Jobs search - the employer's perspective on winning resumes

When a prospective employer looks at your resume, they have to think of you as a commodity. You may not like the idea, but that is the simple truth. Employers have a requirement to fill, and they are looking for the best candidate that can fit the requirement. The operative words being ‘best & fit’ and not just ‘best’ on its own – I will explain.

The act of hiring new employees can sometimes be crudely compared to items we buy while sailing through our domestic lives. For example, when you want to cook a certain recipe, you first look in your kitchen for the required ingredients that you may already have, and for everything that is not readily available, you identify items and quantities that need to be procured. On your trip to the store you buy these additional items and get on with fixing the meal. When one of the required ingredients is sour cream, it is highly unlikely that you will replace it with ice cream – no matter how good the ice cream may be. However, if you are impulsive – like me – you may end up buying the ice cream anyway; and that impulse purchase would then be the sole difference between this buying example and the hiring process. In business there is not much room for being impulsive.

When a prospective employer is looking for a certain skill set, experience or qualification, there is very little chance that they will settle for anything different – better or worse.The 'worse' will perhaps not cut it and the 'better' will be looking for greener pastures at the first opportunity.

Rule number one – When tailoring a resume for a particular position, you need to study and understand the job requirement. When you are convinced that you have what it takes for this job, make a laundry list of your abilities, experience, achievements, qualifications, references, etc., that fit the requirement. Then start organizing them on your resume. Everything else should be condensed down to a summary at the bottom of the resume. The bigger the size of this summary the more likely it is that you are turning yourself into the ice cream from the earlier example.

When prospective employers scan through a bundle of resumes they are usually looking for objective, tangible information that they can compare, first – with the requirements of the position, and then with other resumes in the pile. Since we started out by discussing shopping and recipes, let me extend that discussion. Imagine that you want to cook something for the first time, and are skimming through recipe books. You find two similar recipes: One gives you all the ingredients, their quantities, the preparation sequence and the method. The second recipe gives you the ingredients and the method but skips the quantities and sequence. ...It is my guess that you know where I am going with this. I would naturally pick the first recipe with all the relevant information.

Rule number two – tie your resume with real numbers, real dates, real locations, real milestones, etc. Statements like “all over the world”, “millions of dollars”, “years of service”, “highly accomplished”, “hard working”, etc., are nothing more than dramatic statements. It is an extension of the second recipe at best – “take an amount of salt, some sour cream and some chicken…”.

More often than not, prospective employers receive more resumes and applications than they can or want to handle. In such a circumstance there has to be a method of elimination. In simple terms think of it as the mail we receive in our mailboxes everyday. I am talking about the more traditional snail mail, but this example can be extended to e-mail as well. I for one seem to be a junk mail magnet. Each day I receive large numbers of junk mail in my mailboxes. However, along with that I also receive important documents (usually bills that I have to pay and sometimes – if I am lucky – a check). I sort my mail into three general piles. Pile number one is the important stuff, pile number two is items that look either attractive or threatening (in content or getup) and pile number three – the absolute junk.

This third pile usually consists of things I do not much care for (read - positions that are not even open / available), or typical mass mailed information, where the content is easily identified as such and the mailer did not address me in person. The one exception being: mass mailed information when it comes from a trusted entity - the government, the school district, my employer, my utility company etc.

Rule number three – when applying for a job do not get down to mass mailing your resume. More often than not, your resume will fall in the last two piles (from the above example). Actually most often in the last pile and only if you are lucky – maybe in pile number two. Sending out mass mailed resumes is a waste of your money and time. It is very close to buying and winning the lottery.

I hope these simple rules will help you in tailoring your resume according to the opportunities you come across. Good luck with your next job hunt.

Stay tuned, next I will be writing about using technology and networking to your advantage in the job search process.

Author:  Rajiv Banerjee           
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