A Career Site For The Rest of Us

A Cure For The Common Resume

What had 90 seconds?

Probably Not This...

How The Boss Sees It

Winning Angles

Selling An Expert

The Scattered Candidate

New Graduates

Building Credibility

Above All: Focus

Most candidates approach resume writing at the wrong level. Yes, picking the skills to put on a resume is important. But the overall impression of the capabilities you bring to the team is far more critical to getting hired. We're going to walk through how to tweak these resume skills to your advantage to help you land the right job.
According to a leading job site, the average resume gets read for a grand total of six seconds. Since we read faster than we speak, imagine you have about 90 seconds to deliver 5 carefully written bullet points to an interested person. What would you say? These resume skills needs to be placed in your resume summary, in your cover letter, and mentioned in any screening interview.
Most people squander this space with utterly generic claims. Indeed, particularly bad choices in this space expose you to redicule and immediate dismissal from serious consideration as a job candidate. Which is a shame, because this is your one opportunity to really showcase your skills on your resume and set yourself apart from the pack.
A typical hiring manager will sort resumes into four piles. You may get a few perfect candidates, who have delivered results in similar jobs. You will find "interesting" people with potential but a few gaps in their experience; many hires come from this pool. The balance of the resumes will either be unfocused (no clear story) or have serious errors. There isn't much point wasting your time on the latter two categories.
The best resumes are built around one of two big themes. If you're lucky enough to have a perfect background for the role, flaunt it! We'll show a resume skills example from an expert in a very narrow field (pricing) who has accumulated tons of relevant experience (and we'll show you the stuff they DROPPED from their story!). If you're selling your experience and potential, be sure to step beyond the details of the work you performed so the reader can understand your values, intelligence, flexibility, work ethic, and drive.
This candidate seems to be qualified to do only one thing - pricing! Look at how they have worked in different parts of the field, gotten exposure to supporting areas (Finance and IT), gained perspective on their key internal customer (the sales team)... All of this comes together to create a compelling candidate for a single, narrow job: corporate pricing leader. This resume has a very high call back rate for senior pricing positions.
And then we have... this mess. This candidate does pricing - but a lot of other stuff too. They build products! Hack computers! And sold... knives? Most recruiters and hiring managers get confused by this point. Will the candidate be serious about taking a pricing role? They go into the third pile. Which is a pity, because this is the same candidate as the last slide. We dropped these extra resume skills to ensure focus. And it pays off.
The same principles apply to new graduates and career changers. In this case, you're selling your potential rather than direct expertise in the role. Pick examples from your past experience which showcase good qualities such as work ethic, problem solving, and winning selective honors. It also helps to play to stereotypes about roles and activities: coaching and tutoring suggests intelligence and communications skills.
Talk is cheap. Look for ways to integrate proof of your expertise or competency into your resume skills summary. If you have statistics, great! But you can creatively use social proof (promotions, key assignments, awards) to build your credibility. Right or wrong, stereotypes are often powerful here. The president of a group is deemed to be a leader, regardless of their abilities. The chess team is considered to be smart. People who held jobs through school are automatically deemed to be driven and hard working. Pick labels and wear them proudly.
Effective focus is key to showcasing your resume skills. Pick your message - the basic positioning for your story: Accomplished Expert or Eager Learned with Good Values. Craft the balance of the story around that. Drop or bury the rest of the material. For perspective, at least two thirds of the experience behind a typical midcareer resume can be edited down to under five lines (basic job description, mention of X years in a field). That just frees up more space to push the critical points in your basic positioning. Good Luck!

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