By John R. Ratliff, Boomerang Staff Writer
When you start a job search, tradition holds, you must begin by creating a résumé. Once you've crafted one "perfect" résumé, you polish it to a shine, then make dozens of copies and always have one on hand to give to potential employers. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perfect résumé. Instead, today's job market favors a focus on creating a toolkit of information elements that you can use to create a custom résumé that speaks to each employer's needs and interests as opportunities arise.
Know the jobs you want and the skills you need to do them well. You know the types of work that you want or are willing to do. Think about each of these positions and list the skills you will need to be successful. As you interview, ask the hiring managers to list the skills they think are important so you can constantly brush up your list. Now, determine what skills you can demonstrate through your accomplishments and which ones you may need to work on.
Know the difference between an accomplishment and a responsibility. Rather than focusing on responsibilities you've had in past jobs (e.g., "managed accounts," "made cold calls"), think about accomplishments that demonstrate instances when you performed your responsibilities extremely well or were recognized or rewarded for your work. Quantify your success whenever possible (e.g., "managed a sales team of four reps responsible for $5.7 million in accounts").
Use a "modular" approach. For every skill or skill set you identify (e.g., "Leadership," "Project Management," "Sales"), come up with a list of 2-4 accomplishments that show you have that skill.
- Closed $1.2 million in accounts in FY 2011.
- Manage seven corporate accounts valued at more than $3 million.
- Earned "Salesperson of the Year" award in 2010.
These lists will become "modules" that you can plug into a basic résumé framework (contact info, employment and training history) under the heading "Relevant Skills and Accomplishments." This allows you to custom-tailor a résumé for each potential employer by including only the most relevant skills. Have everything ready electronically so that you can assemble and send a résumé within a day (or even hours) of meeting someone.
Share your objective with your potential new boss. Your objective is always the specific job you are creating this résumé for, but it should also anticipate the employers' objectives in hiring someone. Put yourself in their shoes, try to think of what their goals are and show how you can help them achieve them.
Objective: The Sales Manager position with a firm desiring an accomplished sales professional with a proven record of success and the following skills...
When it comes to history, be relevant. Your résumé should be 75-80 percent skills and accomplishments, and present your work and education history very briefly. This section should show where you had your accomplishments and demonstrate that you meet the minimum qualifications for the job (i.e., degree and years of experience). List only the most relevant jobs and education. For jobs, give only the company name, the years worked and a descriptive job title. Include volunteer work (not identified as such) if it is relevant to the job you are seeking. For education, list only the name of the school and degree earned. If relevant, you can also include any awards or distinctions (e.g., "cum laude").
Proofread, have a friend proofread, then have a stranger proofread. In a competitive job market, employers are often looking for "easy outs" - some mistake or exception that will allow them to easily thin the ranks of potential candidates. Typos, misspellings, incorrect grammar and other careless mistakes on your résumé could take you out of the running before the employer even sees your qualifications. Make sure all elements of your résumé toolkit (e.g., framework and skills modules) have been read and re-read and are error-free.
Custom-building a résumé for each employer and each job takes extra work and planning, but it also shows the employer that you know what you want to do, as well as how you are qualified to do it. This may be just the edge that helps you stand out.
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