You’ve put together an impressive track record – good jobs with responsibility and results.
You’ve carefully crafted a resume that highlights all your achievements.
You’ve put together quite a case as to why you would be a good asset for the company.
And yet you aren’t getting called in for a job interview.
This is the case for thousands of job seekers. And it is frustrating. The good news is that the problems with your resume are likely easy to fix.
Regardless of the sector of activity you are working in – or applying to work in – the core concepts remain the same. The core concepts explored in this article should be valuable across all fields and industries, and if correctly applied, will make your resume stand out.
There are 2 widespread mistakes job seekers make when drafting a resume.
In this short article, we’ll look at the 2 most common problems with today’s resumes, and we’ll discuss the simple solutions for fixing these problems.
How Transferable Skills Translate to Demonstrable Value
The truth is that recruiters and prospective employers aren’t looking for the skills and attributes you are highlighting in your resume.
The truth is that recruiters and prospective employers have a high opinion of their company and their culture. They feel that the challenges and tasks of the position they are hiring for are unique. They feel no one – without their help and guidance – will be able to successfully fill the position.
What this means is that recruiters and prospective employers are looking for skills and attributes that show that the candidate can be helped and led. They want to see that the candidate has an aptitude for learning new skills and processes and that the candidate is flexible and can adapt and integrate into their unique team.
The chances that recruiters will be impressed by past success or specific skills used in a prior position are quite low. What is important is to show skills and aptitudes that are transferable – skills and aptitude that demonstrate how you were able to assimilate and learn, and how you were able to translate what you learned and the skills you acquired into value for the company.
Some of the most important transferable skills (or ‘soft skills’) include:
- Intellectual curiosity
- Curiosity can’t be taught or even incentivized. It has to be innate. Curiosity is also the motor for discovery and innovation. It is an indispensable commodity for any company.
- The aptitude to learn and acquire new skills
- Any job at any company will require you to learn something new. Companies spend time and energy on training employees. They need to have confidence that this time and energy won’t be wasted.
- The ability to work within a clearly defined framework
- Management, across the board, is in love with their way of doing things. They say they value initiative and they love getting feedback on the effectiveness of their workflow and processes. While these two things may be true, what management really loves more than anything is when the framework and processes they’ve developed are successful.
- Management wants a recruit who will quickly assimilate to their way of doing things. This will ensure that they don’t have to spend an excess of resources on onboarding and they will receive the confirmation that the framework they’ve developed is effective.
- The ability to work well with others
- Even remote workers have reporting duties. Employers need to be confident that any new recruit will add to the company culture, not interfere or detract from it.
Template for highlighting transferable skills
Under every item in your resume’s section ‘Professional Experience’, you need to show:
- The skills you learned on the job
- How you learned those skills (ideally, this happened through collaboration or receiving instruction from another)
- How you used the skills or knowledge acquired to add value to the company
When this is done consistently and with a narrow focus, the recruiter or hiring manager who looks at the resume will come away with a clear and strong narrative – This person knows how to gain skills and knowledge and has experience translating these skills and knowledge into value. This profile is what every prospective employer is looking for.
Where Is the Narrative?
Link to the royalty-free image by Patrick Tomasso here
We learn best through stories. We can trace this phenomenon back to the earliest days of recorded history. The knowledge base of any given civilization was transmitted from generation to generation through story – fables, myths, hieroglyphics, etc.
A common mistake job seekers often make is submitting a resume that is little more than a collection of facts – dates, addresses, names of companies, job titles, etc.
When this happens, it is unlikely that the hiring manager will remember much about that resume. Dates, addresses, and names tend not to stick in one’s memory. However, a good story always sticks.
The hero’s journey
Perhaps the most common template or narrative type found in stories (across genres) is called the hero’s journey.
With a broad and generous interpretation of this template, it can be an excellent jumping-off point for a resume. While there are varying ways the hero’s journey has been broken down, they all express more or less the same path. For our purposes, we will use the breakdown and terminology of famed scholar Phil Cousineau.
1. The Call to Adventure
- What launched you on your professional journey? This should be used to express intellectual curiosity and initiative.
2. The Road of Trials
- What obstacles stood in your way? This should be used to express resilience, persistence, problem-solving, and resourcefulness.
3. The Vision Quest
- When and how did you leave your comfort zone? This should be used to express self-awareness and determination. You came to a point where decisive action was needed and you had the self-awareness and the courage to take that action.
4. The Meeting With the God or Goddess
- Who helped you overcome the obstacles you faced? Employers aren’t interested in a lone wolf. This is the opportunity to express gratitude to colleagues or superiors. Show how you successfully used and benefited from instruction.
5. The Boon (the blessing or gift)
- What did you acquire that helped you overcome the obstacles you faced? This should be used to express your enthusiasm and aptitude to learn.
6. The Return
- What have you done (or hope to do) with the boon or the blessing you received? This should be used to express the transferable nature of the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired.
Can you see the hero’s journey arc in your resume? Does your resume have a narrative like that of all memorable stories written and told throughout history?
Finding the Focus
In today’s labor market, people are changing jobs and even the sector of activity frequently. This is not unusual, and it is not looked down upon.
However, when a recruiter or prospective employer peruses a candidate’s resume, they do need to see a certain commonality among the various professional experiences listed.
When drafting a resume, the challenge lies in laying out a diversity of interests and experiences while still creating an easy-to-follow narrative thread.
The vast majority of recruiters and hiring managers work in collaboration with someone else. This means, when they discuss the possible candidates to call in for an interview, they will need to give their colleague a short pitch as to who the person is and why they should get an interview.
After perusing your resume, the recruiter should be able to easily give their colleague a concise description of who you are – an elevator pitch, if you will. This can only happen if your resume is focused and has an easy-to-summarize narrative in it.
Template for creating a throughline narrative in your resume
The premise of your resume – who you are; what you can do – should be clearly, concisely, and boldly stated at the top of the page. Some people choose to accomplish this with a title. Some prefer to label this information ‘Objective’ or ‘Profile’.
Regardless of how you label it, the short descriptive should inform whoever is looking at your resume about what conclusion they should get out of reading your resume. You are – for all intents and purposes – writing the elevator pitch or summary for them.
At the top of your resume, there should be a stated objective or summary with the following characteristics:
- It stands out visually – either by its placement, bold text, increased font size, or any combination thereof
- It is concise and easy to remember
- It should be pertinent to the job you are applying for (though broad-reaching enough to be pertinent to any number of jobs)
- It should inform the recruiter or prospective employer on how to read your resume
The Bottom Line
The truth is that recruiters don’t read resumes. They skim them. This is further reason that your resume needs to be focused and have a clear narrative, one that will stay in the recruiter’s mind long after he or she has looked at it.
Your resume should tell a story. And the story should be one the prospective employer wants to be a part of.