You’ve just met a recruiter or potential employer or new connection face-to-face at a networking event or serendipitously at the grocery store trying to assess which cantaloupe is the best in the pile. Wouldn’t it be great to know that with just sixty to ninety minutes (or less) of research and editing you could be sending them a resume that would make them sit up and take notice. One that would not be consigned to some electronic equivalent of the stuffed full and never-to-be-opened-again drawer of the filing cabinet in the corner of the mailroom but one that will make its way into the ‘candidates to keep in mind’ folder on that person’s desktop. The secret is to have a rock-solid ‘base’ resume ready to be tweaked, updated and customized for just such occasions. Read on.
Gather your raw material
If you’re struggling with getting together the raw material for your resume here’s a great tip that you might not be aware of – LinkedIn has a tool called Resume Builder that will pull information from your profile. You can choose from several different resume styles, easily add and remove information, save as a PDF and share right from LinkedIn. There doesn’t seem to be an option to save it as a word processing document but simply copying it and pasting it works okay. Anyway, so now you have no excuse for not having something to start with – unless of course your LinkedIn profile is not complete (in which case get to work – now).
Create the best foundation you can
I’m not going to talk here about types of resumes or resume formats or even whether you should go to a professional to get a resume done. You can find a ton of advice online (here’s a great page from JibberJobber on resume help) on the subject and so I’m going to call into play the infamous black box and suggest that you will somehow go from gathering your raw material to having two to three fabulous ‘foundational’ resumes. The one thing I will say is that for your ‘foundational’ resumes go LONG – put in every job, every skill/accomplishment/task and every educational experience that is significant. It will be much easier to take stuff away in later customization than to be scrambling around looking for information when you are under time pressure.
Learn how to ‘stage’ your resume in a heartbeat
I’m borrowing a technique here from the world of real estate. Here’s the subheading for an article on home-staging – “Highlight your home’s strengths, downplay its weaknesses and appeal to the greatest possible pool of prospective buyers with these home-staging tips”. That’s what you want your resume to do – be visually appealing, keyword rich and tweaked in such a way that it appeals (unlike the staged home) to a SPECIFIC employer/job posting rather than to the larger ‘pool’ of prospective employers. You can use your foundational resume (abbreviated a bit from the exhaustive and long version you created earlier) for posting on resume sites but when it comes to applying for actual postings you need to be much more discerning.
Take your foundational resume, save a copy under the name ‘staging resume’ and work through it highlighting ‘action words’, metrics, accomplishments and skills (each in a different colour). These are the sections you are going to be looking at replacing/refining in response to a job posting. Next find three or four job postings that interest you (doesn’t matter if they are expired or from outside your geographical area or whatever). Practice ‘staging’ your resume to meet these specific opportunities, save each version separately and then print out each one and compare it to the posting for ‘fit’. For tips on how to do this read about deconstructing a job posting and any of the chapters in Raw Resume’s helpful ‘definitive guide to resume writing‘.
Take your technique to the real world
Okay, put yourself back in the grocery store at the cantaloupe display. You’ve just met this person who has asked for your resume and you are going to wow them. You’ve got their whole name (correctly spelled), their phone number and the name of the company and their role within it. Perhaps you’ve also given them your pitch (sorry, that’s coming in a few days) if appropriate and so they are expecting to receive a resume that highlights how you are a good fit for job X which may not even be available/exist at this point. When you get home spend 40-60 minutes on Google and LinkedIn learning all you can about the company, the individual you met and the role that you want to fill at the company (if you can’t find any info on the position within the company try looking for a similar position at other firms). Best of all would be if you could find a job posting that is for the type of job you want to be doing.
After doing your research get to work ‘staging’ whichever of your foundational resumes is the best fit (chronological, functional, whatever). Write a brief but punchy cover letter (in the body of the email) and then go back to the resume, print it out and review it to make sure it is PERFECT (no typos, misspellings, awkward language etc). Turn it into a PDF, attach it to your email (which you should probably read over too – make sure you have the person’s name correct and your email is error free) and send it off.
Lather, rinse, repeat
Looking for work is to some extent a numbers game. It’s like the lottery – if you haven’t sent out any resumes it is almost impossible that you will secure a job. But unlike the lottery not every ticket (resume) is created equal. An excellent resume gives you a better chance at not only landing a job but also at being ‘top of mind’ when an opening appears. So keep working on this technique and you’ll find your confidence improving as you practice and I am sure that you will start to see results in the form of interviews and responses that your resume is being kept on file as well as invitations to informational interviews.
Let me know how these ideas work for you by leaving a comment below or sending me an email at susan at yyjworks.com