I have been a hiring manager for over a decade in a variety of countries and states from Omaha, Nebraska, to Chennai, India to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I’ve reviewed hundreds, if not over a thousand, resumes. I’ve sat in (and in many cases, suffered through) countless interviews and wondered how much money the interviewee spent to have their resume or CV professionally prepared at it was not an accurate reflection of the interviewee in front of me.
I’m certainly not THE expert on resumes and job placement; I’ll leave that to my trusted mentor and author, and Dave Ramsey’s friend and career coach Dan Miller, and his book “48 Days to the Work You Love.” However, for much less than a session with Dan ($4,000 dollars for three hours I believe) or even the price of his book, I’ll provide you with the roadmap to identify your core talents and teach you how to translate those into a different “business language” and help you move into a new field where you have more qualifications than you might at first think!
The advice is sage. It helped me land several interviews in seemingly “unrelated” job fields when I was in the market before being able to realign my position with my current employer to better match my talents, dreams, and aspirations to work with people to help them develop.
Let’s get started:
Does the thought of transition seem scary? Good, you are ready to jump off the high dive and I’m here to assure you there is water below and you can do this!
The key to overcoming your fear is not to look back at everything that didn’t work and try to analyze it to death. The key is to be excited at what lies ahead and the skills I’m about to teach you are going to fuel this excitement and hopefully overpower the fear.
Step #1: The goal to a well-written pre-interview CV resume is to get you a first date, not to write your autobiography!
Think about dating. Do you sit down with a perspective date and ask: “tell me about all of your boyfriends/girlfriends you have had in the past, how long you lasted with each of them and 2-3 bullet points of what you felt worked and didn’t work?
Of course not.
What attracts you to a person is their charisma, ability to express themselves in their physical appearance and through communicative words, texts, online profile, whatever.
A resume has to grab a potential interviewer immediately, tease, and then leave them wanting more – resulting in a “first date” interview on the phone or in person. And if you want the employer to be interested in you, start by being interested in them and respect their time by placing your most valuable assets “above the fold” on the first (and probably only at this stage) page.
The average resume only has 9-10 seconds to grab attention – this isn’t enough time for someone to sit down and try to decipher your talent code! Each inch of space must have a purpose and further the tease. You are the product, this is your full-page 4-color picture ad in a magazine and every inch counts!
Step #2: Know Thyself
Until you know what makes you not just good, but “dang good,” you aren’t going to be able to convince someone else why you should be the “chosen one” for their organization.
Start by spending time talking to long-time acquaintances. Ask them two questions: What do you like most about me? What do you think I am best at doing?
At this point refrain from wanting to ask follow up questions or try to justify your actions, instead just be prepared to write down the answers. The goal is to keep the data raw. You will have more time later to analyze once you have a good collection of opinions.
The more constructive feedback you can receive the better.
The further out of your immediate circle of family and friends, the better as you will receive a very objective view. Your grandma’s pinch of your cheek and comment on your smile isn’t going to land you a job unfortunately. You need dissenting opinions and not coddling at this juncture. Even consider asking those with whom you don’t typically get along with, as their feedback will be valuable when forced to only answer positive questions about you. You might be surprised how much they do value you and why!
How will you know when you are getting to the core of your excellence? You will feel really uncomfortable, embarrassed, and apologetic.
I recently experienced embarrassment on both sides of the table when I was giving feedback to a job seeker who had asked for my help to fix her resume. As I told her what I felt were her core strengths, she said things like, “it’s not that hard, anyone can do that … it’s nothing special.” Ironically later in the conversation she was giving me feedback on how I was a great listener and really cared about people and suddenly I was blushing and embarrassed and apologetic. Even reliving the experience and seeing those words in type still makes me embarrassed.
It was then I realized what comes so easily to me is what makes me unique and for whatever reason I fight it with feelings of embarrassment and apology because I assume everyone else has the same skills and it is nothing special – but it is special, and it is ME!
So stop apologizing for your talent, embrace it, and make it your headline.
Now that you have taken the time to identify what is unique about you, it is time to take a fresh look at your life to establish patterns on how those talents have manifested themselves and brought you joy and happiness.
Start by thinking back to your youth. What is it that you wanted to do and why? This will give great insight to what you are doing now. Loved to play with Legos?: you enjoy building things (relationships, projects, or physical things). Enjoyed playing with dolls?: you are nurturing, pay attention to others needs and wants … hopefully you can see where I am going with this.
Now combine your personal attributes (kind, focused, methodical …) first, skills (organizer, fund raiser, manager …) second, and talents (play piano, play sports, paint …) third. Take a break and then look at the list again and you should start to see patterns of how you ended up with your last job and where you really want to go in the future.
As an example, one of my friends had been a probation officer and then a skin-care professional. That may sound like Ying and Yang, but let’s take a look at her attributes (wants to help others), skills (knows how to research people and products) and talent (ability to keep calm under pressure and find creative solutions) and we see there are many commonalities in both previous professions which helped us to identify other professions where she could do the same.
If you can’t see patterns right away, bring in some good friends, visit a local church or civic job center or hire a career coach to help you.
To really get to know yourself takes quality time, it requires that you are as stress free as possible and have a good sense of humor. Break routine cycles, drive different ways home, exercise regularly, take some time out to read a good book to cleanse the mental pallet and then restart the process. Take up yoga, skydiving, whatever it takes to get out of your comfort zone and unlock the creativity inside.
With your list of personal attributes, skills, and talents, you are ready for the next step.
Step #3: Transform your previous successes into powerful OMR statements
I’ve heard this process called many different things, but for my use I have adapted the process of identifying how you are “not just good, but dang good!” into the OMR acronym– Obstacle, Mediation, Result.
Take a piece of paper and fold it into three columns. Then write “obstacle” on the top of the first left column, then “mediation” at the top of the middle column and “result” at the top of the right column.
In the left column, start listing all the obstacles you had to overcome in previous careers, life, etc. leaving some space between each entry. Draw a line across all three columns to keep each obstacle separate for the next steps.
Then move to the middle column and write down what you did to solve the obstacle in the accompanying space. Quick bullet points is all that is needed right now, you can refine the writing later. Finally, list out the corresponding measurable results on the right column associated with the correlating obstacle and mediation.
Now you will take each collection of three for one issue and write OMR action statements. The goal is to have around 20 total OMRs you can pick and choose from so that each resume you prepare for a particular job opening or potential prospect will be different from the last. OMR statements also help prep you for an interview and you will want to cross out all the ones already listed on your resume to show you have depth of knowledge when you are in eye contact or on the phone with a prospective employer.
In case you are confused, let me provide a personal example.
When I first started my last position with my current employer, I immediately realized I did not have the right people in place to get the job done and as a result we were experiencing a lot of theft in the work place. So in the left column labeled “obstacle” I wrote: “Theft in workplace.” Then in the middle “mediation” column I wrote: “Initiated RFP and reviewed CVs for the right manager to fix the problem.” Finally, in the right hand column under “result” I wrote “Hired a more experienced manager and company to educate employees and management on their responsibility for security in the workplace.”
After several rewrites, I had the following OMR action statement: “Reduced theft in workplace and increased employee participation in our program by recruiting and training a new manager to partner with management.”
Much better than “oversaw security in India,” right? But as my friend who has been through outplacement twice pointed out, it still needed a “hook” to reach out and grab the reader. So I added, “as a result, in an employee survey “safety & security in the workplace” went from dead last ranking to the top reason why employees enjoy working at our site in just 9 months and this helped our company secure a spot in The Best Place to Work in India recognition.”
The hook is the “show me the money” Jerry McGuire moment and provides “stickability” and top of mind positioning to the reader of your resume.
Take your time, check your facts. I expect you will be surprised and you should eventually say, “damn, I’m good, they should definitely hire me!”
Step #4: Create a Power Statement
Now that you have 20 or so OMR action statements, you are ready to start assembling your resume. But your OMR statements are going to be the main course, now we need to focus on the appetizer to get the reader to pick up and hold your resume long enough to get to the good stuff. And the “Power Statement” is your appetizer.
A Power Statement is a brief paragraph summing up all of your best qualities. Unlike the rest of your resume that you will tailor for each job description and company, most of your power statement will likely remain the same as it should capture the essence of who you are.
The easiest way to illustrate a Power Statement is to share my own progression as I worked out mine.
I attended a full day seminar at an LDS Employment Center free resume workshop. If you are close to a center, I highly recommend attending. You do not have to be LDS to attend, click here to see where the closest center is to you.
My intro statement before:
“A unique and accomplished leader possessing people and program management skills with a track record of success in complex multi-stakeholder environments” … yawn … even I’m bored and it is about me! After attending the before mentioned workshop and spending some time on what really makes me unique, I progressed.
Power Statement first stab:
“I enjoy helping others reach their potential. I am analytical and creative and love the challenge of being told something is impossible and then proving there are several ways to accomplish what is perceived as too difficult to pursue. I like to build diverse teams.”
A little better, but still lacked the “stickiness” factor. I wanted a home run, so I tried again.
Power Statement final:
“When told something is impossible, I immediately arise to the occasion. I am satisfied in seeing others succeed and accomplish difficult tasks. I am a unifier: I can get opposing parties to find creative solutions and common ground. I am an innovator: I found a way to save my current company over $350,000 a year while increasing employee retention. I seek to consistently inspire greatness.”
That one got the instructor’s attention (someone with over 30 years in HR and recruiting experience) and he asked if he could use it as an example for all future classes stating it was the best he’d ever seen. I’m confident you can do even better!
Does my Power Statement interest you to want to read the rest of my resume? I hope it does and will.
Step # 5: Create a Functional Resume
A functional resume differs from a traditional resume in that you list your qualities and supporting statements first rather than the name of the company you worked for, positions held, and then finally getting around to what you do. This helps you stand out, puts your best foot forward, and immediately gets down to business.
So, rather than “XYZ company, positions held, “oversaw production of …,” you need to instead keep it in the 1st person, and relate to the reader. You are sending a love letter of who you are and how you can help their organization. Keep it real. Keep it human. Example:
Coach & Mentor – Transferable Skills
• Lifetime student of motivational practices and working with people towards positive change
• Proven leader with experience in building diverse teams and providing ongoing oversight, motivation, career progression, and counseling
• Proven track record of connecting with people from around the world to educate and empower them in their role in a successful safety & security program
I’ll be honest, I’m still working through the process as it is ever evolving and even though I was very pleased at the time I wrote the above, I can see it still needs polishing and perfecting. So I’ll get right to it!
At the bottom of the resume you will still list companies worked for and the years, but you want to downplay this if you are transitioning into another field that is seemingly unrelated. That is why you play up what you are really good at the top of the resume. If you have been out of the workforce for a considerable time, don’t downplay the gap. Instead list what you did. A “stay-at-home mom,” for example, may be a PTA volunteer, coach & mentor, organizer, etc. Be a little creative, but also be upfront and honest.
Think of the job hunt as dating. The purpose of a resume is to excite someone to want to meet and talk with you. Don’t dive into a eulogy drive down memory lane. Present a future-oriented approach and sell what you can do for their organization.
Hopefully you are reenergized by this process, I know I always am when I work with people to transform their resume and prepare for interviews. In future articles I’ll discuss how to identify and get the attention of the hiring manager, and then how to prepare for the interview and keep a “top of mind” positioning through the process. If you’d like me to take a quick look at your resume, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn: Take time to figure out what makes you unique and why a company can’t wait to hire you
Act: Write down your OMR statements and polish them. Create a Power Statement and then assemble the pieces of your resume into a one-page, visually clean functional document.
Share: Talk to as many people as you can about the process. Solicit feedback from objective parties and constantly work to improve your resume.
Disclaimer: Don’t over dramatize the idea of your resume/CV being a love letter! It is only a euphemism, not to be taken literally! Avoid perfume, lipstick, or other items which should be involved with a true love letter. This is business man! Take note that a properly written Power Statement may lead to increased self-confidence, strutting about, and a more positive self-image. A resulting larger head may lead to neck stiffness, getting stuck in doorways, having trouble finding a suitable hat, ect.
Now get to work and have some fun!