Thinking Outside the Book on Resume Writing
You often hear of employers seeking someone who can "think outside the box" or some other similar clichÃƒÂ©. Many employers today are looking for someone that can bring something to an organization that is new, creative, and different. How do you communicate that you're "the one" if your resume looks like it was cut and pasted from a resume writing book?
Over the years, I've reviewed a good number of resumes and even had struggles in preparing my own (which, I assure you, breaks a rule or two), but I can promise you one thing - the only ones that "stick out" in my mind are the ones that were truly unique (good, bad or otherwise).
Updating the Rules
I say that when it comes to resumes, it's time to think about updating the "rule book." Years ago - in the personnel days - you might have to worry about encountering that staunch personnel manager who had expectations of what a proper resume ought to look like. Many of these types went on to author resume-writing books (some with original print dates dating back to the 70's). It's time to evolve!
I am not saying that there aren't some intriguing guides to resume writing and interviewing out there, but I am saying that HR managers read these books as well. Very often, it is fairly easy to tell when someone is hiding gaps in employment, trying to demote the areas of lesser experience, embellish education, etc.
Your Resume is a Tool
A resume is a tool. It has a specific purpose - to get you into an interview. But, like many other tools, people try to use it for purposes other than intended, like the screwdriver that doubles as a chisel. As many are aware - when your only tool is a hammer, you try to make everything into a nail. A resume is not that - it needs to be customized to the job for which it is intended, even it that means more work in your end. I have seen so many with blanket objectives, generic cover letters, etc. that it gets old.
Pair Your Resume with a Cover Letter
Pair a good resume with a good cover letter, and you've got a good shot at getting to the next level of the search process. Job searching is a process - a process that has stages which are designed to eliminate the weaker candidates early.
Meet the Minimum Requirements
If a job posting states minimum requirements and you don't meet them, it probably is a waste of time to pursue the job - someone with a checklist of the minimums will eliminate you early. It's not about sending out thousands of resumes to unknown entities hoping that something will bite. You have to learn to read a job posting - there is a difference between "requirements" and "desired qualifications"Ã¢Â€Â¦ between "minimum qualifications" and "the ideal candidate will possessÃ¢Â€Â¦" There are some situations where you can effectively sell experience in lieu of education, but not when a posting specifically states parameters that must be met to be considered.
The better HR people are trained to first reduce the pool of candidates for a job to a manageable number. If you're light on experience, education, or both, you have to accent the areas of strength you feel you possess - it really isn't complex (unless you try to use "traditional" formats for "non-traditional" purposes) - it is about knowing yourself and being able to communicate that knowledge.
Effective Writing Matters
You HAVE to be able to write effectively. That doesn't mean perfectly, it means effectively. That is more than just spell-checking and looking for punctuation errors (and you'd be surprised at how many resumes still go out with these errors!) Those are the mechanics of writing, you need them but that is only a piece of the puzzle - those things are expected. What I am talking about is the "sales" pitch, the ability to write like a marketing pro, because that's what you're doing - self-marketing. Before you run off to that $1000 resume writer, remember that you can do this yourself because nobody knows YOU better than YOU. Too often I've sat in front of a prospect that cannot even explain his/her own resume. I have had some candidates actually have to look back at it during the interview. When you are on stage, it's too late to go back and rehearse the lines - you're on!
Consider a Coach
This very real fact is why you can - and should - seek coaching. Go on a couple of interviews to get some practice (there are employment agencies and Department of Labor services that will help). We help in the Job Search Forum, too. Have someone professionally critique your resume (and prepare to hear some negative along with the positive.) There really are no "pros" at this - on either side of the interviewing desk. Sometimes there are hidden agendas, pre-ordained candidates, etc. But every experience will offer you something, even if not the job.
Experiment With Your Resume
- Don't be afraid to experiment, to be non-traditional, and to be unique.
- Know what you write - truth makes it so much easier because it is consistent.
- Know that you are one of many probably seeking that same opportunity.
- Have realistic expectations when it comes to job searching.
- Know that you can be chosen even if not the "best" candidate.
- Pay attention to presentation - it's part of the whole package on which you will be judged.
We who might be interviewing you expect some level of nervousness, but shaking and crying communicate a lack of confidence more than nerves. We want you to be confident in what you have to bring to the table.
We're searching and so are you. We may not be "right" for each other. You can say NO to an offer just as easily as we can say NO to you - and that puts us back into the time consuming search. It's a two-way street and we both want you to be "the one." The ones I remember are the ones that left the favorable impression, even if not selected, but they usually are!