The Three R’s Your Résumé Must Include

Font choice? Debatable.

One page, two pages or more? Debatable.

The Three R’s? No discussion. They have to be there.

Relevant: How is the information in your résumé relevant to your reader? Part of the effort of a successful career search is ensuring that the information you present is important and compelling to your market. Your market is defined as the people who are reading your documents and are in a position to offer you a job. Before sending your résumé to your dream employer, review it carefully and challenge everything in it with the question, “Will they care?”

Recent: Are your stories of recent vintage, or are they showing the wear of time. If you are in IT, your expertise with HTML5 and projects in 2011 are recent and valuable. Your expertise with WordPerfect 5 that wowed your fellow cube dwellers in the 90’s: not as much. Give the majority of your space to stories from the last five years and dial down the older material.

Results: Employers will hire you if they are convinced that you will bring more benefit than you cost. If you can help them achieve their goals by getting results, you’re hired. Unlike a mutual fund, your past performance does indicate potential future success. Tell stories of results you achieved and how you got them.

Next up: The Terrible T’s that will kill your best efforts.

This Isn’t a Legal Trial

Last night I ran a seminar called Optimizing Your Résumé for a New Year’s Job Search at the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library in Monroe, CT. The event was well attended and we covered a lot of ground in 90 minutes. There was one idea that several people had that is worth a blog post: “How do I prove my claims?”

The concern from a few people was that they were not comfortable making claims about their performance because there was no record of it having happened. In many cases the employers where the great work was done are no longer in business. The people who could confirm the claims are now difficult to contact. The performance data may be a distant memory with little more than recollection to support it. These are all valid concerns, but not a deal breaker.

It’s important to keep in mind the venue for these claims and how they will be used. If a job seeker states that as a Sales Manager she, “grew sales by 27% over 33 months and opened two new markets,” there may or may not be documentation to support the claim. If she does not have documentation, should she not include it in the résumé? Of course not! It has to be there.

Think about it this way: If a résumé were to only to contain claims that were supported by indisputable evidence, it would be a very short document. Are there things on your résumé that you don’t have evidence to support? Probably. Should you delete that information? No!

Your résumé is a marketing document. The standards are simple. Is it the truth? If yes, go for it. Can you discuss and defend it in a convincing and credible way in an interview? If yes, you’re all set!

Interviewers are looking for cultural fit and evidence of professionalism and potential. They are looking for transferable skills. If the sales increase performance from above leads to a discussion of how the candidate got the results – through market research, powerful leadership, cold calling, tenacious follow up, and other tactics – the interviewer will learn what she needs. The point is not the exact precision of performance claims, but evidence of the talent you bring to the new gig.

Remember that the standard of proof is not beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s just this: Give some stories that are credible and true that will lead to an in-depth discussion of your transferable talent and how you can help your next employer. Don’t worry that you past company got vaporized in 2008. Sell yourself!

BTW – Be sure to get your copy of 25 Résumé Tune-Up Tips, a brand new eBooklet ready for free download.

Trust Your Résumé

If you have done the hard work of creating a well written résumé, one that is current and packed with achievements, trust it. I share this simple thought as I have spoken with two clients in the last week who have had concerns planted in their minds by comments they have gotten about their career marketing documents.

One person said, “It’s a little wordy.” What does that mean? What words would we eliminate that will not degrade the quality of the stories that we tell? As it turned out, this comment came from a person with the notion that there is some rule that a résumé must fit on a single page. It sometimes works that way, but when the job seeker has a longer career filled with experiences that add value to the résumé, it is not always possible.

The second comment came from a recruiter. The client has a highly technical résumé, one packed with certifications, projects, multiple degrees and high-level experiences. This client has a strong interest in IT security and the experience and credentials that make him an expert. The feedback he got: “It’s a little heavy on IT security and not enough hands-on.” Yes, yes it is. That’s what this client does and wants to continue doing. That’s why it is written that way. By the way, this client is contacted by potential employers and recruiters every week, validating the effectiveness of the résumé.

My response is this: Consider the advice you get, take it seriously, but also consider from where it comes. Is the person giving you the advice qualified to do so? The average time in role in the recruiting industry is less than three years. If your résumé is written by a CPRW (Certified Professional Résumé Writer – like me) or a pro writer with another industry-recognized credential, you can be confident that it is a quality document.

The job seeker must be confident in the résumé, fully versed on everything in it. She must know what it says and why it says it. He must know the details of the stories described, ensuring that he is ready to explain in detail in an interview setting. Like a golfer who must trust his swing or a singer who has confidence in her training and ability to hit the high notes, the job seeker must know that the résumé is solid and must have the stories ready to support it.

Feedback is valuable, but don’t twist yourself in knots over every comment. Good hunting!

Assume the Call & Plan for It

Your résumé is designed to do one thing very well: get you an invitation to an interview.

It may or may not be written to fulfill its next important function: guide the interview.

I frequently have a similar conversation with clients to help them understand that a well-crafted résumé will serve this dual purpose. It will get someone from the hiring organization to call you and it will help the interviewer decide what to discuss with you. Be strategic about the next step. What are the stories that you are sharing to influence the tone of the interview?

Career marketing documents that are filled with accomplishments and experiences that set you above the competition will inspire inquisitiveness and curiosity in the people interviewing you. Make sure that your stories have enough detail to engage the readers, leaving them wanting to know more. That approach will give you the opportunity to discuss your successes live, successes that you will share with enthusiasm and conviction. Weak stories will leave the interview open to other directions you may not like.

Also, consider that your résumé will likely be the catalyst that will fuel conversations within your targeted organizations. Many companies use multi-level and/or panel interviews. Your stories of success should give those people something to consider and should leave them wanting to ask more about how you achieved these things, not just what you have accomplished.

Documents with stories that spark the imagination will pay benefits throughout the hiring process. Make sure that yours has spark-worthy material and is not boring. Remember, you are selling. Assume the interview and plan for it by giving your interviewer the best chance of asking you the questions you want to answer.