Throughout my career, I’ve seen more resumes than I can count. I looked through sometimes hundreds in a single day while I worked for the country’s largest IT staffing company. I quickly learned the common gaps people had, because when I submitted a candidate to a major client like Motorola or Office Depot, they expected to see certain things to match their job descriptions and team culture.
Guess who got the pleasure of fixing them before submittal?
So started my interest in the hiring process, and through a few other jobs I had, I was given numerous opportunities to be involved throughout the process in a variety of ways. I’ve been an interviewer, a screener, a scheduler, a hiring manager, a de-muckifier, and of course at times, a candidate myself.
Because of those experiences, I decided to begin writing resumes professionally, and did so for the better part of five years.
I bet there isn’t an obstacle you might have faced or will face in the future that I haven’t seen, and I can share how to get through them.
Almost any problem you might encounter while writing a resume typically falls under one of these umbrellas:
Am I right?
It usually isn’t until you sit down with your old resume, or have a blank screen up with (maybe) your work history written, and you’ll begin to wonder if you’re in over your head.
Maybe spending the money for a professional resume writer begins to sound like a good idea.
Whether or not you decide to take that route, let’s talk about a seemingly irrelevant solution that most people overlook.
Why is networking a solution, and how do you bridge the gap from networking into writing a resume?
Let’s attack these problems one at a time.
Let’s face it. The world has changed. Think about how technology has affected your job, or the ways you communicate with other stakeholders today versus when you started.
Networking puts you around others who are staying current with trends and other valuable information. Not just in your industry, but the market as a whole. The company you work(ed) for may be way behind the times, or on the cutting edge. By networking, you are giving yourself the opportunity to understand where you’ve been hanging out. By learning about others’ environments, you can determine what you are looking for in your next opportunity, or what you have to offer!
This can be because you either have done so many different things in your role(s), or because you were so specialized, that it seems there isn’t much to write about. Particularly if whoever would be reading the resume is not in tune with the type of work you do.
By getting in front of other people, you can quickly turn this around. Speaking with others on a professional but conversational level will give you multiple opportunities to hear what types of questions a recruiter, an HR professional, a hiring manager, or anyone else at varying levels in an organization might have of your experience. You can even reverse the effect, and start to pay attention to what questions you have about others and what they do. By exchanging these answers in a conversational tone, it will help to set the stage based on the recurring themes you uncover. More on this later.
If you were considered a specialist in one particular task, networking will quickly help you to realize that you’ve done a lot more than you think. Don’t be afraid to get technical or very specific. Chances are, the hiring manager has prepared the recruiter or HR person to look for certain things. They want to get qualified candidates. Especially if it is a larger organization, they’ve probably done this before a time or two. If it is a smaller organization that may be adding this person for the first time, it will be helpful to align the bullet points of your resume to discuss functional things first. The conversations you have in networking will get you thinking about what problems you solve and why your role existed.
This is a big one. I’ve had a lot of job seekers, particularly in technical roles, who were completely unaware that the software they were taught on the job was such a big deal. Typically, resources in this position are quite underpaid. Especially if they were in what was considered to be a functional role and had to get technical or extremely knowledgeable about the software out of necessity. Oftentimes, the title they were given was not reflective of what they actually did.
Due to the gap this creates in job descriptions compared to sought after resumes, it is up to you, the job seeker, to become aware of these gaps, and fill them in. I always suggest being specific while networking or writing a resume to include any software or industry-specific jargon. Appropriateness can be a tough balance to strike, but I encourage you to do a little name-dropping of the tools you use, and always ask who you’re talking with what software and tools are used in their work environments.
My experience has shown me two things: First, that softwares, languages, tools, etc. are popular in particular regions/metro areas. For instance, South Florida was huge into Microsoft technologies, whereas South Carolina was primarily focused in Oracle and Java/J2EE. Secondly, tools are popular within industries. As we become more focused, and companies serve select niche markets, your use of a real estate focused CRM application may be a huge asset to another real estate company.
I suggest having a “technical” section on your resume where you list out the names of everyting you used, preferably in order of how advanced you are in them.
This one can be kept short, as parts of this have already been alluded to or addressed previously. Having conversations with your peers who work at different places and in other environments is hugely beneficial if you stay present in the conversation.
You will find people with all sorts of backgrounds, knowledge, skills, and experience who can help you to uncover your place in an organization, process, product life cycle, etc. Again, this comes by paying attention to what questions are asked of you, and by what questions you ask of others.
Your experience is so much more than a job description. This is the number one flaw I have found in resumes. The go to solution is to go through old files for a job description, or to look at the new posting online about who a replacement will be, and write from that. It’s not that you shouldn’t use these for reference, as they can be useful. But this will extremely limit what will be covered. You may also find that it is not very accurate to what you actually did.
When you put yourself out there and attend events in the professional community, you will start to hear what other people do, how they introduce and sell themselves. You will also be told about the traits people want to be around. You can also see for yourself the types of people that Company A hires, if they’re happy working there, who the best managers are, and all sorts of other useful information. Ask them how they got the job, and what stands out to them.
You may or may not run across people from your target employers right away, but having these conversations will help you to pinpoint what you are looking for, and what unique skills you have to pitch.
Your future is ultimately in your control. The quality of your piece depends on how much effort you are willing to put into it. You may still choose to hire someone to help you write, but nothing can replace what getting out there will do for you!
Subscribe to recieve weekly events in your inbox and more