Résumés: It's Not About You, It's About Your Next Employer
Quite a few people make it through their careers without ever being on the employer side of the interview table. This can put you at a disadvantage in your job search and make it hard for you to know what employers are looking for. When conducting a job search, it's natural that most people would make themselves and their needs the focus of the search. However, the most effective strategy that you can adopt in your job search is to not think like a job seeker, but think like an employer. If you've never been a recruiter or hiring manager though, it would be hard to know exactly what that means and how to do it.
You can apply this "employer-focused" mindset to nearly every aspect of your search from writing your résumé to networking and interviewing. Let's start with résumés first to provide an example of how to change your strategy from one that is focused on you—to one that is focused on your next employer.
Résumés have become known to most people as simply a list of your jobs and the duties you performed. If you think of résumés this way, it's okay. It's not your fault. There's a lot of free advice out there that will tell you that. This perspective, unfortunately, is setting your résumé up to be overlooked—and that's assuming it even gets read by a person after getting through the applicant tracking system.
Yes, you need to list your job history and duties, as well as your skills and experiences. However, you need to be describing them in the context of how they would be valuable to the employer you are applying with. The overall goal of your résumé though should not be to just list your qualifications and promote yourself. The goal of your résumé should be to demonstrate what you have achieved and how you can solve your prospective employer's problems. If you can solve a key problem for an employer, they will hire you. Before you apply to another job, ask yourself what potential challenges this employer might have. Then look at your résumé again and ask yourself if your résumé (and cover letter) show specifically how you can address those challenges. If you change nothing else on your résumé, change this.
Put yourself in the position of the hiring manager reading the résumé. What they are thinking about when they read your résumé is this: "How can this person contribute to our bottom line and solve our problems?" Remember, it's not really about you, it's about them.
Let's look at an example. If you are applying for a human resources position, then ask yourself: What are some of the challenges someone would face in this position? Maintaining compliance with HR laws? Competing with other companies for talent? Whatever their challenges are, make sure that your résumé and cover letter convey an understanding of those challenges and how you can solve them. The best opportunity to do this is when you are crafting the descriptions of each of your positions. As you do this, it's paramount that you focus on what you achieved, not what you did. There's a big difference between these two.
Here's an example for a marketing position:
• What you did is this: "Launched a new digital marketing campaign that generated new leads."
• What you achieved is this: "Generated a 15% increase in qualified new leads in Q2 over Q1 by developing a targeted digital ad campaign across numerous social media platforms."
The second bullet is far more descriptive and tells me not just what you did, but how successful you were at it. Therefore, I strongly advise my clients to tailor their résumé to each job they apply to. Not every employer's challenges are the same. Taking 20 minutes to refocus your résumé to each job will pay dividends in terms of your response rate.