Make your resume come alive
When I was job hunting, I hated doing my resume. It was a high-risk document on which my future rested, so I knew it needed to be really good. On top of that, I was taught never to brag about myself (must be a Midwestern thing). When I finally kicked into high gear and decided to do a career change from education to business, I knew it was going to take everything I had to convince employers I could make the switch.
But my resume did nothing to open doors. I had sent out hundreds of resumes to ads in the local papers, but I didn't get a single response. I could have wallpapered my bathroom in rejection letters that is, when they even bothered to send me one. I must be a real loser, I thought.
Out of sheer frustration, I started to ask people in my network for advice about my resume. "Don't hold back. Be honest," I advised, secretly hoping they'd say, "Why, Joan, this is the best resume I have ever seen! Don't change a thing!" I wasn't that lucky.
What I learned was disheartening. If I really wanted my resume to work for me, it meant I had to be more creative and tailor a resume for each and every job I applied for. Although it meant more work, I discovered that my phone started to ring.
Those lessons are worth remembering in this unstable market. Here is one of the most important things you can do when you create your own resume:
Use CAR stories. This acronym stands for Challenge, Approach, Results. Most people list their duties and responsibilities from each job and how long they worked there. ZZZZZZZZZ It's enough to put any employer to sleep, since your resume looks like everyone else's.
But, when you tell a little mini-story using the CAR story approach, your resume starts to sizzle. For example, what's wrong with this phrase on a resume? "Designed and implemented the company Intranet." For starters, it doesn't answer the big questions the interviewer has. It doesn't say anything about how well you did it, what problems you had to overcome to achieve it, why you were the one selected to do it, and, of course, did it accomplish the results it was supposed to? In other words, prove you did it well!
Let's rewrite that phrase, using the CAR approach: (Challenge) "Despite being an intern, the Vice President asked me to design the company's Intranet site. (Approach) Extensive interviews with both managers and employee users, (Results) resulted in a site that has been called "an effective and efficient communication tool" by the Human Resources Department. It has reduced the number of routine calls to HR by 35% in the first three months of use."
Now, you're thinking, "But CAR stories take up more space. How will I fit them on my resume with all my other stuff?" Easy. Junk anything on your resume that doesn't scream results. What would you rather have a compelling two pages filled with how you approached problems and solved them, or two pages filled with a laundry list nobody cares about?
Under each job you have held, list at least one CAR story or partial CAR story. In addition, use them in your cover letters and when you network.
If you are wondering how to get started, here's a simple approach. Ask yourself the following questions for each job to which you apply:
1. What are the handful of main qualifications the employer is looking for in this job?
2. As I look at my past experiences, what proof do I have that I am a match for those qualifications?
3. Using the CAR approach, first tell the story out loud. Then reduce it down to written form.
4. Discard part of the CAR story if it doesn't add enough. For example, maybe the Challenge wasn't as important as the Results.
5. Once it is as short as possible, put it on your resume as a bullet point, but take care to include the essence of the "proof" you want to convey.
6. Review the rest of your resume and remove any item that doesn't add much value. For instance, if you include "projects as assigned," either incorporate it into a CAR story or ditch it.
Whether you submit your resume online or on paper, one thing remains constant. It must make the potential employer say, "I want someone who can get results like this for me!'