by Cheryl Simpson on January 13, 2014
In a crowded labor market, how can you make your candidacy stand out? In short, by being yourself. The more you can make your resume uniquely reflective of your talents, gifts, and experiences, the more it will reflect “Brand You.”
Just in time for the 2014 hiring season, here are 10 ways you can reinforce your brand on your resume:
1. Use A Keyword-Driven Title
Resumes simply don’t work as generic documents. The more specific you can make yours, the more interviews it will win you. This is where a title comes in – inserting your targeted title, type, and/or level of position sought will create a focal point for your document and strengthen recruiter interest in your candidacy right off the bat.
For maximum impact, keep your title specific and keyword-rich while using keywords that clarify the functions you wish to perform, the industries you wish to target, and/or the levels of roles you are pursuing (Managing Director, Senior VP, etc.).
Hundreds of people may be applying for the same role you seek, and many of these folks will be equally excellent candidates. You can begin to stand out from the crowd by adding a tagline to your resume. Generally, one-liners and taglines focus in a key brand characteristic or achievement in short, snappy language. The key to a good one is to wow your readers with a high-impact achievement or big picture perspective on results you’ve achieved to date.
For example, “Catalyzed $70B in Multi-Channel Global Sales” or “3-Time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.” Check out the tagline used in this award-winning executive resume, and while you’re at it, make note of the resume writing best practices showcases in this short slide presentation.
3. Achievement-Driven Summary
Meant to provide a bird’s-eye view of your career, your summary should be brief while encapsulating your brand traits, pedigree experience, and key achievements in just a few lines of text. More is not better on resumes. Rather, using shorter but more specific sentences that hone in on “only you” brand elements is the way to deepen your reader’s sense of connection with Brand You.
Your summary should quickly capture and portray what it is that makes you different (and presumably better) than other candidates by honing in on rare skill combinations, gifts, unique work experience, or key academic credentials that make your candidacy different.
4. Brand Personality
Choose one to three personality descriptors carefully and showcase them in your summary. Choose very carefully, though, because these descriptors will carry great weight in a short summary. Avoid common terms and cliché phrases. Instead, aim for originality without sacrificing readability or clarity. Don’t be afraid to use quotes or language that is characteristically “you.”
Clients sometimes tell me things like, “I adhere to the 3P system of leadership” where the “3P” system is a private abbreviation for their personal approach to team management. In cases like this, a well-worded reference to this person’s leadership style will grab more attention that over-used words and phrases such as “seasoned,” “natural leader,” or “gifted interpersonal leader.”
Each job listing on your resume should tell a short story – the story of your tenure and wild success. It makes sense, then, to use a brief position introductory statement that sets the stage for the achievements you plan to list with each role. If you keep these intro statements short, you can weave in multiple keywords in just a few lines while giving your readers context for your accomplishments.
For example, let’s say you were hired to gain entry to key new markets and push sales from lackluster to blockbuster levels. Which introduction will drive this point home more clearly – to include a long list of responsibilities or to quickly summarize the challenges you faced? The latter, of course. An opening statement like this one doesn’t just report your duties; it sells your readers on your expertise and brand:
Recruited to turn around the performance of a sales team ranked 24 of 24 nationally. Fueled dramatic rises in sales, account retention, market penetration, new client acquisition, while rebuilding team from the ground up.
If the statement just mentioned is followed by hard-hitting accomplishment statements that drive home how you achieved this turnaround and note the specific measurable results you achieved, can you imagine how much this would reinforce your brand?
Keep in mind that effective achievement statements contain three elements: the problem, challenge or situation you faced; the steps or actions you took to overcome them; and the specific quantifiable results your efforts generated. While you won’t necessarily have space for all three of these elements in each achievement, aim to tell as much of the story as you can in 2-3 lines of text. If necessary, use short sub-bullets to include additional critical facts. Make sure each achievement story underscores and supports your career brand.
7. Keyword Infusion
You have surely heard about the importance of Applicant Tracking Systems – the sophisticated databases employers and recruiters use to track, parse, analyze, and store incoming resumes. These systems eat keywords for breakfast, so using industry-specific terms in your resume is absolutely urgent.
We’re not talking about general keywords here, but terms specific to your job function, level of role, and industry. The keywords used by a VP of Sales in the biotech arena will be different than those used by a VP of Sales in manufacturing, so make sure you choose terms that match your target roles. And, naturally you want to employ keywords that align with and support your career brand wherever possible. An easy way to do this is to pair a well-chosen adjective to accompany a key term in your summary, for example.
While all of these career branding strategies may not work for you, give one or two a try in 2014. I’ll bet their impact on your job search will be quite positive. After all, a shorter job search would be a great thing, right?