How Can My Resume Help Me Stand Out?

Ask Brad: Tips for Those Who've Been Laid Off in This Tough Market

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If you are one of the 65,000 people in the advertising business who lost a job this past year, you may want to read on.

As you battle the competitive job market, in most instances, your resume is going to be the key weapon you use to get hired. For better or for worse, this is your calling card to the recruiting directors of the business world.

Brad Karsh
Brad Karsh is president of JobBound and JB Training Solutions. He spent 15 years at Leo Burnett in Chicago.
In my new book, "How to Say It on Your Resume: A Top Recruiting Director's Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume for Every Job," I talk about how to craft a resume for a variety of situations, including changing careers, trying to move up in a company and returning to the work force. And most important for these times, there is an entire chapter focused on what to do when you've been laid off.

There is one key piece of advice that seems to get lost on most people, one of the most important things you can do when applying for a job. And it is this: Target your resume.

People, we work in advertising. What do you think your resume is? It's just an ad for you. Just like a good ad targets its consumer, a good resume smacks the target right between the eyes and says, "You have to hire me." In this case, the consumer is the recruiting director at the company where you'd like to work. Never forget that.

Here's what I mean: Recruiting directors are a practical lot. I know; I used to be one. They want to put a round peg into a round hole. They want to find the "easiest" possible person to hire. That is, someone who fits their job description perfectly.

If the job description says they are looking for an account director with 10 years of experience and a background in package goods, that's exactly who they want to hire. Now, that doesn't mean they won't consider anyone else, but where do you think they are going to start?

While you certainly can't lie on your resume, you need to make it perfectly clear that you fill the bill. Read the job description -- that's a "cheat sheet" for how you can target your resume. Then when you are structuring and crafting your resume, write it for that description. Other tips to keep in mind:

1. Tailor your summary section
If you have more than five or so years of experience, you can start your resume with a summary. A summary captures about four or five bullet points that show why you're a perfect match for the job. In our example above, that first bullet point would say something like:

Account director with more than 10 years of experience leading diverse agency teams as large as 18 on package-goods accounts including Unilever, Clorox and Hershey.

When they pick up that resume, you want them to nod and think, "This person is perfect for the job."

2. Focus your bullet points
One mistake job seekers make is they write their resumes based on the accomplishments of which they are most proud. They should really write their resumes based on what recruiting directors would like to see.

In one of my previous columns, I talked about the importance of accomplishments vs. job descriptions. Now I want to discuss what accomplishments you should include.

Let's say you're applying for a planning-director job. Your greatest success may have come from a comprehensive ethnography you did to reposition your client's brand. On a typical resume, you would list that accomplishment as your first bullet point. However, if the job you're applying for doesn't want you to do any ethnographies but instead wants someone with extensive qualitative research skills, you should list your qualitative experience first.

3. Trim the fat
Your resume should never be more than two pages. Equally important is what you include in those two pages. I recently worked with an experienced account director who had been laid off. On the first page of her resume, she listed six bullet points under her most recent job that she had held for five years. Then, on page two of her resume, she had six bullet points from her 12-month stint as an assistant account executive in 1993!

I hate to break it to you, but at this point, we don't care that you exceeded the year's objectives by 13% on the launch of the all-new Oldsmobile Alero.

You can certainly include old positions on your resume, but just focus your effort on what's most important.

In a job market like this, you need every advantage possible when it comes time to finding a job. With stacks of qualified applicants, recruiting directors can afford to be extremely selective. Of course, I can't guarantee you a job, but by following these tips you'll greatly enhance your chances.

Good luck.

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