by Sherri EdwardsYears ago, we created “catchy” resumes, using sophisticated language, printing them on colored paper or even having them delivered by singing messengers to get the attention of the decision maker. Life, work, and the pursuit of employment have changed since then. When sent in response to a job announcement, the chance of a resume directly reaching the decision maker without going through a screening process is slim to none. “Catchy” has been replaced with “targeted” and “to the point.”People spend many hours trying to break the recruiter’s or human resource specialist’s code to determine what will catch their eye. It seems the real value a resume offers to a candidate may get overlooked in the process of becoming “catchy” or “cute” or packed with “keywords.”An article on resumes recently hit my inbox. It started with: “The purpose of a resume is to land an interview. Nothing more, nothing less.” I couldn’t disagree more. Resumes serve a greater purpose than “getting your foot in the door.” A carefully composed resume will not only nail each requirement stated in the job announcement, it will encompass the unpublished information learned through networking or conducting informational interviews. The process of researching and collecting the appropriate data for your resume does more than catch someone’s eye. It is one of the most important steps in preparing you for an interview. After all, getting in the door is not your final goal. Getting the offer is.It has been said that a crafty, eye-catching resume is all that is needed to get your foot in the door for an interview. That may be so. Then what? How many times have you heard of a person having interview after interview, but never receiving any offers? There is likely to be a good reason for that and a good chance it can be tracked all the way back to their resume.Candidates have learned how to effectively include the correct keywords to catch an electronic or human eye. In all likelihood, whether it is a machine or a person hired to screen resumes, the screener may not know or understand the intent of the words or their relevance to the person’s experience and abilities. In an age where technology often dominates the selection process, keywords identified in a resume may well draw a candidate into the screening process, and in fact, may propel him or her all the way to a face-to-face interview. At that point the candidate’s bluff is called, and the momentum dies. What is missing in this scenario is the ability for those candidates to apply the keywords in any meaningful way once the interview has actually begun.One of the greater purposes of a well-crafted resume is more for the benefit of the candidate, rather than the employer. A candidate who has selected language that is used by the employer, and included specific examples of accomplishments that are relevant to the employer’s needs has a far greater chance of using this information to his or her advantage during an interview. The candidate who has thoughtfully considered each piece of information included in the resume, and qualified and quantified his or her examples has most certainly completed the hardest part of the preparation required to succeed in the interview. Without connecting the dots between experiences and the employer’s needs long in advance of the interview, a job-seeker’s ability to present that information in a meaningful way and effectively lead the employer directly to those same conclusions during an interview is vastly limited. By using only relevant examples of experience and clearly expressing why these examples have been selected for inclusion in the resume, a candidate has built the framework for the impending conversation. The candidate, not the employer, in essence, can control the conversation. The resume is used as the “agenda” or a “cheat sheet’ for the candidate.A well-constructed job-search resume will include qualified and quantified information spoken in plain language that is relevant to the industry, and easy enough to understand by the lowest-level screener. You must pass “go” before you move to the next level. Beyond being clear, the information provided is also an opportunity to begin building your value. Never assume that past titles or general statements will imply value or secure a whopping salary.Concrete, relevant examples of your work will help lay the groundwork for more extensive conversations in the interview. They will also serve as reference for the human-resource representative, recruiter or decision maker at a later date when they are tasked with presenting you with an offer. Beyond using a resume as a focus point for an interview, it is also the first documentation required in establishing a candidate’s worth to the employer, and a key ingredient in an effective negotiation. Many companies have steps or grades in their salary ranges, and the human-resource department determines the actual level a candidate is hired in at rather than the hiring manager. A carefully designed resume establishes proof for requesting a higher level when it is time to negotiate salary. By responding to each point identified in an employer’s detailed job announcement, the candidate can clearly identify examples of his or her experience that support a higher level in the pay scale. By outlining clear, specific information directly relevant to the employer’s needs, you have begun the groundwork for a negotiation for compensation that is in the top of the pay range, or even beyond.
Final Thoughts on a Well-Crafted Resume
With careful planning and listening, a candidate can parlay the information presented in the resume into answers to tough interview questions, and ultimately into evidence of why he or she should be at the high end of a pay scale. Without proof, reassurance, and facts, a request for negotiating more compensation is a long shot. By providing evidence from start to finish, a candidate is far more likely to negotiate a greater offer. Your request will be based on market conditions, the company’s needs and how well you fit them, supported by factual evidence. In this market, high salaries are not effectively negotiated just because a candidate “looks good” or was able to “schmooze” his/her way through an interview. Employers rely on evidence that you will be worth what you are asking. That value begins to build the moment they read your resume.How well is your resume working for you?
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Sherri’s background includes 20 years of management, consulting and training for service driven companies and organizations. She has offered outplacement and coaching services for individuals pursuing a career change, by design or through downsizing, merger, or returning from an extended absence from the workplace for the past ten years. Her clients learn how to identify their workplace demand and value, and how to market themselves effectively to obtain the type of work that fuels their passions and allows them to live their dreams. Reach her through her Web site: ResourceMaximizer, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.