by Wendy S. Enelow, CCM, MRW, JCTC, CPRW
The single most important thing to know about writing a resume is that jobseekers should be writing “to the future” and not just “about the past.” Of course they’ll include past work experiences, accomplishments, and educational credentials, but they’ll include them in a way that will support their current career objectives-the jobs that they want now.
To better understand the “write to the future” concept and how it relates to the actual process of writing, designing, and formatting a resume, consider these three essential strategies:
- Let the objective drive the entire resume writing process.
- Reweight skills and qualifications to support the job seeker’s current objectives.
- Integrate keywords from the targeted position and/or industry.
OBJECTIVES DRIVE THE ENTIRE RESUME WRITING PROCESS.
Consider a 32-year-old sales representative who is seeking another sales position. That requires a relatively straightforward resume that will showcase that individual’s sales performance and achievements, major account wins, training experience, and more—all the things that are important to his or her next position. Now, suppose that same sales rep is seeking a position in corporate training and development. This change in objective results in an entirely different resume—in format, content, and achievements—everything.
Note that even though the objective drives the writing, design, and format of each resume, it does not mean that each resume has to have an objective section. In fact, most resumes don’t. Today’s resumes more often begin with a career summary that highlights a job seeker’s core skills, qualifications, achievements, credentials, and other distinguishing qualifications, as they relate to specific career goals. Viewing sample resumes for specific industries and experience levels, such as those found in Job and Career Accelerator‘s Resume Builder, is a great way to see how other job seekers developed their resumes to suit their objectives.
REWEIGHT SKILLS & QUALIFICATIONS TO SUPPORT CURRENT OBJECTIVES.
If a jobseeker is writing towards a future opportunity, it stands to reason that he or she will want to showcase each of his or her skills, qualifications, achievements, and more, as they relate to that objective. Using the above example, if the sales rep is looking for a new sales job, you’d highlight all career successes. No reweighting is involved, since there’s a direct path from current job to next job.
However, if that same sales rep wants to transition into a corporate training and development position, an entirely different set of skills becomes important, such as skills in staff training and development, team building, leadership, public speaking, training program development, and performance improvement. Our sales rep may have actual experience in several of these functions, although they may be minor parts of his or her daily routine. But in the new resume, these things would be reweighted and brought to the forefront, since they are the key skills and qualifications needed for the new job.
INTEGRATE KEYWORDS FROM TARGETED INDUSTRY AND/OR PROFESSION.
In today’s highly competitive and electronically based job search market, keywords are essential. Chances are that a computer is going to scan each resume in search of keywords long before a person ever reviews it. In fact, that keyword scan is what will make the decision as to whether or not an actual person will even look at the resume.
Keywords are used to exclude job seekers from consideration just as often-if not more than-to include them in the pool of qualified candidates. Therefore, it is critical that a job seeker’s resume include many of the keywords that are essential for the targeted industry and/or position. For example, if a company is recruiting for a warehouse manager who must have experience in supply chain, logistics, and distribution, those keywords must appear in a resume for a job seeker to make it through the initial keyword scan.
To be identified, keywords do not need to be in any specific section on the resume. Scanners will identify the words no matter where they are positioned. That’s great news if a job seeker already has the essential skills. However, if presented with a situation where the right keywords cannot be integrated because the new objective is far from one’s current career path, then it might be helpful to consider using an objective section on the resume. This allows for the integration of keywords into the resume; keywords that will be critical in passing the resume-scanning process and getting the resume in front of a human being who, hopefully, will extend an invitation for an interview.
Here’s an example of an objective used to position a job seeker for an entry-level position in journalism:
If you’re not familiar with keywords for a specific profession and/or industry, consider these resources:
- Job Postings & Job Descriptions. Review lots of these, such as the New York Times’ Jobs section, as they are almost always flush with keywords and phrases.
- Company Websites & About Us Pages. Read these carefully and you’ll find important keywords, in addition to information about the company and its products, services, operations and more.
- Trade Journals, Publications & Articles. Industry-specific publications, both online and offline, will provide a wealth of keywords.
- Keyword Books. Visit www.wendyenelow.com for several that I’ve written, including Best Keywords for Resumes, Cover Letters and Interviews and the three-volume Haystack series, with 1,900 pages of keywords.
If you follow the above strategies, you’ll find that you’re more successful in creating the right perception of each job seeker-the perception that positions him or her as a qualified candidate for specific career opportunities being targeted. For more on this subject, please join me on Wednesday, September 22, 2010 from 2-3 PM for the first in a series of free special topical webinars, Resumes to Get You Hired: Write to the Future. Click here for more information and to sign up.
Wendy S. Enelow, CCM, MRW, JCTC, CPRW is the President of Enelow Enterprises, Inc., an executive resume writing and coaching practice. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Resume Writing Academy, as well as the Career Thought Leaders Consortium.