I doubt candidates think of their resume from that perspective, based on the numerous submissions I receive each week. I am constantly surprised at the significant value gap that exists between the resumes submitted by most candidates and the value they have actually contributed to their prior organizations. Frequently, during routine get acquainted telephone interviews, candidates volunteer some excellent bits of information that, if included in their resume, would make them a much stronger contender.
I once had a candidate complain bitterly when he was eliminated from a search during the initial resume review process. The reason: there was little in the individual’s resume that addressed the experiential needs defined by our client. We had an abundance of resumes that were more closely aligned with the selection criteria. When I explained what our client was looking for, he began sharing details of experience that was more on point. He added that he also made reference to additional experience in his cover letter but not in his resume.
My response: how would we know? If it is not in the resume there is no way we can know since there is not adequate time to individually call 60 or 70 candidates, a routine number of applicants for most executive recruitment engagements. Do not depend on the person screening your resume to read the cover letter.
To minimize the chances of being eliminated in the resume review phase, candidates should ask themselves these questions:
Does Your Resume Differentiate You? For many senior level positions, the competition between active candidates (those individuals who are have been laid off, terminated or are seeking a promotion) and the passive candidates (executives who are currently employed and not in the market for a new job until they are contacted by a search consultant) is fierce. The odds for success in a search for the top positions can range up to 60 to one. Candidates must differentiate themselves from the competition. If the resume does not clearly communicate a candidate’s value in round one, the chances of making round two are dramatically reduced.
Does Your Resume Communicate Compelling Value? When you construct or revise your resume, ask yourself: does the information — description of the employer, scope of responsibility and quantifiable achievements — create a compelling case for future consideration? Are you primarily thinking in terms of the chronology of your experience, or are you emphasizing your relevant, quantifiable accomplishments?
Does Your Resume Address the Employer’s Needs? Be specific in addressing the needs of the potential employer. There is a good chance you will not be advanced if you are primarily relying on your years of experience and chronological career progress. Specifically connect the dots between the needs outlined in the job posting by customizing your professional summary with experience and accomplishments that will support your case.
Do You Resubmit Your Resume? If you are provided additional information from the potential employer or the search consultant in this early phase, resubmit a more focused, value-based resume that zeroes in on a specific client as quickly as possible. This tactic can also enhance your candidacy if the more customized version connects with the client’s needs.
Are You Depending On the Cover Letter? Do not incorporate salient information in your cover letter that is not addressed in your resume. In an early stage of the resume screening process, researchers may not read the cover letter if there is a large number of candidates to be considered.