We’re so close to our resumes and so familiar with every aspect, often we can’t see the first branding impression it makes. When someone reads your resume, you immediately create a brand – but is it really the brand you want to create? Is it YOUR brand?
I recently met a young man (let’s call him Clint) with a degree in marketing who had done well in the first few years of his career. But he was ready for a change and looking to take on more managerial responsibility – in a major company if possible.
Clint’s first resume draft was loaded with things about assisting, helping, supporting. There was almost no mention of times when he took charge or led a team, even though he had done all that. As resume expert Susan Ireland tells us, “Your resume is about your future.” Clint was making his future look like his past!
Once Clint understood what he needed to do, he redid his resume to emphasize, where possible, those skills and experiences that would get him seen as more than capable of taking on a new role. I was impressed with the new draft which showed the Clint I know – strong, capable, and able to rise to the occasion in a leadership role.
Here comes a big but…
After that second resume draft, Clint spoke with some colleagues (a smart thing to do btw so that you get people with industry knowledge reviewing what your resume says) and added a new first bullet to show knowledge of a key area. BUT…while eager to show the knowledge, he led with a time he was a trainer and prepared training documentation.
“Wait just a gull durn minute!” I hear some of you saying (in that charming colloquial way you have.) “Training is an important role and shows leadership ability.” Yes. Yes it does. But by making it his number one point, in the minds of readers it could pigeonhole him as someone who supports management and not put him right smack dab in a line marketing management role. Plus the documentation mention is totally off track and definitely not the lead he wants to use considering his goal.
In large organizations especially, there can be a big difference between support roles and line roles. Each is valuable, but Clint had his eyes set on the latter. And by making his lead-off batter about training and documentation rather than all his stronger more-directly-related experience, the first impression throws the reader off target – and off brand.
The very next bullet in his first section talks about working with top management to make sure key business goals are met. That’s a much stronger link to Clint’s desired next step – and a much better lead-off batter.
The training experience can be a nice last bullet point for that section, rounding out his story by showing he can train (coach) others. And because he has more than enough writing and presentation preparation experience in other sections of his resume, we decided to leave out documentation completely from his lead-off paragraph. You don’t want to keep emphasizing what you’d rather do less often!
What does a resume screener remember most?
In Tailoring the Greet Suit, author, environmentalist and executive recruiter Dan Smolen brings up an interesting anecdotal experiment he did regarding what a resume screener retains after a quick browse of your resume. (The most some resumes ever get.) His purely unscientific (but logical) results show that screeners more vividly retain what they see at the beginning and end of the first resume page – your lead batter and your clean up batter.
I don’t mean to suggest you use “blaah blaah blaah” in between. You need to make your case as strongly and consistently as possible throughout your resume. But at the very least, I do think it’s smart to lead with strong, powerful evidence of what you bring to the table that makes you exactly the right fit for this new job. That first impression may be all you get. And looks like a nice strong grabber at the end of the page could also help. Might just be enough to get them to turn the page (if there’s more than one) or more carefully read what they just skimmed.
[Of course, first impression also includes the over-all look and feel of your resume, which needs to be neat, attractive, easy to read, and formatted to best point the reader's eyes where you want them to focus. But that's another topic.]
Sometimes just a small change makes a huge difference
Your career brand defines how you want to be seen. Make sure your resume represents you as dynamically as possible and does not in any way undercut your statement-to-the-world in your very first paragraph. Not only can your lead-off batters and your brand represent you better if they match…if you aim them directly at your goal they can help you hit the ball out of the park!
More about your resume: