How to get the job

How to write an A+ resume that sells

Guy with laptopEveryone knows how to write a B+ resume. This is a blog post about how to write an A+ resume.

A resume is a brochure, and that requires focus on the employer’s needs

The first thing you need to know is that an A+ resume is not a listing of what you’ve done in the past. It’s a sales brochure for how you precisely fit the needs of your future employer.

That means that it needs focus.  Like a sales brochure, its every single word should sell why you are right for the job.

Let’s say that the lengthiest experience on your resume is the two years you worked for a restaurant. You now want to apply for a commercial-banking internship a Fortune 500 bank. But your resume looks like this:

Hunan Gardens Restaurant, Beijing                    08/2008-09/2010
Waiter/Assistant
•    Helped out around restaurant
•    Waited on restaurant patrons
•    Assisted owner in paying bills
•    Ordered vegetables from farms and wholesale food companies

Oh dear.

Should you exclude the restaurant experience, since it’s not relevant to banking?  No. Keep it in. I’ll show you how.

Research your potential company, department, and boss

Research all you can about the company, department and supervisor for the job you’re applying for. Then, consider what specific experiences you can point to that shows the skills that would be value in the position.

Let’s say that from your research, you learn that commercial bankers structure loans for small businesses, and also are responsible for wooing and selling loans to small-business owners. So, they have to be adept at analyzing the operations and financials of many companies. Also, they need to have good customer-service and selling skills.

You also identify a distant acquaintance who works at the bank, and you take him out to lunch to find out what the supervisor is like, and what’s going on in the commercial-banking unit. You learn that the commercial-banking unit has suffered in the recession, and the supervisor is under pressure to increase customer satisfaction and to develop new loan products to sell to customers.

Use the right lingo

And you learn the lingo used by the bank: “customers” rather than “waited on restaurant patrons,” and “accounts payable” rather than “bills.”

Write bullets as Situation-Activity-Results (SAR)

Most resumes simply list activities, rather than the accomplishments of the candidate. For example:

•    Ordered vegetables from farms and wholesale food companies

This is an activity statement. It does nothing to convey how well you performed this task. So, what did you accomplish?

For a given task, go back and review what you did well, and what results you achieved. Where possible, turn bullets into statements that include Situation, Activity, and Result (SAR). If possible, write about your results in quantitative terms. If the total dollars are not impressive, you can use percentages. So, the above bullet turns into:

•    Analyzed, researched, identified, and contracted with new suppliers, resulting in cost savings of 15% in targeted areas

Emphasize accomplishments based on the employer’s priorities

Now that you’ve learned that your potential boss is under pressure to develop new products, consider if you’ve done anything in that area.  Let’s say that you noticed that the restaurant served mostly Americans, who like dessert, so you suggested to the owner that he start offering desserts. You researched the potential dessert options, and proposed offering apple pie and ice cream, two low-cost items that turned out to be profitable. So, add a bullet to the resume like:

•    Identified unmet customer need, researched and led creation of new product that achieved gross margins of 20%.

The Result: A resume that sells you for the job

Here’s a revision of your resume:

Hunan Gardens Restaurant Corporation, Beijing   08/2008-09/2010
Office Manager

•    Reporting to CEO, trained and helped manage company employees
•    Analyzed, researched, identified, and contracted with new suppliers, resulting in cost savings of 15% in targeted areas
•    Established systems for accounts receivables and payables; migrated bookkeeping systems from paper to Quickbooks, reducing required bookkeeping time from 20 hours to two hour per month
•    Served customers, continuously sought and incorporated customer feedback into company processes
•    Identified unmet customer need, researched and led creation of new product that achieved gross margins of 20%.

Now this is starting to look like an A+ resume for a commercial-banking internship.

Your resume should clearly demonstrate that you’re well-qualified for the job that you’re applying for. If it doesn’t, then either:

  1. You’re not applying for a job that you’re qualified for;  or
  2. You need to revise your resume to sell you for the job.