Resumes, Resumes, Resumes!

An effective resume is a finely tuned document that has to pack a lot of information, and punch, into a limited amount of space. It cannot simply be a recitation of your work history, like your father’s resume, because that strategy no longer has traction.

When employers add someone to the payroll, the job title and its responsibilities have been analyzed, justified and budgeted months before that position opens up. No one is added to the payroll for the love of mankind; they are added to make a contribution in a particular area and in a very specific way.

Every job, in its own small way, is there to help a department, and in turn a company, make a positive contribution to the end goal of profitability by delivery of either product or service. So, when an employer looks at your resume it is with a very specific objective in mind:

Does this resume reflect a person who can help me deliver on these specific challenges? From this question, we get employers conceiving a job in terms of its deliverables, rather than solely in terms of degree and years experience required etc.

This means that for your resume to be effective, said resume must begin with a clear focus on, and understanding of the deliverables for a specific target job. Only when you have this focus can you begin to look backwards into your work history for those experiences that best position you for the target job, and enable you to tailor a killer resume. You’ll find a link to a resume template/sample later in the article.

If you are new to the professional world, engaged in a career shift, or just want to be sure that you are on target, you might want to execute a little research to ensure your resume has the proper focus.

If you want clarification on a target job, analyze job postings, and visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook pages at, which gives you detailed analysis of hundreds of jobs. Following that, talk to people who are actually doing the work and have them deconstruct the job for you. If you already work in the field think about the best people you have known doing this job and analyze what they did, and how they did it. Then apply the same analysis to people who have failed in the job, and why. This kind of strategic thinking will give you the focus you need.

As the years pass and you gain more experience, this process becomes increasingly important as a tool to keep you on track. The reason being that after just five years in the professional world, there are usually two or three jobs you can do; and when you get fifteen and twenty years down the road you could have twice that many professional options. Often resumes that attempt to reflect great breadth of experience can seem unfocused.

Experienced professionals have to be fully conscious that employers are not looking for Swiss Army knives, they are looking for someone with critical “must have” skills to apply in a specific area, those additional “nice-to-have” skills are just that, and they don’t need to be in a resume (beyond presence in a keyword section) because they will take focus away from your primary thrust.

For any employer, the resume screening process is one of the most mind-numbing steps of the interview cycle. Typically, resumes get a first time screening that spans no more than 30-45 seconds with the majority of that time spent on the first page; remember that the reader is looking solely for people with specific experience related to the needs of a carefully defined position.

This means that the first page of your resume needs to pack a knockout punch, and the best odds for achieving that is with a clear focus on a target job. Only with that focus can you demonstrate your understanding of a job’s deliverables, along with your experience and achievements in each of the deliverable areas.

Join Martin every week to learn more about writing a killer resume, getting more job interviews and turning job interviews into job offers at his free weekly webcast, Mondays at noon central. Details:

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