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    Job Seeker (JS): How much is a resume?

    Me: I’ll need to know your job target and a few other things before I can give you a quote. What type of job are you looking for?

    JS: I’ve been thinking about HR, Business, Marketing, or Project Management.

    Me: OK, we will need to narrow that down to just one of those fields.

    JS: Oh, why? I’m qualified for all of them. I just finished my MBA.

    Me: Oh, yes, I don’t doubt you’re qualified for all of them. It’s just that a resume for a marketing position and a resume for an HR position are very different documents. In fact, a resume for an HR generalist position and an HR management position are very different from each other.

    JS: Oh?

    Me: You see, a resume is a marketing document, not a historical document. Sure, it summarizes your work, but its goal is not to catalog everything you’ve done. Instead, we determine what the employer is looking for. Then, we figure out what you have done that matches those requirements. That is the information that goes into your resume. The other stuff doesn’t.

    JS: I see. So, the fact that I CAN do all of these jobs isn’t the point?

    Me: Right. We’re not talking as much about capability as we are about choice. What do you WANT to do next?

    JS: Hmmm, I thought I’d just tell everybody everything that I CAN do, and they’d figure out if they want me or not.

    Me: Yes, it used to work that way. Now, however, employers don’t have the time to figure it out. They receive hundreds and sometimes thousands of applications for a single job posting. It’s our job to make it very clear how your qualifications match their needs. Otherwise, your application will likely be tossed out, no matter how well qualified you are for the job.

    JS: So, that means I have to decide up front what type of job I want.

    Me: Exactly! It may not seem like it, but deciding on your target before you start applying will actually shorten your job search.

    JS: Really? It seems like it would be better to keep my options open so that I would qualify for more positions. But you’re telling me it doesn’t work that way.

    Me: You’re catching on! If employers were willing to study your resume at length and confer with every manager in the company to see if you’re a good match for any openings they might have coming up, keeping your options open might work. The problem is, that’s not what happens. With the advent of Applicant Tracking Systems, the computers that sort applications and resumes according to the employer’s specifications, your application may not even be seen by human eyes until the second tier of selection.

    JS: Oh my.

    Me: Worse than that, those computers have the reputation for filtering out as many as 75% of qualified candidates.

    JS: What? Why would they do that?

    Me: Because qualified candidates don’t know how to present their qualifications so the computers can understand how qualified they are.

    JS: Do you know how to do that?

    Me: Yes.

    JS: OK, now we’re getting somewhere. So, can you guarantee me that if you write my resume, I’ll get a great job?

    Me: I wish.

    JS: Why can’t you?

    Me: What if I wrote you a great resume, and you never used it? Would you be likely to get a job?

    JS: No.

    Me: Why not? It’s a great resume.

    JS: Nobody saw it except us.

    Me: Right. No matter how wonderful your resume is, if you don’t use it well, your job search could take a long time or even be unsuccessful. That’s why I can’t give you a guarantee, because I’m not in control of the whole process.

    JS: So, can you teach me what to do with my resume?

    Me: Yes, that I can do.

    JS: OK, it looks like we have a good place to start.

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