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The Smartest Way to Think About Your Resume

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Is your resume boring or super-hero style? Find out how to create a resume and cover letter that will get you called in for that coveted interview.

When was the last time you thought about your resume in a context other than needing to get it updated or submitted? The honest answer is probably “never,” which is why it’s such a good idea to ponder this question:

What IS my resume?

If you’re like most people who answer this question, you’ve probably come up with a phrase or sentence to the effect of “an overview and summary of personal skills, interests, employment history, attributes and professional experience.” Sound about right?

Now think about this: did your response relate in any way to the PURPOSE or function of a resume? Did it speak to what your resume is designed to do?

For that matter, what is the purpose of a resume? What is it supposed to prompt? Take a few seconds and complete the following sentence:

The purpose of a resume is to  ___________________________.

If you answered honestly and thoroughly, you’ve probably recognized a few fundamental responses, like “help me land interviews” or “catch the attention of prospective employers” or “help me find a new job.” In other words, what your resume IS happens to be far less important than what your resume is designed to DO.

Your resume, like everything else, is designed to serve a purpose. To be direct, specific and blunt…

Your Resume is a Sales Letter

Yes, you read correctly. Your resume is a sales letter. The idea of marketing or promoting yourself may be a bit uncomfortable, but opinions and judgments aside, you are absolutely using your resume to sell yourself to prospective employers. It’s not a question. It’s fact.

Marketing yourself effectively ensures that the value you can add is obvious and clearly defined for your audience. This encourages prospective employers to interview and hire you, and ultimately requires that they provide adequate compensation for your time and talent.

Knowing what a resume truly is can be a huge advantage, which is why it’s important to bring up a point on ethics. You can think of it as the Guiding Principle of Resume Writing (because that sounds fancy), but it’s really just common sense and old-fashioned honesty.

Guiding Principle: ALL information you present on your resume and throughout the hiring process must be truthful, factual and accurate. Always.

Does that mean you’re stuck with whatever resume you’ve already got? Absolutely not! There are plenty of clever ways to polish and refine your content that fall well within the bounds of professional ethics and personal integrity.

As it turns out, the rapidly accelerating pace of decision-making means effective positioning of facts and details is an absolute necessity. The key is learning how to creatively present your skills and experiences in a way that works with the resume-scanning tricks used by the people making decisions about you as a potential candidate. This is one of the driving forces behind the New Rules of Resume Writing.

Rule #1: Know Your Audience

Resume readers have limited time and an almost unlimited number of candidates to review, and it’s a good idea to use this knowledge to your advantage.

If you want to write a great resume, start by paying attention to the way employers describe their hiring goals in the job descriptions they write. Read as many of these as you can, paying particular attention to the words, phrases, and titles used by the people who are searching for individuals with your skills and experience. Understanding what they’re looking for and using the right language on your resume will help you attract more viewers, more interest, and more interview activity.

Rule #2: Get to the Point

You’ve heard the saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’s as true in resume writing as it is in dating.

One glance often sets the tone for an entire first date, and that same infinitesimally small opening is what you can reasonably expect from a resume reader. That means you have to get right to the point and show them something relevant, and do so without a lot of preamble and wasted space.

As one of my mentors used to say, “treat the beginning of your resume like the front page of a newspaper and make sure it JUMPS out at readers.” The advice is even more relevant today than ever before.

The rest of the rules require a bit more depth of explanation than can be offered here, but all point to a common theme – making sure others can readily find and identify you as a viable match for their opportunities.

The internet empowers you to promote yourself to a far broader audience than has ever been possible before; understanding the rules of the game will help set you up for a far more productive and rewarding job search, and that’s a beautiful thing.

Michael B. Junge is the author of Purple Squirrel: Stand Out, Land Interviews, and Master the Modern Job Market and a member of the leadership recruiting team at Google, Inc. He can be visited online at www.michaelbjunge.com, Facebook, and Twitter (@michaelbjunge).

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