The normal process in any job search is to write a resume, write a cover letter, send it to HR or a recruitment firm and then… not hear back. You may not even receive a courtesy rejection note.
Hiring Managers often comment that “the CV does not jump at us.” This is because resumes all sound the same and look the same. Phrases get replicated, job descriptions are regurgitated and buzz words abound.
The resume does not “jump at them” because it does not address their needs. Good candidates are routinely rejected because their resumes do not address how they can add value to the employer nor meet the role requirements.
Most headhunters, after sending a resume to an employer frequently have to follow up to verbally “sell” the candidate. A phrase frequently used is: “Good candidates don’t necessarily have great CVs” followed by reasons why the employer should interview the candidate.
If the job seeker does not have the luxury of a good recruiter on his side, how does he ensure that his resume is noticed by the employer?
Treat the job search like a sales process
What do good sales people do? Good sales people market their products actively. The product is the job seeker. The customer is the employer. The customer buys the product to solve a problem; the employer hires to meet a need.
Think about the marketing activities that surround the sale of a product: The 4Ps are Product, Promotion, Price and Place. Behind the scenes, a lot of market research goes into marketing planning. In relation to the job search, the job seeker would have to target the organization, and do serious research to understand the needs of the employer. Only then can he advertise his relevant abilities in the resume, write an impactful cover letter, and hopefully secure an interview. If all goes well, and the candidate is offered a position, he can then negotiate Price i.e. the compensation package.
When putting a resume together, most people tend to fill out a “fact sheet”, listing a person’s employment, education and personal particulars. This is not enough to make a candidate stand out.
Here are some suggestions that can differentiate a resume and make an employer notice it.
1) Answer the question: Why should the company hire me?
The resume must address the employer’s needs and problems. There is a reason the job exists. The job seeker must do his research to identify the reasons for the job, the needs of the employer and answer the question. This section should be on the front page, right at the top of the resume, giving the reader a quick overview of the candidate’s abilities and experiences that can fulfill the company’s needs or solve the employer’s problems.
2) Quantify, quantify, quantify
The employer must be able to see the impact of hiring the candidate. Will he be able to help them achieve their targets? Increase revenue? Cut costs? Create new products? Streamline operations? The resume has to show the impact of hiring the candidate.
Example 1: Conceived, coordinated and led a team of 10 to execute a regional supply chain project across 13 countries in Asia Pacific resulting in 20% cost savings for the company.
Example 2: Managed the marketing and sales campaign to grow market share from 10% to 30% in 2 years by acquiring new clients through new distributor channels.
3) Tailor the resume to the role
Flooding the market place with resumes will dilute the candidate’s value, giving readers the perception that this candidate is desperate for a job. Sending out fewer tailored resumes would connect the job hunter with the employer and role, and would be more productive. Each employer has unique needs and different problems, even if the job title is the same. There are differences in the products sold, customer segments, marketing models and even cultural differences. The candidate who can address the employer’s needs would stand a higher chance of an interview.
4) Do not write general career objectives
Example 1: Career Objective: To capitalize on 10 years operations management experience, strategic planning and international sales with a fast growing organization.
Example 2: Career Objective: To secure a Sales Management position in a growing, innovative organization.
Firstly, most job objectives such as the examples above do not tell us what the job seeker can do. Secondly, at this point employers are not concerned about what the job seeker wants – they have a more pressing problem to solve. So go back to the question: why should the company hire me?
5) Eliminate all organization and industry-specific lingo
Replace all industry-specific lingo and organizational acronyms with simple English. Do not expect that the reader will understand the lingo. This is to reduce the chances of being misunderstood.
Instead of: “Implemented HRIS (SAP) system”, it might be better to write: “Implemented state-of-the-art Human Resource system.”
Instead of: “Won Morgie award”, it would be better to write: “Won top revenue achiever award.”
6) Simplify a convoluted sentence
“As division head of the IT PMO, I was leading a team of 30 staff to support both Financial Reporting and Management Reporting to the Executive Management of the bank for Asia Pacific.”
It might be better to write:
“Led a team of 30 staff to implement a Financial and Management Reporting project bank-wide across 15 countries in Asia, all completed within a challenging time frame of 8 months.”
7) Do not be too creative
Resumes should not stand out for the wrong reasons. Limit the use of funky borders, creative bullets, arty photographs, emoticons, or graphics. Do not send powerpoint resumes. A good resume is concise and sends a clear message.
It is not enough to simply have a brilliant resume. The job seeker may also needs to write an impactful cover letter to accompany the resume.
The homework behind an impactful cover letter is extensive. The job seeker should research the company exhaustively, constantly looking for areas where his skills and experience might be useful. Ideally, the job seeker would have read all the company literature such as marketing collateral and annual reports, tried the products if possible, and talked to industry players including vendors, customers and competitors of the company. Too many individuals end their research after only visiting the company’s website.
It is far too easy with the technology available today to simply cut and paste the letters, and with a click of the button, email the document off to strangers. It is better to do the hard work and produce 10 impactful cover letters that get 10 interviews than to send 100 standard resumes that get no response at all.
Typical cover letters would state the job seeker’s interest in the company, and include a few bullets with key strengths and highlights.
An impactful cover letter takes it one step further by identifying some ideas or opportunities where the job seeker’s expertise and experience can make a difference. The letter must be carefully crafted and the ideas well thought out and researched, otherwise the reader may feel that the candidate is being presumptuous and arrogant. A well written letter will, in most cases, get the job seeker a meeting or a phone call.
The cover letter and resume exist to secure the job seeker an interview. Differentiate your resume and cover letter by focusing on the needs of the employer and answering the question “Why would the company hire me?”
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