Hiring people is hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for your company’s next CEO, or you’re hoping to find an intern to fill the last temp position before the end of summer break – it’s all the same situation:
Your organization isn’t perfect, and you’re looking for someone who can bring the skills and mindset required to move the business a little closer toward optimization.
How are you scouting these candidates? By sorting through a stack of resumes, of course! You’re making value judgments on someone based on how well they convey their professional identity in a one-ish page, 350-word document.
Here’s a cold, hard truth about resumes: if you want to get hired, you’ve got to stand out.
But you already knew that.
Here’s another cold, hard truth: most people, including seasoned businesspeople, try to stand out in the wrong way.
Does your resume have colored font? Iconography? A neat little Likert scale that shows your proficiency with each product of the Adobe suite?
Because none of those things matter (unless you’re gunning for a job in graphic design).
Resume-writing is literally a manufacturing process. You’re constructing a product (your resume) for a prospective customer (the hiring manager). And the rules that applied to Toyota and Motorola and the other Lean Six Sigma think tanks?
Yeah, they apply to you too.
Emphasize the Essential
Resumes, by nature, typically contain a lot of information. They’re basically records of what you’ve achieved with the last five or 10 years of your life – where you’ve lived, what you’ve studied and who you’ve worked for.
But here’s the catch: they shouldn’t be. Your resume shouldn’t be a story of your work history. It should be a story that explains why you’re the right person for the job.
For example, if you’re hoping to get your start in the legal industry, forget the generic formatting rules and insert your J.D. from Harvard front and center – way above all the rest of your work history. Conversely, if you’re hoping to swap careers and jump into the tech field, then include that six-month period where you and a friend spent your free time learning SQL and developing apps from scratch (even if you didn’t get paid for it).
When a hiring manager reads your resume, don’t just give them a list of your previous employers. Instead, give them the essential details that make your resume different and better than the rest.
Cut out the Extraneous
Do you have a section titled Objective on your resume? If so, can you defend its existence? Why did you include it? The hiring manager knows your objective – to land a job – the minute they pick up your resume. What about your street address? How are the numbers on the front of your house conveying value to the organization? What about your graduation date? Your GPA?
In fact, every single word that can be cut should be cut. It makes for stronger, more powerful writing. Think about Winston Churchill back in the 1940s, inspiring millions to action based on his lean and careful word choice.
Tailor the Product to Your Customer
Customers have expectations, and so do hiring managers. Lean Six Sigma helps manufacturers deliver products that customers want, with as few defects as possible. That is, quite literally, what you’re doing with your resume.
So before you tweak anything, figure out exactly what the hiring manager is looking for.
Major organizations run focus groups and collect feedback to learn what their customers want. You probably don’t have the resources to host focus groups, but there’s good news – you don’t have to. The hiring manager has already provided everything they are looking for within the job posting.
You can tailor your resume to their expectations by using verbiage similar to that found in the job posting, but more importantly, you can read between the lines and learn about the types of problems the organization is facing.
For example, a job positing that says… Must be a natural leader who is comfortable working in a fast-paced and sometimes hectic environment… doesn’t actually mean they’re looking for leadership. Leadership, after all, can’t be quantified. They’re looking for someone who has the experience and the assertiveness to help change the fortune of failing (read: hectic) products, introduce new ideas, and create processes that can get all the members of a burnt-out team home at a reasonable hour.
Know your customer, and build your resume — your product — to fit their needs.
That’s how you stand out in a crowded marketplace.