For the many super-talented Americans who are job-searching, this blog is for you. I know it is tough out there. I have talked to many people who have suffered a furlough or out-right release not because of performance but just out of sheer need for their company to shrink their workforce in order to survive. This of course creates a compounding issue of finding a new job, right? Which is why it is EXTREMELY critical that the way in which you present your Personal Brand shines through your communications to a potential employer.
Remember, a brand is able to answer three questions: 1) Who am I? 2) Why am I different? and 3) Why do you want me? In selling the brand of YOU, these need to be addressed as well. And the first place this comes to life is your resume. But what I have noticed is too many people significantly under-selling themselves, which doesn’t bode well in a super-competitive environment. Your objective should be to clearly and compellingly sell your brand such that the hiring manager looks at your resume and thinks “I have to meet this person!” The following merges my experience of evaluating countless resumes for positions at P&G with my expertise on how to sell brands. The combination is sure to give your resume an edge over the competition. So, let’s get to it.
- Your resume should read like a highlight reel. It is important to start here as this sets the tone for all to come. Imagine you are being given a lifetime achievement award for your accomplishments and they need a 30-second sizzle reel for your intro. What accomplishments would you include? This IS NOT a laundry list of your work experience, although many people treat their resume as such. The way you tell the difference is by filtering through the following questions: Would this be a normal expectation of the job? If so, it doesn’t belong on your highlight reel. Was my impact meaningfully different than others who have done the job? If so, it does belong on your highlight reel. With the caveat that you need to quantify the impact. More on that later.
- Lead with a clear statement of the role and company for which you are looking. This is just 1-2 sentences to clarify you and the hiring manager are on the same page. A suggestion here is to include some accolade descriptors of the type of company for which you hope to work. This has an interesting effect of making that company feel special. For example, you may say, “Seeking a role in digital marketing for a company who embraces the evolution of digital advertising. Passion for pushing the role of digital to the boundaries of what is possible.”
- Lead with the contribution, quantify business impact and eliminate superfluous words. Too often, people bury the lead at the end and within unnecessary context. This works in the framework of interviewing as many companies use the CAR method (context, action, results) when evaluating candidates. But it doesn’t work in a resume which should read more like headlines. Remember, you need to clearly articulate why they want YOU. So, instead of “Was part of an innovation team that developed a new process for the G67X line which improved efficiency and ultimately reduced downtime by 30%”, you would switch it to “Designed and delivered a new process reducing downtime by 30% on a key product line critical for company growth.” Use action words that speak to your role in driving business success. And here is where I emphasize how important it is to quantify your contributions. Even if you can’t specify an exact result, you can frame it up with respect to the business impact. For example, the above could have read: “Designed and delivered a new process which reduced downtime enabling the company to meet its stretch goal for order fulfillment.”
- Use power words and own it. Some of you probably cringed in my example above saying “Well, I wasn’t really the ONLY designer and there was a team who delivered…”. Okay…so here is the rule…if you were instrumental in the impact, you are permitted to use power words. It is a statement of truth even if you were part of a team. In fact, a likely follow-up interview question could be “what was your role?”. Here again is your opportunity to use more power words…”I led the design of the controls system which interfaced with the mechanics eliminating manual shut-downs which take longer to come back up”. Own your contributions. Don’t under-value your impact in an effort to be humble. Remember, you are selling YOU! Now on the flip-side, in an interview, you don’t need to pretend to be the Lone Ranger either. Being able to state how you effectively worked or led a team is an important attribute.
- Clarify company-specific jargon, acronyms and classifications. Referencing again the example above, nobody outside of your previous company is going to know anything about the G67X line or how important it is. Make sure this isn’t lost in your resume. If the jargon isn’t readily understood in the industry, provide brief context or reframe it.
- Include accolades, awards, and recognition both in work and out. This demonstrates that your efforts are significant enough to be recognized by others. If you don’t have many “official” awards, frame up your own. For example, you may say that you were “top-rated in the last 5 years”. Or, your “work was the recipient of 5 Cannes Lions”. Or, you “serve on the board of [insert company]”.
- Include personal pursuits and interests which gives your depth and speaks to your character. This is so important but oftentimes overlooked. Again, this is 1-2 sentences to show you have a life outside of work reflecting a more comprehensive view of your humanity. It helps hiring managers understand what else you may bring to the workplace to enhance culture.
So, now that you better understand what TO do, let me (re)hit on a few points of what NOT to do:
- Undermine your value by hedging your role. I mentioned this above in #4 but it bears repeating and elaborating upon to hit on another common pitfall…people believe they can’t assume the credit if they didn’t have the role. For example, using the power word “led”. You do not have to be the anointed leader to lead. “Leading” is an action not a title. Same with “created”, “designed”, “managed”…these are all actions. And frankly, it is the action that matters more than the title. So, own your impact.
- Have more than a 1-page (back and front) resume. Remember, this is a sizzle reel, not the chronicles of your life. In resumes, shorter sentences are more impactful. Challenge yourself to streamline and remove superfluous words (see #3 above).
- Acknowledging gaps in your experience time-line. Whether this matters or not to an employer really depends on how progressive they are. And if it does, they may not be the right cultural fit anyway. You can’t hide it and it will come up. So, take ownership of it, but you can be creative. If you took 5 years off to stay home with your kids, you may claim the position of “CEO of the Smith Household”. Show some personality and character.
- Assume the hiring manager will understand the importance of a contribution. I see this more with people who have worked for big, notable companies and agencies who believe the virtue that they worked there should speak for itself. [And, yes, I get the irony that I am saying this as a former P&Ger]. It is true this may earn you some credibility points but don’t rely on it. Instead, leverage it to strengthen your merit points.
So hopefully now you feel empowered and equipped to take on the task of revising your resume to produce real results. And, as always, if you find yourself having a hard time or getting stuck on how to craft your resume to ensure your Personal Brand shines through, give us a call. We have been there. And between the two of us, we have reviewed and interviewed over a thousand people. You are in good hands.
Anne Candido and April Martini are the Co-Founders of Forthright People, an On-Demand Marketing Agency focused on helping start-ups, small and mid-size businesses quickly capture the hearts of their customers without breaking the bank. They believe in “real-time brand-building”, which delivers strategically-informed execution, creating immediate business impact while also developing equity for systemic growth. And since their team consists of an extended network of talented freelancers and boutique agencies, they do not require hefty retainers and contracts to do it. Contact them via email: [email protected] and [email protected].