Now that you’ve done your marketing research and created your marketing plan, it’s time to prepare the goods. The goods, in this case, are your resume and cover letter. Your marketing materials will be much more powerful if you keep in mind the following:
Employers use resumes as a screening device. Applicants use resumes to introduce themselves to employers.
Follow copywriting strategy:
- Get attention
- Capture interest
- Create desire
- Include a call to action
You’re selling something that you want an employer to buy. Be sure you understand what they’re buying.
Use Keywords: Relevant words and phrases that signal to an employer that you have the skills, talents and experience to match their job requirements. Common keywords include title, knowledge base, skill set, impressive “brand name” companies or Fortune 500 employers, degrees, prestigious training or education, special licensure, software experience and industry affiliations.
Sell the benefits, not the features: This is the difference between the feature of “critical thinking” versus the benefit of “problem solving.”
Why do employers — whether non-profit, a small business or Fortune 500 — buy?
- Make money
- Save money
- Save time
- Make work easier
- Solve a specific problem
- Be more competitive
- Build relationships/an image
- Expand business/organization
- Attract new customers
- Retain existing customers
Most resumes are reviewed for less than 10 seconds, so do the one minute test: Ask three people to review your resume for 60 seconds and have them tell you what stands out to them. Is it on target? If not, your resume needs more work.
Design trendsThere are no set standards for resumes. Choose a professional, contemporary design. Create something visually pleasing, but keep it simple. Good judgment is essential.
Here are some guidelines:
- It's okay to use vertical or horizontal lines for printed resumes -- when you save it as a text-only document; this will eliminate the lines (and all other formatting). Use the lines to help create visual information blocks. Avoid using tables or charts -- this makes sending it electronically or posting online frustrating.
- Keep your employment dates to the right, so it’s less distracting. You want to highlight your experience, and because you read from left to right, minimize the impact of the dates by placing them to the right.
- White space is your friend, so use the line spacing feature in Word to create visual gaps between sections.
- Curb your enthusiasm when it comes to typefaces. As a general rule, use a couple of fonts and don’t go wild with your “eye for design.” Less is more.
- Template or no template? This is a judgment call. You don’t want your resume looking like everyone else’s, but I have to admit that there are some nice looking templates out there.
- Stick with a chronological versus a functional resume. Many recruiters (or those who are screening resumes) raise a red flag when they see a functional resume. They assume that because it’s not in chronological format, something is amiss.
- Limit the length to no more than two pages. If you have less than 5–10 years of post-college work experience, keep it to one page.
What to Include
Start with an objective or personal summary. It helps to focus the reader’s attention. A qualifications summary contains information such as job title/functional area, subcategories of functional areas or core competencies, industry, number of years of experience, expertise, strengths or specialization, highlights of accomplishments, advanced degrees, certification or licenses, language skills, international business skills and specialized technical/computer skills. If you don’t have 5–10 years of relevant job experience, opt for a simple objective.
Contact information, at the very least, should include your city, state, contact phone number and email. Due to privacy concerns, many applicants choose to leave their street address off their resume. This is acceptable. Your email address should be professional.
Work experience should be listed chronologically, including the company name (city, state), your title and the dates –– no months, just the years. Highlight your accomplishments and transferable skills.
Education should be listed after your experience, unless you graduated less than a year ago. Reverse chronological order (most recent degree first). Proper format is:
Line 1: School name, city, state
Line 2: Degree, year
Line 3: Major
- Willamette University, Salem, Oregon
- Bachelor of Arts, 2008
- Double Major: International Studies and Spanish
Professional Affiliations and/or Professional Development are important. Include membership in any professional organizations, volunteer affiliations, professional certifications you hold, or special training. Keep it professionally-focused and relevant to the position.
Use appropriate and well-researched keywords focused for the position to which you’re applying. No one-size-fits-all approach here.
Just say no to transcripts, personal pronouns, typos, inconsistent fonts or tab spacing, a photograph, excessive industry or company specific jargon or acronyms. No hobbies or interests, unless they pertain to the specific job (even then, be brutally honest and ask yourself if it will have any impact on the reader). Omit “excellent references available.” You’ll always have to provide references at some point in the screening process.
The meat of your resume is your experience. When writing your relevant job competencies/accomplishments, focus on tasks that are of interest to the prospective employer. Include three to seven per job, and use bullet points.
Step 1: Find a few related job descriptions in the area in which you’re interested. If you’re interested in event planning, find several job descriptions (different industries or specialties) at the same approximate level of experience. Identify both the competencies/skills outlined in the job description and those that the employer notes they are seeking.
Consider a product analyst position for a major well-known brand. These competencies come directly from the job description:
- Customer focus
- Change management
- Drive for results
- Performance management
- Maintains positive attitude, high energy and strong sense of urgency
- Resident expert on cutting-edge trends
- Effectively leverage and apply best practices to maximize programs’ benefits
- Ability to analyze and align business strategy
- Build strategic partnerships with key stakeholders
- Web application expertise
- Ability to manage multiple stakeholders
- Ability to create strategic partnerships
The above general competencies are used over and over again in job descriptions. These competencies would be expected of anyone applying for a position in this field and at the product analyst level.
The job specific competencies are specific to this organization’s needs. These competencies should correspond directly with specific experience on your resume. Provide a specific example of your experience with tracking and analyzing cutting-edge trends. Did it result in a new product being developed? A new market identified? Be specific and provide some sort of quantifiable result that is relevant –– increase in sales, increase in market share, or decrease in product launch, etc.
Step 2: List your other skills that may not be listed in the above-referenced job description. For example, the job description you have chosen may not mention negotiation skills but that is something in which you excel. Make sure the skills you list here are not only those in which you excel but also those you enjoy.
Step 3: Gather documentation that would support your success with any of the skills on the list such as performance appraisals, projects you’ve worked on, awards, letters of recommendation, etc. Incorporate relevant material into resume.
Step 4: Build your competencies matrix (see sample below). Note that this matrix will grow throughout your professional career and will benefit you through the job search process (e.g., interviewing) as well as with career management success.
For the Product Manager example, some of the questions or areas you might want to look at are:
- Did any of the products/projects you were involved with exceed sales projections?
- Were you selected to be involved in a large or key project?
- Did you work on large-scale or difficult projects that were completed on time; and, if so, were incentive bonuses associated with them?
- Did you assume leadership responsibilities even though your title might not have indicated so?
- Did you manage the same or a greater amount of work while also dealing with cuts in staffing?
- Did you develop any procedures to improve customer service?
- You need to include one, even though many hiring managers won’t read it.
- Many companies use a cover letter as a writing sample. Use your cover letter to prove that you’re an effective written communicator.
- Target your letter to the individual position. Using a one-size-fits-all tactic conveys a lazy and unsophisticated approach.
- Be brief. No more than four paragraphs.
- Resumes give potential employers the facts; the cover letter must give them the person.
- Write a cover letter that you’d like to receive. Treat cleverness with caution. Get straight to the point.
- The cover letter should flow, have pizzazz, hit the high points and make the pitch.
- Through your cover letter, position yourself as an expert with a specific skill set, not as a jack-of-all-trades.
- Use “I” sparingly. You’ll sign the letter, so there’s no need to lead with “My name is…”
- Send your letter to a specific person. It makes a difference. One phone call is all it usually takes to get this information.
Follow directions: If they ask for salary expectations or history, you must address this in the cover letter. Otherwise, you run the risk of being seen as someone who won’t comply with simple requests. The best approach is to explain that your salary expectations are open and flexible, and that you look forward to discussing compensation after you have a better idea of the position’s responsibilities.
Relating experience: How do you meet their needs? The following is an example of an effective way to relate experience and knowledge to the needs of the recruiting organization in a very personalized way (ZoomMarket is a search firm specializing in mid-career placements in niche industries):
- Please accept my application for the Assistant Director of Recruiting position advertised on your website and Career Builder. I’ve recently returned to my Nevada roots after spending the last six years in Los Angeles and Boston. I have a great amount of respect for ZoomMarket and the successful growth you’ve been able to achieve in a difficult economic environment, as well as your focus on helping organizations and potential candidates.
- In addition to the marketing and management experience I’d bring to the table, I’m also uniquely qualified for this position because I am your target market. As a marketing professional by training and experience, I’ve been the busy professional who would have liked to make a career change but found that the timing to conduct a job search was never right. Understanding the hard-to-recruit candidate’s demographics and psychographics would allow me to segment opportunities and open communication channels through direct marketing, personal resources, referral partners and other initiatives.
- The recruiting process and the marketing process are very similar –– figure out what your client needs are, build relationships with them, and service them well. My exposure to Fortune 100 companies has afforded me a host of “best practices” insider information and access to resources that would benefit ZoomMarket’s growth plans. With my well-rounded background, leadership skills and innovative spirit, I am confident that I would be a great fit for the Assistant Director of Recruiting position.
- I would enjoy the opportunity to talk with you further about this opportunity. Thank you for your consideration.