that force us to countenance the challenges in our job search that no one else wants to deal with.
What good is a resume?
You’re right: I advocate against relying on a resume to introduce yourself, to get in the door, to show your stuff or to provide good reasons why someone should hire you. A resume is a dumb piece of paper (or string of digital “key words”) that cannot defend you. Think about it: The more resumes (or profiles, thank you LinkedIn) there are in the world, the more rejections occur and the harder it is for you to get matched to the right job.
There’s a line from comedian Steven Wright that I’ve bent a little bit to help make my point: Suppose you could have… everything in the world! Where would you put it?
Today employers have access to every resume in the world and job seekers can look up and apply to every job posting on the planet. What does it get anyone? More failures at matching. More rejection. And more is not better.
But you know all this already. You’d just rather ignore it and play along because resumes (and their sad brethren, job descriptions) are the coin of the failed realm of HR. (“Why can’t we find good workers?!”)
6 ways to make your resume pay off
So I’ll consider your “affront” with gusto! If you’re going to use a resume anyway, here are six answers about how to make your resume pay off:
1. Write it yourself
I don’t care how talented a professional resume writer is. You know your skills and history best. If you don’t accept the challenge to write your own resume, you will never recognize the kernel of qualities that will get you hired. You’ll know you did a good job if you can use the best sections of your resume as convincing statements in your job interviews. That’s why writing your resume has to hurt. It’s not a recitation. It’s a well-thought out plan for how you’re going to do a job that makes an employer want to hire you. Unless that resume writer is going to carefully research every job you’re going to apply to and customize each resume you submit, do it on your own.
2. Make your resume the cure
Make it vanilla. Skip the fancy flavoring. Leave lots of white space. Don’t tell all. Nobody wants to know everything about you. Include only what will help a specific employer. Yup, that means one resume per job you apply for. That means you must know what kind of pain an employer suffers from, and your resume must be the specific remedy.
3. The 6 second rule
Tell the manager exactly how you are the remedy on the top half of the first page. Eye-tracking studies suggest employers spend about six seconds scanning a resume. If you don’t show why you’re the best hire in six seconds, you instantly become a NO or a MAYBE.
4. Make contact first
Never, ever send a resume to an employer or hiring manager until after you have had substantive contact with that person. Don’t be someone the manager doesn’t know who clearly doesn’t know the manager. That’s the definition of junk mail. Managers are more likely to read your resume, interview or hire you, if you’re someone they know. The manager doesn’t know you? Do the work required to become known to the manager.
5. What good is a resume? It fills in the blanks
Once that manager already knows who you are, use your resume for one purpose. What good is your resume? It fills in the blanks about your history, experience and skills. Your resume is best used as follow-up information, not to introduce yourself cold. Do you want to be one of the very few applicants with an inside edge, or do you want your resume to be one of thousands?
6. Explain it to the manager
Try this test as you hand your resume to a manager: “Here’s my resume, Manager. When I give it to you, what am I really saying to you?” Are you saying, “Here’s my plan for doing the job you want done,” or are you saying, “Here’s all there is to know about me. Now you go figure out what to do with me.”
Managers stink at figuring out what to do with you. That’s why you (and everyone else) get rejected again and again. Your resume must quickly show the manager what to do with you.
Hope that helps.
How do you use your resume? Is it effective? Or do you use your resume like you buy a lottery ticket — so you can “be in the game”? What do you put in your resume that pays off?
NOTE FROM NICK: There will be no newsletter next week (Dec. 5). I’m going to visit Santa. See you Dec. 12!