It is unfair that employers judge your knowledge, skills and ability on a piece of paper. On the other hand, it is scary for employers to hire someone based on the information on a piece of paper. Would you pay $100,000 for a piece of paper? No. So if you’re shooting for an annual salary of $100,000, better make sure your resume reads like it is worth $100,000 of investment with minimal foreseeing risks and high potential ROI.
Every recruiter knows. Some hiring managers say no to your resume even though you have the exact qualification as the job description.
“I don’t know about this guy. He’s bounced around too much. ”
“What school is that? I never heard of it.”
“Never got her degree? Nah.”
“He’s never worked in the industry. He’s never worked with (specific) software/system/program. We need someone with experience.”
“Unemployed for months? I don’t know about that.”
“She lives too far. She’ll quit in a month.”
“He’s always worked at a small/medium/large organization; he won’t last here.”
You have to manage two things: risk and expectation. Job hunting is a lot like dating, you want to be a safe and attractive choice. By managing risk, you’re telling them why they should hire you over other candidates. By managing expectation, you’re tell them what they’re getting for their bucks.
Market yourself like a investment portfolio. First, you have to know your investors. Are they looking to get rich fast and move on to the next opportunity? Are they looking to let their money sit in the account for years to come? Here are some actions you may take to mitigate the obvious risks on your resume:
- Explain briefly about your employment gaps or presumed job hopping.
- Include relevant experience in targeted industry or projects even it was a pro bono gig for your family business or your church or your children’s school.
- Clarify any change or anything out of ordinary: relocation, change of career path, change of industry, job search after only one month into a new job, etc.
- Show the expected graduation date if you’re still in school and let them know if it’s a remote/part-time/evening program.
- Monitor your social media activities and profiles. Make sure your online professional information are up to date and either match or supplement your resume.
Second, you have to sell your investment mix. Just the right amount of everything that will satisfy the investors’ needs. Here comes the expectation management- make it look so good that they can smell the money just by reading it. Some actions you may consider to reflect or boost your market value:
- Quantify your duties, accomplishments, tasks, or knowledge (e.g. managed 10M annual budget and 5 direct reports, optimized conversion rate with email marketing campaigns by 123% within a year resulting in 10% increase in revenues, analyzed data of 2 million unique records with 500 variables, 800 hours of Coursera on open source coding, progressive career advancement in a well-respected company). Include a link to your personal website or portfolio (a must for creative positions) so employers can check out your work samples.
- Research about the company and list any relevant facts about your professional history that would resonate with the employer (e.g. worked on a major account that the employer is trying to get, implemented agile for a startup).
- Paint a picture of who you are so the employer can gauge your culture fit (e.g. hobbies, memberships, charities/causes).
- Tell a story about where you work(ed) and how you work(ed). (e.g. company mission, infrastructure and operations, on-site v.s remote v.s travel/ team v.s individual/ domestic v.s international).
- Showcase your learning agility, including any current training/courses and earned certificates/licenses. This is an indicator of your future efficacy. The only constant is change and employers are looking for people who are lifelong learners.
Lastly, do not lie on your resume. Yes, some people may get away with it. You? Probably not. Remember, there’s only six degrees of separation. People can find out a lot about you if they try. And you probably won’t enjoy the job you get from a fake resume because it is not who you are and what you want to do ultimately.
Once you get past the why and what, employers will figure out how to get you.