May makeover month: Candidate learns how to differentiate his candidacy
Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with a graduate degree in Marketing and Communication, and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume writing and interview coaching firm. For more information, call 1-888-9-LADYBUG or visit http://www.ladybug-design.com
Douglas, a technical analyst, came to me having gained significant experience within a niche market, seeking to transition into an analyst or market research role. He had developed a two-page resume which he felt could be improved on significantly. After seeing one of his coworker's resumes, also developed by Ladybug Design, he contacted me to get the process started.
Douglas' original resume consisted of a basic list of job duties. His resume opened with his education section, despite not being a very recent graduate, and followed with his professional experience. In the professional experience section, he listed all of his duties in bullet points with very little white space to differentiate positions, promotions, or priorities. Page one of Douglas' resume consisted of 18 bullet points with absolutely no spacing between any section, and page two followed with two additional roles (6 bullet points), a skills section, and a table of relevant courses.
Given Douglas was coming into the market having amassed some very specific types of experience with an organization unique in its industry, it was imperative that we present the value of his experience along with the transferability of the functions he had performed. During my discussion with Douglas—which focused on how he contributed "value" to his past employers by doing things outside of his "duties"—I took 8 pages of notes, and perhaps even more important, gained the insight I needed to really focus his background in the direction needed to secure a target position.
I created a unique design for Douglas' new resume, ensuring a clean, modern, and technical feel to reinforce the candidate I was presenting on paper. Imperative to positioning Douglas, I opened the resume with a qualifications summary reflecting the core skills and experience that would be sought by the hiring managers he was trying to attract. Through a brief paragraph overview of his background and a list of strengths, Douglas is now promoting how he is qualified for his target positions rather than expecting a hiring manager to "figure out" how he fits within the organization.
Perhaps most dramatic was the transformation of the professional experience section. From what was a never-ending list of bullet points came a prioritized, aesthetically pleasing, and engaging presentation of Douglas' positions and the value he contributed. Gleaned mostly from our conversation and my probing of key areas where I knew he would have made an impact based on the details contained in his job descriptions and original resume, his new resume focuses on his key differentiating factors. You will notice that this section presents a brief paragraph overview of his "job" followed by bulleted achievements with bold formatting highlighting the results of his actions. This best practices-based approach ensures the reader can glean as much value as possible during the ever-so-brief 7-second screening process.
Douglas' new resume, as mentioned above, does not open with his education section as it did in his original version. Often not understood by candidates—but a good point to note—is that rarely can candidates differentiate themselves based on education alone. Therefore, opening a resume with an education section versus a qualifications summary is never the best presentation of your candidacy. While a degree can be very important, you need to remember that hundreds, if not thousands of candidates also possess that same degree; what is actually unique about candidates is based on the experience they have acquired throughout their career, however brief. Presenting education as a bonus to that experience is typically the best approach as candidates can rarely—unless graduating from a particularly noteworthy institution or aggressive and/or unique program—sell themselves based on education alone as Douglas was attempting to do.
Through strategic positioning, prioritization of content, and additional exploration of Douglas' value, he emerged with a strong resume that differentiates him in a saturated market.
Douglas was kind enough to think of me when he landed his new position, telling me, "I would just like to drop you a line to thank you for the exceptional resume and cover letter you developed for me. Your service has helped me land a job with a Fortune 500 company. The product was well worth it and I plan on recommending your service to many of my friends and family in the future."
View before and after resumes on www.ladybug-design.com/blog
Samantha Nolan is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service resume-writing firm. Do you have a resume or job search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at email@example.com. For more about Sam's resume writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.com or call 614-570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).