Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding your best practices Plan B when your job search isn’t working – part 6, building a resume that will work for you: step 2

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 24, 2010

This is my second posting outlining an approach for building a more effective resume in this Plan B series, focusing on the needs and issues faced when searching long term without success. You can find the preceding five entries in this developing series listed as postings 56 through 60 in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and this posting is a direct continuation of the immediately preceding posting, Building a Resume That Will Work For You, Part 1.

I strongly recommend that you continue working on the various exercises outlined so far in this set as they really do connect together and help you in building a Plan B that will work for you. Assuming here that you have been doing this have been working on your self-assessments, and that you have at least in large part assembled your more comprehensive work history document that you can draw from in building a more focused resume, the goal of this posting is to cover the issues of building an initial draft resume that you can effectively use in your networking and in bringing your search into focus for applying to specific positions.

I want to start out by clarifying some key considerations here.

• When you meet with people for informational interviews it is important that you arrive knowing basically what you want to ask them about and the types of things you would ask them to offer guidance on. These are busy people so you want to show you appreciate their generosity in sharing time with you in the face of their busy schedules. A key way for you to show that is by being prepared and focused. Work on your elevator pitch as a part of that (Part 1 and Part 2).
• One key to helping these contacts help you is if you can give them an easily readable version of your resume that may not be directed towards any particular job with a specific focus on that, but that is directed towards the types of positions that you would ideally reach.
• Any resume you prepare is a draft, even if a polished one but this type of preliminary version geared towards helping you gain information and leads is most assuredly so as it is not going to be a draft that you would necessarily send out for any particular job application. This is a work in progress that will lead to resumes you will submit for that purpose and is designed to help others help you get there.

Early stage draft or not, however, there are a number of content issues that you can be working on at this point and I want to focus on one of them here with identification and effective use of key words – you finding and effectively using your key words.

• First of all it is important to note that the key words that would work best for you are not necessarily the right ones for others who are seeking other types of opportunity, and even if they are looking in the same basic industry, or in a different industry but the exact same functional area. Position level in the organization counts here too, as do a number of other factors. So finding and using the right key words for you means more than simply looking through some single, static, one size fits all list and picking and choosing selections that appeal to you.
• You want to identify and effectively use the key words that will help you connect to the people who gate-keep and hire for the jobs you target.
• The wording you use in your resumes, and looking ahead in your cover letters and in interviews can show whether or not you are an insider, familiar with the issues and opportunities important to your target industry, business, functional area and position level.
• Using the right wording can help create a comfort level of familiarity for a gatekeeper and certainly for a hiring manager in that this can show you are going to be able to get up to speed quickly and that you will be able to effectively understand and follow your assigned tasks.
• With so many businesses feeding all of their incoming resumes into computerized databases and searching for appropriate resumes for review using key word searches, effective key word inclusion can make the difference as to whether those gatekeepers and hiring managers ever even get to see your resume from the mix.
• Note that database queries require that these words be present but an actually reading means they have to be used effectively too so their context and relevance are very important. Your resume has to be very readable while including the right terminology.

Where do you start in developing the right key words listing for you?

• Start with the online job sites, looking for the wording used in descriptions for positions that are similar to what you are looking for.
• In this, job descriptions for positions outside of your geographic constraints box will work for you and looking there can increase the list of appropriate descriptions to mine for information.
• Remember here, that in this context at least you are simply mining these descriptions for detail information that you can work with in preparing your best resumes.
• Look to the web sites of the companies you seek to work with and to their competitors’ web sites in the same way and know who their chief competitors are.
• Look to trade journals and professional organizations for background information, and on both key words and on key issues.
• And actively look for opportunities to network and for information from true insiders who can help you both directly and by point you towards useful information and other resources.
• Listen to how they explain and express the key issues and learn their specialty language where you may have gaps.

I want to take this out of the abstract at this point with a specific working example. I have never worked in Sales in Automotive Retail but I have worked in IT there and very closely with Sales in that, so I will focus on an example I see as fairly clear from that area. (I have worked with Sales on the issues discussed here.)

If you apply for a sales position – here let’s assume it is a Sales Manager position, the General Manager and/or Dealership Owner you meet with is going to be very interested in your prior experience and success in Sales as a field. Dealerships buy sales leads and effectively managing cost of leads per sale can be crucial to determining the bottom line and even whether the business makes a profit or shows a loss. Job descriptions will show this but may or may not use all of the appropriate and expected terminology for expressing this process and job requirement. A key term here is “closing ratio” – the percentage of leads coming in and paid for that convert to actual sales. When I was last working in this industry in the Northeast United States, the average closing ratio for dealerships in the general area was about 8%, meaning that every car sold carried the extra costs to dealer of about 12.5 leads and at an average of call it $16 per lead that meant approximately $200 per vehicle sold – cutting into any realizable profit margin. Leads and leads cost per sale can get very expensive and a good Sales Manager needs to really understand both the issues and the numbers on this. This is where networking to people in the industry can be invaluable, in bringing up and clarifying where the key issues are that might very well be assumed and not expressed in any way in the job descriptions posted. Knowing this type of detail can be the differentiating factor that helps you make a career transition if need be and awareness here can also help you stand out as the best candidate for hire. This all begins with knowing the words, but more than just that, knowing what they really mean as designating operationally important concepts.

I will add as a final thought here that key words can harm as well as help and this picks up on the issues of both using these words and using them in a meaningful, clear way and in the right contexts. If you simply use the wording of your intended specialty and job position but without proper context you run the risk of simply showing your do not fit and that you are just tossing out buzz words. You need to get this right in your resumes and later in your cover letters and in your job interviews, and this is where you start developing towards that. Then reality-check what you write with informational interviews and from feedback of people who read your draft resumes for clarity – remember that the gatekeepers standing between you and the hiring manager probably do not know the specialized niceties of the field you seek a job in so general readability is always going to be crucial too.

It is not that this is complex, but that you need to develop your best resumes in drafts, and with feedback and revision as you identify specific jobs to apply for and as you prepare more polished draft resumes that you will submit for them. My proposed exercise here is to assemble a draft resume that you can use in networking, and use it for that, and with non-expert outside reading as well to make sure it is clear and understandable to any gatekeeper who is not in the field (e.g. a member of the HR staff.)

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