Why You Must Break Most Rules About Resume Writing

by Turner, Joe Wednesday, April 15, 2009
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If you've read books on resume writing, you might be confused by all the "rules". In fact, during my weekly resume writing teleseminar, I correct a lot of misinformation.

With the economy in the toilet these days, the last worry you need is whether you have the correct indent template or that you aren't using this year's approved action verbs. It's imperative that you deliver the right content to push a hiring manager's buttons now.

Forget the "rules". Here are the critical points you must address in your resume:

Answer The Employer's Most Important Question

Most rules fail to address the critical question: WIIFM, or "What's in it for me?" This is the employer's primary question in a tough economy. If your initial paragraph doesn't immediately answer this question, your resume won't last 20 seconds with the person who's reading it.

A resume is a selling document. Unfortunately, judging from the advice I've heard and the "professionally written" resumes I've read, it's obvious that many resume "experts" have never sold a product or service in their careers. If they had, they would realize now, more than ever, that it's about money, not mission statements.

For this reason the opening statement on your resume must develop the reader's immediate interest and entice them to learn more about you. Drop the long-winded paragraphs filled with "results oriented" and "proven track record" clichés. Instead, address the specific benefits you bring to them. In today's recession, that means a short personal brand statement that clearly summarizes who you are, your biggest strength and the primary benefit you bring to an employer.

Prove It!

In the past you could sell yourself by promoting your skills and length of service in a profession or job. Those days are gone. Today, you must sell results. When you sell your skills, you're selling a commodity. It's likely hundreds (if not thousands) of other job seekers have your same or better skills. Here's the problem: when you sell skills, you've reduced yourself to a commodity and commodities always sell for the lowest price.

So get yourself out of that commodity game.

Today, you need to sell RESULTS by speaking the employer's language, which is RETURN-ON-INVESTMENT. If you can't do that, you can't answer their question, and you've lost their interest. They will move on to the next resume.

List specific, measurable results of activities performed for your employer or client. Place these activities in their own section under your personal brand statement. This strengthens the statement with measurable evidence including examples of problems that you've solved.

Don't Tell Too Much

Employers are typically going to look for the top three to five candidates. They'll weed out large numbers of resumes in the initial process, looking for an easy way to eliminate you. Don't give them a reason by telling too much, confusing them or taking them off track. These are called "screenouts". Yet I still see resumes that were written heeding the advice of "experts" to include too much information.

Here's the point: Your resume is not a dossier. It's a sales document. Your resume's only purpose is to get the reader to pick up the phone to call you. You're only applying for one job title. If the resume doesn't clearly explain why you're the best project manager, executive assistant or purchasing agent, then get rid of the information or minimize it because it doesn't belong there.

Summary

As the economy has worsened and millions of job seekers are chasing after fewer and fewer jobs, what you put on your resume has become more important than ever before. Don't let yourself get rejected by following petty rules that may be obsolete. Think of your resume as a sales document that quickly answers the employer's biggest question, "What's in it for me?" Back that up with some compelling achievements and eliminate any information that might confuse, distract or turn them off. Then you can forget about all those "rules" you've been told.