5 steps to take when you can’t tailor your résumé to a particular position

ResumeWhen I tell job seekers they should tailor their résumés to every position, their eyes widen. Some protest that this is too much work and one or two even become angry and profusely refuse to put in this hard work.

The reason I tell my customers to make the effort is because they need to speak to the needs of the employer. Further, this will impress the employer with their research of the position and demonstrate how they can solve problems the company is facing.

But let’s be realistic; this is not possible for every résumé you write, particularly if:

  • you’re posting your résumé on a job board where it will be stored in a résumé bank among millions of other résumés;
  • you don’t have a descriptive job ad and/or;
  • there’s no one to network with to find the real deal about the job for which you’re applying.

So what’s the solution?

In his Knock ‘Em Dead series, Knock ‘Em DeadSecrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, Martin Yate offers his Target Job Deconstruction (TJD) method as the next best thing to a tailor-made résumé. His method makes sense to me, so I teach it in my workshops.

“Your résumé,” he writes, “will obviously be most effective when it starts with a clear focus and understanding of a specific job target. TJD allows you to analyze exactly how employers prioritize their needs for your target job and the words used to express those needs, resulting in a detailed template for the story your résumé needs to tell.”

There are eight steps Martin describes when writing your TJD (they can be found in his book), but I’ll talk about the most immediate steps for creating your résumé template.

1. The first task in creating your résumé template is to collect approximately six job ads for a position you’re seeking. Use websites like Indeed.com. They use spider technology pulling from other job boards and deliver a plethora of positions from which to choose. The locations of the jobs matter not.

2. From there, you’ll note a requirement (skill, deliverable) most common for all six positions. Next, identify a common requirement for five of the six positions, a common requirement for four of the six positions, and so on, until you have a list of the most common requirements in descending order.

This will give you a good understanding of how employers think when they determine who they’d like to hire. It will also give you a foundation to write a résumé template, which you can modify whenever you send your résumé to a particular company.

Let’s look at a Marketing Specialist position in the Boston area. I managed to find six job descriptions by using Indeed.com. Listed below are the six most common requirements for this position.

  1. Common to all six companies is writing copy for web content, as well as creating a social media campaign.
  2. Common to five of the companies is managing relations with appropriate departments.
  3. Common to four of the companies is coordinating projects with outside vendors.
  4. Common to three of the companies is researching competitors’ websites and reporting activity.
  5. Common to two of the companies is coordinating trade shows.
  6. Another notable duty is Photo shoots/animation development, which drew my attention, as I enjoy, but have limited experience in photography.

3. Now write your résumé. Given the above information, your new résumé should first verify in the Professional Profile your qualifications for the most common requirements listed. Your Performance Profile could read as follows based on the general requirements:

Produced compelling content for website and social media distribution ~ Manage communications between engineering, production, and sales ~ Develop and nurture vendor relationships ~ Direct trade shows from planning to completion ~ Acknowledged by CEO for cost reduction.

4. You will next extract all the key words that apply to you and create a Competencies section including those key words, as your résumé might be scanned by large and even midsize companies. Don’t forget the strong transferable skills you possess.

5. Finally, you will prove in your Employment History what you have asserted in your Professional profile. Try to prove your assertions with accomplishment statements that are quantified. For example, the following accomplishment addresses the first statement from the Performance Profile above:

Produced persuasive content which was distributed via the company’s website and major social media platforms. During this time, revenue increased by 56%.

Final Note: I continue to insist that, when at all possible, my customers tailor their résumés to each job they apply, as it demonstrates their knowledge of the position and effectively demonstrates their qualifications to meet the position’s requirements. This is ideal when you have a list of your top 20-30 companies, the companies for which you want to show your love.

5 tips for promoting yourself in the job search

baseball

When I made our town’s Little League All-Star team, I ran to my neighbor’s house where my father was helping him fix a lawnmower. I burst into the garage and told my father with pride that I’d made the team. Instead of sharing my excitement, he told me not to brag and turned to finish working on our neighbor’s lawnmower.

I’ve thought for a long time that that day my father taught me an important lesson about humility. Now I’m not so sure it was such an important lesson. Some believe that our inability to promote ourselves is due to being told as children not to brag. To brag is inappropriate; to be humble is honorable.

This inability to self-promote often rears its ugly head in my workshops when my customers declare they cannot “brag.” I assume, like me, they were told not to brag as children.

I also understand that their confidence is shattered; and when you’ve been kicked in the gut, it’s hard to muster up the ability to talk about yourself in a positive, yet objective way—which is to say, not brag. Here are five tips on how to promote yourself during the job search.

  • Understand your audience. Know what interests potential networkers and employers. If you have the “stage,” this makes self-promotion all that much easier. This gives you free reign to highlight your accomplishments and related experience, as long as they apply to the job search and eventually the position for which you’re applying. If, however, you’re in the company of people who have no interest in what you’ve achieved, save touting your accomplishments for the proper audience.
  • Back up your accomplishments. As a jobseeker, your accomplishments will seem more authentic if you have evidence to back them up, perhaps in the form of recommendations, awards, or outstanding references. As well, if you can quantify your accomplishments with percentages and dollars, they will carry more weight. What others say about you, I tell my customers, carries more weight then what you say about yourself. And always be truthful; never lie about your achievements. Lies will come back to bite you in the ass.
  • Be relevant. Any self-promotion has to have relevance. If the employer is looking for someone who has demonstrated superb written communications, you should not talk about the numerous presentations you gave before packed houses; you will come across as a round peg for the employer’s square whole. Think back to the times when you wrote the company newsletter and got published in trade magazines.
  • Don’t overdo it. Avoid using words like “great,” “outstanding,” “the best,” etc. It is far better to provide facts than conjecture. For example, “I was the best counselor on the staff“comes across as bragging without any substance. Better put would be, “Among my colleagues, I was given the highest-level customers on a regular basis. I was trusted by management to give them the service they needed.” Yes, you were the best.
  • Give credit where credit is due. I often tell my customers that they should talk about their accomplishments, because that’s what employers want to know; what they’ve accomplished. But when they’ve worked with a team that achieved a common goal, this needs to be expressed. No one likes a smoking gun who takes all the credit.

The simple fact is that you as a jobseeker must promote yourself, because you can’t rely on others to be there by your side in your job search. We’ve been taught not to brag, like the time I rushed to my father proud of making the town’s Little League All-Star team, but we have to realize that promoting ourselves at the right moment isn’t bragging.

Photo, Flickr, Roiz, Roiz, Play Baseball

Leaving “I” out of your interview answers is NOT noble. Use a 4-step process to answer interview questions

interview with woman

When I ask my workshop attendees to answer an interview question, some of them refuse to talk about their role in a past assignment. An article on Recruiting Blogs details this problem job seekers have, the unwillingness, or inability to describe their role in a situation.

For example, I ask my workshop attendees a question like, “Tell me about a time when your diligence paid off in completing a project on time.” An incorrect answer sounds like this: “We were responsible for putting out the quarterly report that described the success of our training program. We worked diligently gathering the information, writing the report, and sending it to the Department of Labor. We met our deadline and were commended for our efforts.”

Here’s the problem: there’s nothing about the job seeker’s role in the situation. I don’t want to hear about what the team accomplished, nor will employers. I want to hear about a candidate’s contribution to the overall effort.

Note: when appropriate, job candidates need to mention the contributions of those who helped in the process. It is not only about the candidate.

This answer, using the STAR formula, is more satisfying, as it describes the candidate’s specific contribution.

The Situation

As part of a five-member team, we were charged with writing a report necessary to continue funding for an outside program.

My task

I was given the task of gathering information pertaining to participant placement in jobs and then writing a synopsis of their training and jobs they secured.

My actions

I started with noting how I recruited 20 participants for the training program, a number I’m happy to say exceeded previous expectations of 10 participants. This required outreach to junior colleges, vocational schools, and career centers where people desiring training were engaged.

Step two involved writing detailed descriptions of their computer training, which included Lean Six Sigma and Project Management. Then explaining how this training would help them secure employment in their targeted careers. I collaborated with the trainers to get accurate descriptions of the two training programs.

Next, I interviewed each participant to determine their learning level and satisfaction with the program. All but one was extremely satisfied. The person who was not satisfied felt the training was too difficult but wanted to repeat the training. She noted she was very happy with the expertise of our trainer.

As well, I tracked each participant over a period of four months to determine their job placement. Jobs were hard to come by, so at times I approached hiring managers at various manufacturing companies in the area in order to speed up the process. I was responsible for directly finding jobs for four of the twelve people, even though it wasn’t my responsibility.

Finally I took the lead on writing a five-page report on what the members of the team and I had accomplished in the course of  three months. Other members of the team were of great help in making sure all the “is” were dotted and “ts” were crossed and that the report was delivered on time to Boston.

The result

The result was that we delivered the report with time to spare and were able to keep funding for the project for another year. I worked hard and was integral to proving to the DOL that the project was successful, but it took a lot of collaboration to bring project all together.

Certainly there are times when employees don’t work alone and require the assistance of others, but they always have a specific role in the situation.  Prospective employers want to hear about the candidates’ role in the situation, not the teams’ overall role. It is best to answer the question using the STAR formula, which demonstrates the situation, task (your), action, and result.

Allow me to quote directly from the article:  “…after an hour I still don’t quite understand what this person’s involvement was on any of their most recent projects even though they were all delivered successfully, on time and under budget.”   What I did understand involved a whole lot of we, us, and the team, which leaves me to wonder whether they’re a good team player or just a player on a good team.  I don’t have a spot on my team for the latter…”

Photo: Flickr, Renee Bertrand

10 reasons why recruiters and hiring managers dread reading a résumé

bored womanHere’s a fact: Very few people like reading résumés, especially those who read hundreds of them a week. Ask any recruiter or hiring manager (HM).

I critique and write résumés as part of my job. I’ve read hundreds of them and have conducted numerous critique sessions, but I’ve got nothing over recruiters and HMs.

The only bright spot in this whole process is reading a résumé that doesn’t give me a sharp pain between my eyes, one that is relatively sound. A résumé that is outstanding—now, that’s a WOW moment.

Once you understand that recruiters and HMs are not dying to read your résumé, you can focus your attention on writing one that pleasantly surprises them, one that prompts them to recommend you for an interview.

To entice them into inviting you in for an interview, you must avoid making the following mistakes:

1. An apathetic approach to writing your résumé. Don’t let your apathy show in the quality of your product, which shouts, “I’m not into writing a résumé because I’ve got better things to do.” This results in typos, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes.

This sentiment comes across loud and clear from people who feel this way. They resent having to write a résumé and would prefer others to do it for them. Do not rely on others to write your résumé; it’s your responsibility.

Note: if you simply can’t write your own résumé, be sure that you hire someone who will take adequate time to interview you and get to know what you’ve accomplished in your career. Read this post on having a professional write your resume.

2. Your résumé is a tome. It’s a five-page document consisting of every duty you performed within the past 25-years; and it’s so dense that the person reading it puts it in the “don’t read” pile simply because it’s nearly impossible to read.

I recently glanced at a résumé that resembled what I’ve just described. I made no false pretense and simply put it down after two seconds saying, “I can’t read this.” My customer nodded with understanding.

3. And it’s hard to read. Make your résumé easy to read by writing short paragraphs, no more than three or four lines. Shorter paragraphs allow the reader to grasp important information easier. I’m also a fan of using bold text to make words for phrases stand out.

Remember that recruiters take approximately 6-10 seconds to glance at your résumé to determine if they will read the rest of it. Thus your résumé must grab their attention quickly. Make sure they see the accomplishments within those six seconds.

4. It lacks accomplishments. I know, you’ve heard this a thousand times. But it’s worth repeating because you want to stand out from the rest. Recruiters and employers relate to quantified results with dollars, numbers, and percentages. Many people mistakenly think accomplishments should only be highlighted in the Experience section or under Career Highlights.

One or two of your accomplishments should be stated in the Performance Profile. Develop processes that improve operations and result in double-digit revenue growth.  A statement like this is meant to grab the reader’s attention. This assertion must then be backed up in the Experience section with explicit examples and dollar amounts.

5. It includes clichés or unsubstantiated adaptive skills. The rule is to show rather than tell. Yes, you may be innovative; but what makes you innovative? Did you develop a program for inner-city youth that promoted a cooperative environment, reducing violent crime by 50%? If so, state it in your profile as such.

Recruiters and hiring managers can see fluff a mile away. They’re turned off by words like “dynamic,” “results-oriented,” “Outstanding,” “driven,” and other clichés.

6. Failing to show recruiters and employers what you’ll do for them. Recruiters and employers don’t want to know what you did; they want to know what you can do. You’re probably thinking, “If my work history is in the past. That’s what I did. How do I show employers what I can do?”

It’s what we in the field call prioritizing your statements, or targeting your résumé to each company to which you apply. In other words, illustrate how your qualifications and accomplishments match the employers’ requirements in order of importance.

7. You don’t know what recruiters and employers want. Many people don’t take the time to dissect the job ad to discover the most important skills and experience the employer wants to see on your résumé. If the ad is skimpy, go to the company’s career section on its website.

Better yet, if you know someone at the company or know someone who knows someone at the company, call him/her and ask more about the position. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding influential people at companies. The bottom line is that you can’t write a targeted résumé if you don’t understand the requirements of the job.

8. You lack keywords and phrases. As CareerBuilder.com points out, keywords are the skills applicant tracking systems (ATS) search for to determine if your résumé will be the first of many to be read by recruiters and employers.

Your branding headline, much like the headline on your LinkedIn profile, is the first place on your résumé where you’ll utilize keywords. Then you will make sure they’re peppered throughout the rest of your résumé.

9. Your resume isn’t smart phone friendly. For you Millennials this should be no problem, as you go nowhere without your iPhone or Android. (I’m the same way, even as a Boomer.)

The job search is increasingly used more on the go, rather than at a computer, so your résumé (stored in Dropbox) must be legible to recruiters and hiring managers. Recruiters and HMs want your résumé fast, so don’t disappoint them.

10. You apply for a job for which you’re not qualified. I know the urge to find a job, any job, is great; but don’t waste the time of a recruiter, employer, and you by applying for a job for which you’re not qualified.

You may think there’s an inkling of hope that you’ll get an interview. But if you have only five of the 10 requirements necessary to do the job, there really is no hope. And this can be determined within the first 10 seconds of reading the résumé.

A woman in HR recently related this story to me, “I received a résumé in a USPS photo envelope (heavy duty mailer) certified mail.  The résumé is on lovely cream-colored card stock, beautifully formatted. The problem, she is applying for the Assistant Town Accountant position and for the last 10 years she has been a dog groomer.”


These are but 10 faux pas you must avoid if you want to write a powerful résumé that is enjoyable to read and gets you a spot in the hot seat. Once you’re at the interview, you’re one step closer to a job offer.

Photo: Flickr, ssunnymorgann

Self-promotion is necessary in childhood and adulthood

kidz playing basketballI’m not worried about my son.

My son is in his second year of playing basketball. He’s quite good, for someone who just started playing, and talks a lot of trash. He’s usually the shortest kid on the court, but he’s fast and dives on the ground like Larry Bird used to.

All the parents get a kick out of watching him play. (One parent once asked me before a game how many times I thought he’d fall to the floor.)

The thing that makes going to his games fun for me is the conversations he and I have driving to and from the games. “Dad,” he’ll say, “how many buckets do you think I’ll get?”

“Four,” I’ll pick a number out of the air.

“How many steals and assists?”

“Four each.”

Wouldn’t you know it, he scores 10 points; steals a ton of balls from the slower, less interested kids; and passes the ball to four of his teammates who don’t know what to do with the a basketball.

I’m worried about my daughter.

My daughter is an excellent soccer player. She plays in the backfield and loves stripping the soccer ball from oncoming forwards. And she’ll take out anyone who comes near her, despite her rail-thin body type. I’ve witnessed her lay a tackle on girls twice her size, the collisions reminiscent of a train wreck.

The conversation she and I will have before a game is quiet like two hummingbirds. Occasionally she’ll ask me after a game what I thought of her performance, and I’ll use the old sandwich technique—compliment her on a crushing tackle, criticize her for letting a girl slip behind her, and finish by telling her she passed the ball well. These are great conversations between a dad and his daughter.

My daughter has been reserved and humble since she first started playing soccer. When she first stepped on the field, she was about the age my son is now, so I can gauge the differences between the two fairly accurately. It’s fair to say that my son promotes his skills more than my daughter does. Now, I didn’t say better. I said more.

It would be shallow of me to worry about who is the better athlete, my son or my daughter—and I’d be a fool to declare whom I think holds the title. No, I’m worried about my daughter’s ability to promote her accomplishments, particularly later in life when it really matters.

I also worry about my customers.

In the job search it’s all about marketing yourself—on your résumé and in your cover letter, while you’re networking, on the phone, and at the interview. It’s all about accomplishments and it’s all about using them in context. The written and verbal communications skills have to be in place—one is not exclusive of the other.

Recently a customer related a story at one of my Personal Commercial workshops about how she had mobilized nearly a whole city to promote the arrival of a professional wrestler. She had no budget with which to work, yet she was able to barter with a marble sign company to create a welcome sign for Cold Stone Austin; and she persuaded the city to rename a street for “Cold Stone.”

The event, as she described it, was a smashing success. Her enthusiasm in describing the event was similar to how my son talks about his basketball prowess; not how my daughter reluctantly talks about her soccer game.

My customer succeeded on the verbal front but not in her written campaign. Following the workshop, she asked me to review her revised résumé. I expected to read about her coordination, management, persuasion, creativity, and a whole slew of other skills that made the Steve Austin event an outstanding accomplishment.

While the story she told at my workshop was captivating and her enthusiasm was contagious, her résumé didn’t hint to any of her strong skills. She was unable to tie her strong verbal and written communications skills into the full package necessary to market herself effectively.

I would tell you about the time my customer had to coordinate the flushing of an entire sports center’s toilets, but that would be too long a story.

Will my daughter be able to promote herself in her written and verbal communications, or will she wait for someone to drag all of her strong accomplishments out of her? Will she express her accomplishments, or fail to express her accomplishments, in the whole package? Perhaps I worry too much.

3 reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Experience section

recruitersWhile I’m amazed that some people don’t have a LinkedIn Summary, I’m just as befuddled by folks who don’t see the value of a strong LinkedIn Experience section. When employers and visitors see a profile that lacks details in this vital section, the letdown is like air escaping a balloon.

Here’s the thing, a stunning Summary is great, but when your Experience section comprises of bare essentials, such as your titles, company names, and dates of employment, you’re LinkedIn profile lacks the punch that propels you to the top of the list.

Many believe the Experience section is the most important part of your profile, as it includes your years of experience, accomplishments, a story of what you did for each position, and keywords for search engine optimization (SEO). So here are three reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Experience section.

Your experience section needs to tell a better story. A quick fix of copying the content of your résumé to your profile is the first step in building your Experience section; however, you’re not done yet. You still have to modify your profile to make it more of a networking document. This means your point of view should be first person and, of course, include quantified results.

Take, for example, an accomplishment statement from a résumé I recently read: Trained 5 office staff on new computer software, increasing production by 75%. It has the action statement and a quantified result, but it lacks excitement, the excitement you get from a LinkedIn profile.

Instead: I extended my end-user expertise by volunteering to train 5 office staff on our new database software. All members of the team were more productive as a result of my patient training style, increasing the team’s output by 75%.

Your position doesn’t tell it all.  You’re a director, CEO, or CFO, so you think that says it all. Wrong! Executive Resume Writer, Laura Smith-Proulx believes the more relevant information, the better; particularly when you’re trying to differentiate yourself from other executives. She writes: 

“The key to a strategic message in your CFO résumé is to do MORE with the details – taking the hard facts of budgets managed, teams directed, or cost savings achieved to fold in personal brand messages.”

At the very least, your leadership as a director of an organization plays an essential role in its success. What is the scope of your authority? How have you helped the organization grow? Have you contributed to the community or charities? Have you turned around failing companies and made them more profitable? Remember, you’re representing the organization. Or perhaps you’re passively looking for another job.

The power of LinkedIn is greater than you think. LinkedIn’s search engine is extremely powerful. If you have the proper, and numerous, skills (keywords), your chances of being found are great. Don’t forget to emphasize the quantified accomplishments!

Businesses are looking to connect or employ people with expertise; and although you have what they need, without the skills listed your message isn’t crystal clear. An organization would like to pay you to talk about how you developed a fund-raising process that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars, but your Experience section is nothing more than a place mat. Lost opportunity.

Suppose you find yourself out of a job and suddenly need to connect with others who can help you in a big way. Rushing to create an Experience section that warrants the assistance you need is a bit late and will lengthen your job search.

These are three reasons why you require an Experience section that is strong and worthy of your greatness. Your Summary is a great start; now you need to follow it with an Experience section to support it.

Next we’ll look at 4 reasons why your LinkedIn profile needs a strong Media section

4 reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Summary

I still remain perplexed that some LinkedIn members put little effort into their Summary section, or don’t have one at all.

Would you go to an interview or business meeting without shoes? Of course not. So I wonder why people feel that a Summary statement on their LinkedIn profile is unnecessary. Having viewed hundreds profiles, I’ve seen many  that simply begin with the Experience section and have no Summary.

The absence of this section of your profile can greatly hurt your potential of capturing the attention of visitors, e.g., potential employers, networkers, and business associates.

I have three theories why people don’t include a Summary: 1) they don’t have the time or energy to write one; 2) they don’t know what to write; and 3) they follow advice of those who say, “Recruiters don’t read a Summary statement. You don’t need one.”

I can understand the first two reasons, although I don’t condone them, but the third one escapes me. Many pundits, recruiters included, say a Summary is necessary, as long as it adds value to the profile. So if you don’t have a Summary because you lack the energy or don’t know what to include, consider 4 reasons why the Summary is important:

It gives you a voice. You’re given more freedom of expression on LinkedIn than you have with your résumé; so use it! Be creative and make the employer want to read on. Your voice contributes to effective branding. It should be some of your best writing and can be written in first person voice or even third person.

Most pundits lean toward first person, as it expresses a more personal side of you. A Summary written in first person invites others into your life. Not many people pull off the third-person voice well; it can sound stilted. But if done right, it can also make a powerful branding impact. People who are established as leaders in their industry warrant a third-person Summary.

It tells a story. Perhaps you want people who would consider connecting with to know you on a more personal level. You have aspirations or philosophies to share; and it’s not about impressing people with your accomplishments in marketing in the nonprofit sector, for example, as much as the positive impact your work has had on the population you serve. You want people to connect because of a share common bond.

The Summary is also a clear example of how LinkedIn separates itself from the résumé. It’s a known fact that the majority of hiring authorities don’t enjoy reading a résumé, which is due, in part, because of its Summary. The Linked profile is more creative because it tells your story, your aspirations, and philosophies.

You can make an immediate impact. Stating accomplishment statements with quantified results are a real attention grabber. If a visitor is going to scan one section of your profile to determine if he’ll read on, make it be your Summary, and leave him with a positive image of you.

Here’s part of a Summary from Doug Caldwell, who calls himself a Facilitator Extraordinaire. (I told you I read a lot of profiles.)

MANUFACTURING COMPANY

✯ Improving unit output by 2,200% over a five-year period.
✯ Reduced manufacturing cycle time by 30%.
✯ Achieved cost saving in excess of $25,000 annually.

Read the rest of his Summary to feel it’s power and excitement.

It’s another place to include keywords. Keywords are the skills employers are looking for, and the more you have the closer you’ll be to the top of the first page. So don’t think “less is better.”  In this case, the more of the 2,000 characters you’re allotted, the more you should use. Please don’t use your Summary as a dumping ground for your keywords, though.

I tell my Advanced LinkedIn workshop attendees that excluding their profile Summary is like neglecting favorite pet. You shouldn’t do it. Find the energy to write one, figure out your story or unique selling proposition, and get to work writing an attention-grabbing Summary. By all means, don’t listen to naysayers who don’t believe in this very important part of your LinkedIn profile.

Coming up 3 reasons why you need a strong LinkedIn Experience section.