Resume Prep: Which fruit are you?

Picture of fruit salad, as a metaphor for someone trying to write every detail of their career - relevant or not - in their resume and job applicationsJust recently, I helped a career coaching client with a very varied background…

Having left Australia in their teens, they’d travelled extensively, criss-crossing the globe for years. They’d had an amazing work life, spanning not just many different countries, but also different roles and fields, across different industries and sectors.

Career-wise, they’d dipped a toe in almost everything.

With my Career Coach ‘hat’ on, I was excited for them.

The possibilities were endless!

Reading through their resume, there were so many avenues open to them; Public Relations and Communications, Human Resources and Training, Procurement, Supply Chain, Logistics. Hospitality… Travel… Retail.

There was so much to work with. With so much experience and so many skills, the foundations were there for at least a dozen different careers…

There was just one problem; My client was job-hunting, not trying to choose career direction.

They needed me to think like a recruiter, not a career coach… and with my Recruiter hat on, I was utterly confused.

Who was this person?

Or more to the point, what people were they? Within the first two paragraphs of their resume alone, they were selling themselves as:

• a PR and Marketing Communications Professional
• an HR and Training Professional
• a Procurement and Purchasing Professional
• an Import / Export and Logistics Professional
• a Travel and Tourism Professional

… and the more I read, the more confused I became.

My client was hugely frustrated that they’d had no bites from Hiring Managers, and they were beginning to feel utterly despondent. In the past year, they had applied for literally hundreds of jobs, but had yet to score one interview.

From their perspective, it made no sense. They had a huge amount of work experience, which was of real value to future employers (and I agreed; it was). They’d also shown that they could be flexible and learn quickly, they could get on with anyone and turn their hand to anything…

“I can do this job AND SOME! I can do what they want and help out in other areas too. Why don’t they see that value?”

Alas, from a recruiter’s viewpoint things looked completely different.

Where my client saw themselves adding value, recruiters were seeing a ‘jack of all trades’, with no clear brand. Instead of a smorgasbord of talent to pick from, they were seeing a scattered and confusing career, with no one unifying theme. They clearly didn’t know what to make of, or do with my client – and they were passing them over for others with a clearer brand message. Over and over again.

Were they missing out on a great candidate? Very possibly. But they were also clearly asking for an apple, because they needed an apple – and their advert and position description had ‘apple’ written all over it. Despite this, my client was trying to sell them a fruit salad with apple in it, with a free burger and chips on the side. Result? No sale.

So what has this got to do with you?

This client’s story may be an extreme example, but it’s something I see all the time.

Most of us tend to over-elaborate in our resumes. We tend to add in everything we’ve done – all the jobs, all the duties and all our training – even when it’s not strictly relevant. Like my client, we know how much we have to offer and we think we’re adding value, showing what we’re capable of and demonstrating ‘breadth’.

In fact, we’re making the recruiter’s job harder, muddying our message and hurting our chances. The more extraneous information we put into our applications, the less clear our brand and role ‘fit’ becomes – and the deeper the recruiter has to dig, to get to the information that’s actually relevant…

Make it too hard, and as my client found, they’ll go straight past you, to the next application. I know this, because as a recruiter, I did it all the time.

Recruiters are time-poor and goal-focussed, so if they ask for an apple, they want an apple – nothing more, nothing less. If you’re looking for work, your first job is to provide the person who’s shortlisting with the information they need to recognise your fit and select you for interview.

The information they need, and nothing else… which will likely mean cutting out a lot of other information about you and what you can do. This is where we often struggle….

But I’m cutting out all this information! Yes, everything that is not directly relevant. If it’s not in the advert or position description, it’s not relevant. They don’t care about it, so nor should you. 

But isn’t this lying? Only if you’re making it up! If what you’re telling them is factually true, then no, you’re not lying – you are focussing their attention.

But can’t I just add…? Not unless you can clearly and directly connect what you have to what they want.

Remember, it’s not that your full set of skills don’t count, or that they’re of no value – it’s just about shining a light on the ones that this recruiter needs, now.

If you have multiple skills and streams – if like my client, you really can swap between wearing HR, Training, PR and Procurement hats – then draft multiple resumes, tailored to each role. In one, you’ll be a clear HR and Training pro, backed up with the all the relevant HR and Training ‘proof’; in the next, a PR person… That way, you build multiple, on-message templates which you can ‘tweak’ for each new application.

And once you’re at interview? Then you can discuss any additional skills and strengths that you bring, with the recruiter – the burger and fries – if you genuinely see that they offer added value, and you can demonstrate this to them.

Until then, to get to that interview, be the clear, easy to recognise apple.

Help them to pick you for the interview!


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