It’s a pretty major realisation when you find yourself facing the task of searching for a new job or taking an entirely new direction in your career. For anyone who feels totally overwhelmed or daunted by what can often feel like an insurmountable challenge, you are not alone.
This article will hopefully take the stress, confusion, and panic out of preparing (or updating) your resume, making the job hunting process as smooth and calm as possible, (and believe it or not) even enjoyable.
As a senior candidate, you may have often wondered what employers look out for in a resume. There’s no denying that the competition is fierce right now, so how can you make your resume (and yourself) stand out from the crowd?
You realistically have less than a minute to grab the attention of a recruitment consultant, internal talent acquisition specialist, or hiring manager. So what’s the best way to sell yourself?
If you personally came across your resume and compared it to the hundreds of others submitted for the same role, would you even contemplate hiring yourself?
Having looked at literally thousands of resumes throughout my career, here are what I would consider the top 7 things to keep top of mind if you want a punchy, A-grade resume that will cut through all the noise and grab the attention of a prospective (perhaps even your dream) employer.
1. Your resume cannot be generic
In the same way that your skill set and personality certainly wouldn’t suit every organisation, your resume can’t be a ‘one-size-fits-all’, generic template that you send off at every possible opportunity.
For senior candidates, it’s not about the length of the resume. As long as there is value and relevance (and not generalised statements), you’ll make the shortlist. Vanilla statements about your career history doesn’t show a prospective employer the value you can truly add to their organisation.
You may even want to consider creating a dot.com dynamic resume that you can tailor for every opportunity (e.g. https://www.wix.com). That way you can bring everything you’ve done to life – perhaps even including short videos or thought leadership pieces.
2. Keep the job (or at least the organisation) in mind
You can’t expect a recruiter or a potential employer to connect the dots. That’s your job. The person reading your CV must immediately understand exactly why you have applied to them (or at the job they’re advertising).
Including a line in your executive summary or career objective that specifically states what you can bring to their organisation or the role must lead the reader into the main body of your resume.
Here is where you bring to life all the achievements you have done in each specific role throughout your career. Your future employer needs to see the relevance here – if they don’t see it, you won’t get shortlisted.
As your build upon your resume, you must eliminate the risk of the reader making the wrong assumption. You need to tell your story, sure, but it needs to be tailored specifically to the role/organisation that you want to move into.
Remember, perception is reality. You don’t want to give your prospective employer the wrong idea, even before you meet them.
3. Focus on your achievements
In case you haven’t realised, your resume is your professional dossier. That’s why it should be filled with quantifiable data that tells the reader your professional value (i.e. $$). It is your unique marketing tool, and getting it right is important because you are only one click away from the delete button if it isn’t done incorrectly. You may lose an opportunity even before any human interaction is made.
With that in mind, ensure that your CV focuses on your wins – that it shines the spotlight on all your (relevant) professional achievements. You need to be able to qualify or quantify those achievements.
For example – “New business increased 10 fold from 2018 to 2019 and profitability of the business increased from 3% to 8%”.
Every responsibility included under your most recent positions should have a corresponding achievement(s).
4. Position yourself for the salary you’re looking for
And no, this does not mean you should include your salary expectations anywhere in your resume.
It does, however, mean that your resume should reinforce why someone should pay you what you believe you’re entitled to.
Once you have revamped your resume, ask yourself whether you would pay ‘this person’ what he or she is expecting. If not, it probably means that you have not fully communicated your professional value to your prospective employer. And if that’s the case it probably means you haven’t focused enough on your career progression and key professional accomplishments.
If you are currently earning SGD$300K per annum and are looking for a role paying SGD$450K per annum, you need to ask yourself whether you would pay someone with this resume (in its current state) SGD$450K? If not, you’re probably still under-selling yourself so it’s back to the drawing board.
5. Don’t hide your reasons for leaving
Once again it’s up to you to connect the dots. A prospective employer will very quickly make (potentially the wrong, more often than not) assumptions about gaps in your CV, employment dates, and certainly reasons for leaving (especially if they perceive your CV to be a bit ‘jumpy’).
Were you headhunted? Did you move because a former boss brought you across? Were you recommended for the role by another employee? Was your former employer acquired and the ‘new company’ retained you? Or were you the victim of an ‘organisational restructure’ and forced to apply for a new role?
Only you know the answers – so make it crystal clear.
6. Include a powerful list of skills and attributes
Without stating the obvious, this ‘powerful list’ should be relevant for a specific job or sector. For example, digital software / tools; CRM software / tools; data and analytics / tools; technical software / tools; media software / tools; creative software / awards.
That being said, you probably shouldn’t include software or tools that everyone in a particular organisation or industry would be expected to use. Once again, this list is part of your sales collateral, your elevator pitch, and must help you stand even further apart from the rest of the crowd.
7. Never ever embellish your skills or experience
This isn’t so much a tip to help your resume stand out. It’s more some final words of advice to ensure that your reputation doesn’t quickly come crashing down.
Whatever you do, you should never embellish any of your previous job titles, dates of employment, roles and responsibilities (or their associated achievements), skills, or titles of your referees.
You will get caught out – either during the interview, the reference check stage, or very quickly on the job. The world is too small and you can’t afford to have your name tarnished for having lied to a potential employer.
Having been through SARS, 9/11, and the Global Financial Crisis, James speaks from a wealth of experience, leaving you with practical tips and advice to help you “ride out the storm” of Covid-19.
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