Title: Don't assume people can "see" your value...show them

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Candidate's Background:

Sandy had an extensive human resources background, yet it was hidden in a plethora of bullet points in a lengthy and somewhat redundant résumé. She was also seeking a management-level position and was finding the fact that she did not have a college degree hindered her search. She did not know how to position her experience to overcome the potential disqualifier.

Résumé Makeover Strategies:

When reviewing Sandy's original résumé, I found myself confused about the environment in which she worked. Through exploration of her positions during our consultation, I found her experience was vastly underrepresented in her résumé, doing little to position her at the appropriate level. Instead of presenting where she had contributed significant value to her employers, her résumé focused on her job duties, and in doing so undervalued her candidacy considerably.

Revamping the format of her résumé to include a fully developed qualifications summary was pivotal in positioning Sandy at the management level. Doing so also allowed for presentation of her core skills in an at-a-glance format that facilitated ease of readability. The summary opened with a strategically positioned headline which not only positioned her immediately as a human resources manager, but also allowed for communication of a very important certification she was pursuing-something that would be key in overcoming the lack of a degree.

In the professional experience section of the new résumé, responsibilities are clearly distinguished from achievements through selective formatting. Experience is also quantified, something missing completely from her original résumé, to better reflect the level of accountability she held. Sandy's original résumé was redundant in presentation, providing all information from her most recent role in 12 bullet points. On her new résumé, the same experience is described in a paragraph and bullet point format, this time with only 4 bullets; despite looking much "weightier" on the page, I actually only added about 40 words to the section. The key to the effectiveness of each position in the professional experience section is to provide a succinct yet relevant review of the responsibilities, while focusing the reader's attention and eyes on the achievements appearing in bullets, with results of each action bolded for emphasis. Almost 60% of the content in the first section is reserved for communication of achievements versus responsibilities.

On page two of Sandy's résumé (not shown), I removed focus from an education section, which lacked a degree, by presenting a certifications section. This section highlights the upcoming receipt of a highly coveted credential in the human resources industry, in addition to some other certifications she possesses, and eliminates the hiring manager seeing an education section with the expectation of a degree. Utilizing this section omission strategy is sometimes all candidates need to do to remove focus on the fact they do not possess a required qualification.

Overall, Sandy's new résumé better reflects her qualifications and contributions while minimizing the impact of a potentially disqualifying factor, positioning her to achieve the management-level job offers she seeks.

Final Thoughts:

On receipt of her new résumé, Sandy emailed, "You were able to express on paper what I knew in my head, and partly assumed others would also know. Thank you for your time and patience; it turned out great!" As with many of my clients, they need someone else to help them identify their core strengths as they relate to their current career objective. Many candidates get caught in the trap of thinking others will "see" the value in their experience, while not realizing with a 7- to 10-second screening process, there is little, if any, time to decipher why someone is qualified. Instead, candidates need to "show" they are qualified for the job, engage the reader with a well-designed document, and communicate qualifications in achievement-focused language. Whether seeking out a professional or a peer, take the time to have someone you trust review your résumé to ensure it is showcasing your qualifications to their fullest, while minimizing the impact of potential disqualifiers. Now, go get 'em!

To see "before" and "after" versions of Sandy's résumé, please go to www.ladybug-design.com/dearsam/

Do you have a question for Dear Sam? Write to dearsam@semissourian.com. Samantha Nolan owns Ladybug Design, a résumé writing and interview coaching firm. For more information, call (888) 9-LADYBUG (888-952-3928) or visit www.ladybug-design.com.


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