Today I want to share a few resume tips for job seekers. Why am I qualified to talk about resumes and give resume tips? For one thing, I spent most of 2019 looking for a job. The word I use to describe the ordeal was, um, sanctifying. Being unemployed or under-employed is hard.
Because I was in your shoes this time last year, I understand why this is a hard week for you. The holidays are over. Everyone is back at work. Well, everyone but you. And you’ve probably endured weeks of “radio silence” since before Thanksgiving as companies typically have a hiring slowdown, as employees use up vacation days or companies put a freeze on hiring to wrap up end of year business. Now that everything is cranking up back to normal for employers, you’re hoping the right person is back at their desk, and chomping at the bit to call you. I get it. You have my sincerest sympathy.
A Little of My Story
In early 2017, after much earnest prayer and research, I left my IT career of almost 30 years to try a mid-life career change to became a real estate agent. I had heard that 90% of all new real estate agents fail-out within the first two years. Surely that won’t be me I thought. Eighteen months later I was shopping my resume around town.
The experience made me pretty good with resumes. In fact, someone recently asked me a question about resumes. So, with their permission, I am able to share their question and my response.
Man Vs. Machine: Resume Showdown
Question: Should I have an Objective or Summary of Qualifications at the top of my resume? I’ve heard that nowadays companies use computers to filter out resumes by searching keywords that are crucial for the position. If the computer didn’t find those keywords in a resume, that resume is automatically rejected even before a real person gets to look at. So to be filtered in, I thought it would be better to have a Summary of Qualifications, but I’m not so sure. What do you think?
Resume Tip #1: Humans First
This is a great question. My first thought is: Write for a human first, and filters second. Have all the relevant keywords that a filter might look for in a resume for whatever job you are going for (“administrative”, “application developer”, “retail”, etc.). But also have a paragraph at the top that introduces yourself to a human. Here’s why:
People do business with people they a) Know b) Like and c) Trust. And selecting candidates to interview and potentially hire is business. You are trying to earn their business so they will pick you. So, give them a reason right off the bat to know, like, and trust YOU. How do you do that?
By letting your resume speak for you. Let your resume tell a little of your story. It can be a sentence or two, just enough to build a rapport with your reader, and maybe address any obvious question or gap on your resume. But also, remember Tips 2, 3, and 4.
Resume Tip #2: The Resume Gets the Interview, You Get the Job
The purpose of a resume is not to get you the job. Surprised? It’s true. The purpose of a resume is to get you the interview, so that you can put your best foot forward in person. If you get interviews, the resume is working. Once it gets you the interview, your resume looks at you and says, OK, I got you this far, mi amigo. They like you on paper, now they want to like you in person!
They want to like you? Really? Yes.
Most hiring decision-makers really do want to like the person they interview. Just like when we meet someone for the first time, we generally give them the benefit of the doubt and default to “I like this person,” until given reasons to think (and feel) otherwise. Some aren’t people-people and they don’t care if your house just burned down five minutes before the interview, but in my experience they are the exception, not the norm.
Resume Tip #3: Be a Hiring Manager’s Sure Win
Hiring someone is a gamble. That’s why employers hedge their bets with multiple interviews, background checks, credit checks, and so on. Hiring managers want to find someone who is a good hire, a safe gamble. And they can cross this very time consuming “to do” off their list.
Resume Tip #4: Be the Solution to the Hiring Manager’s Problem
Hiring managers are trying to solve two problems:
- Find the RIGHT candidate, preferably someone who isn’t an idiot or will make them regret it (or look bad to their boss)
- Figure out if the person on the other side of the resume in front of them is THE solution to Problem #1.
In other words, they want to know what they should do with you. A summary paragraph at the top of your resume solves both problems, at least on paper.
First, a good summary paragraph helps employers by telling them a tiny bit about who you are. Second, rightly crafted, it tells them what they should do with you, how you have the right qualifications to the job they are willing to pay someone else to do for them.
They’ll appreciate it, even if they don’t realize you’re doing it.
My career went sideways when I tried real estate. Employers didn’t understand such a far-flung leap. Nor did they understand or appreciate the hard work that went into being a solopreneur. Had I not lived it, I would not have understood it either.
My challenge, then, was my resume had to immediately, briefly explain what happened since I wasn’t in front of them to do it myself. Second, it had to help them see that I was a good guy who had potential, and so was potentially a good hire–at least worth bringing in for an interview. And once my resume got me that, it was up to me to take it from there.
Did I Take My Own Resume Tip Advice?
So what did my summary paragraph say? Well, I literally changed it dozens, maybe hundreds of times. I called my resume Objective or Summary paragraph my “Career Snapshot”. Often I would give my resume little tweaks here and there, depending on the employer and the job description. Below is what I had under my contact information at the top of my resume for one of the jobs I had applied for.
I also went into a little more detail in my cover letter that went with it. I was honest, humble and told my story about why I left and why I was looking for a job again.
Did My Resume Tips Work?
With my resume written to appease the filters but be read by humans, I got a phone interview. (You did your job resume, good boy!) Next, I ace’d the phone interview with a pleasant phone voice and positive, professional conversational tone and clear, short answers. I got past the screener! Actually, we hit it off so well that, by God’s grace, she became an advocate for me to the hiring manager! My in-person interview went well; they could see my humility and honesty about the career detour. In God’s timing, I got the offer!
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but these are some of the lessons I learned along the way in 2019. From my experiences I’m actually working on a book to help other job-seekers, so if you have any questions you’d like me to answer, drop me a line. I’ll answer it here and include it in the book for others.
A Parting Word of Encouragement for Job-Seekers
Job-seekers need encouragement. Lots of it. So let me end with a helpful, hopeful word if that’s you today.
If you are unemployed, or under-employed, the Lord has a job out there for you. He’s working on you for a season first. He’ll provide it at exactly the right time. Until then, be faithful and teachable before Him and continue to be diligent at working to find work.
The Lord is good. The Lord is kind. The Lord provides. Always.