Change Your Resume to Attract Opportunities You Want

By Debra Feldman '74PH of the Columbia Career Coaches Network
This article originally appeared on JobWhiz.

Too often executive resumes are designed to push data out to a general employer audience, a job search method that is rarely effective. Rather, I suggest creating a presentation promoting past achievements that demonstrate to a decision maker the skills, talent, passion, etc. to address the challenges important to that hiring decision maker. A resume is a sales tool. We've been told that successful sales presentations do not talk about product features but focus on satisfying the buyer's needs and addressing the buyer's challenges. As marketing collateral, a resume and related correspondence, should not focus solely on the candidate's attributes, but should deliver information to prove how the product/candidate satisfies the buyer's/employer's needs.

A Resume Has a Job to Do

It must substantiate a candidate's qualifications to satisfy their campaign objectives. A resume must reflect and reinforce an individual's go to market strategy by clearly and compellingly demonstrating the candidate's value proposition and showing that the individual does not represent a high risk. This is achieved by anticipating the concerns an employer may have and providing evidence to eliminate these weaknesses by describing additional, often unexpected strengths, skills, and knowledge relevant to the proposed role. When a resume satisfies these requirements, then it supports the job seeker's positioning and promotes them as a desirable, low-risk resource who will meet the employer's needs and then some.

When a writer creates a resume that looks good on the surface looks but still misses the mark, it is often because they have not applied the correct marketing strategy to promote an individual for the career opportunity they want. Writers routinely rely on their client, the job seeker, to define the job the resume is supposed to do by providing sample job descriptions for their target position. The resume author must distill an entire career history and translate this information to match the employer's requirements. Often this leads to a resume copying the words in the job posting. This is not the way to market an individual's unique and expert qualifications nor does this increase the candidate's value to prospective employers by citing additional strengths and skills.

How to Write a Resume That Sells

The superior and effective method for writing a resume is to take a few steps back and start by identifying the candidate's most outstanding strengths that are relevant to their target opportunity. Next, potential target companies must be researched to understand the potential employer's challenges and anticipate the needs that the job seeker is prepared to address. At this point, it's possible to identify a focus on the candidate's job search and figure out what is going to attract a hiring manager. When this point is reached, it will it be possible to develop a resume that promotes an individual as the solution to specific challenges and demonstrate their relevant achievements and any additional skills and knowledge they offer.

A Resume Is Not a One Size Fits All

The same candidate may have multiple versions of their resume with different aspects of their background emphasized to enhance their appeal and show how they fit a variety of opportunities. The candidate is still the same person just as a chameleon is one animal whose color appears as different hues under diverse conditions.

A job seeker needs a presentation that sells their unique value to an employer and addresses the company's most demanding challenges. It's not always obvious which past experiences and achievements command the employer's attention and compel them to want to learn more. The presentation must also be credible and establish a sense of trustworthiness, a very critical likability factor. Sure, a resume's appearance must be attractive, legible, and hold the reader's attention, but if what looks good in print or online is not also the best content to spike interest and promote trust, it will be ignored.

One Resume, Two Jobs

Too often the one writing resumes (among whom are the chief marketing officer of me, myself, and I) create a well-formatted, error-free document that doesn't compellingly communicate a message that puts a candidate into the hiring pipeline. A resume or a referral/recommendation must fulfill the purpose of opening the door to more in-depth exploration and it should increase momentum through the hiring process.

Resumes Can Open Doors and/or Start the Vetting Process

The aim of the resume before a one-to-one is different from a follow-up to an initial interaction. In the former instance, a resume can often be a deal breaker when there is no response from an employer or the employer expresses a definitive lack of interest to take the next step. Other times, a resume breaks the ice and generates a positive outcome by initiating a dialogue that leads to further exploration and ultimately what the candidate wants, a job offer. Unless a candidate identifies a decision maker's expectations and communicates a message (at the right time via the right channels) that says they match requirements and are trustworthy to boot, there will not be any one-on-one exchange, which is necessary to get a job offer.

Networking is the Most Effective Job Search Method

On the other hand, if a candidate is introduced by a mutual contact or reaches out directly and the employer asks them to share their background, this resume version has the advantage of being informed by the initial interchange with the employer. The situation is more favorable because a personal referral puts a resume in the right hands vs. competing in the resume queue or being rejected by an automated screening system. The intent is to write content showing the job seeker as having the expected credentials and documents their ability to get the work done. Examples that show why an individual is a “good bet” include direct experience, relevant accomplishments, industry background, enthusiastic referral and more.

People Hire People Not Resumes

After an individual or their representative/mutual contact has gotten in touch with the decision maker, it is likely that a cover letter or email message sent with a resume will be read. Here's the chance for a candidate to reinforce their interest, restate their unique qualifications, and emphasize their skills and talents citing specific success stories which go into more detail than resume bullet points. Plus, the candidate has a phone number and direct email addresses and can, and should, follow-up with the person who made the referral and the hiring authority to a) confirm receipt of their resume and b) to reiterate their interest with a short statement reminding the employer of what a perfect fit they are. This is also a key time to mention a few key qualifications they offer that address the employer's needs. This follow-up can be used to describe "bonus" credentials that are not included in the resume.

The goal of a job seeker is to show a hiring decision maker how, and justify why, they are the best choice to solve the employer's challenges. A resume must present the job seeker to a prospective employer as a product they want who is low risk, able to adapt quickly, and a sure bet to produce positive results.


Debra Feldman, known as JobWhiz, is an international executive talent agent and job search consultant. She researches and describes the most efficient and effective job search strategy focus and develops a go-to-market plan to get you where you want to be. After expertly positioning you to maximize your value and command respect, Feldman personally arranges one-on-one meetings between you and senior management, owners, investors, and board members to supercharge your current campaign and simultaneously establish lifetime career insurance -- the inside relationships necessary for career success. She specializes in career changers, industry switchers, and job market re-entry candidates across all industries and functional roles. For busy executives, Feldman provides outsourcing support and conducts research, prepares correspondence, follows-up on leads, etc. to execute a swift, successful search. Learn more about Feldman here.

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