Title: Use positioning and prioritization to overcome potential disqualifiers

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Dear Sam: Reading your articles may be the only enjoyable part of my job search! I have two questions I am hoping you can address for me. I left my career about 9 years ago to be a stay-at-home mom. I have worked part-time in a professional position in a different field since then. Although this part-time position complements my original career, it is unrelated. I have tried to highlight how my part-time position has strengthened my skills as they relate to my original career (better public speaker, current computer skills, etc.). There have been several companies with job postings, almost identical to my former career position, from which I have not received an interview. I feel it is due to my being out of the field too long. My résumé is tailored to the company, edited by another person, printed on quality paper, and professional, yet I'm not getting a response.

Also, I have a hard time writing a "one-size-fits-all" type of résumé. I tailor each résumé based on the description for the job. This takes a lot of time! If I were getting interviews, I would feel it was worth the time, but I'm not. Any suggestions for this? - Beth

Dear Beth: Thank you for your kind words, and I am sorry to hear your job search is not going well. You are taking the right steps in attempting to sell the transferability of your part-time engagement. In addition to relating your recent experience to your current career objective, be sure you are focusing on your experiences that qualify you for the opportunities you are pursuing. To do this, open your résumé with a qualifications summary showcasing your past experiences. Use current job postings to guide the development of this section, ensuring you are using up-to-date keywords and phrases. In order to not have the experience be discounted as "dated," do not note any reference in this summary in regards to when these experiences occurred.

In the next section of your résumé, you will likely want to pull out career highlights. By doing so, your dates of employment and the professional experience section will fall to page two of your résumé-a definite strategy-and, of course, because of their placement on page two, they will play a lesser role in the screening process. In the career highlights section, you can focus on past experiences that position you for what you now want to do. Use this section to highlight achievements, experiences that were particularly stellar, and skills you developed that are notable to your current goals.

Page two of your résumé, and the professional experience section, will begin with your part-time engagement, again playing a much less significant role in the screening process solely due to the fact it is on page two of your résumé. It is still important to include your part-time position strategically, selling the related skills you have developed, your up-to-date technical abilities, and also that you have maintained involvement in the professional arena. Positioning and prioritizing your experiences in this manner will help minimize the impact of a potentially disqualifying factor, while maximizing the weight of your related skills and experiences.

As for your second question of how to create a one-size-fits-all résumé, I have to steer you away from doing so due to their lack of effectiveness. A résumé that attempts to speak the language of multiple hiring managers, only results in presenting diluted content to any given reader, thereby reducing its effectiveness and the response you receive. Instead, develop a solid professional experience section and simply tailor the qualifications summary or a core skills list to each opportunity. When I work with my clients, 90%+ only need one résumé to accomplish their objective; for those who do need multiple versions, it is because their secondary or tertiary objective is quite diverse. You should not need to create a résumé for each position, only a résumé for each of your objectives. If you can first define the purpose you want to achieve with your résumé, you will make your job a lot easier down the road. I fear that the reason you are developing and redeveloping your résumé is really rooted in the fact that you have not clearly defined your objective, a critical first step in the development of an effective résumé.

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