Ellen wondered why I would use the word “successfully” in her resume. Skip questioned saying “I see that you need someone who can do x, y and z. I excel in those areas. In my most recent position, I did something similar, specifically…”

When I asked why they didn’t think they should say those things, they said they thought the employer would infer that from reading their resume and cover letter. Otherwise, why would they put the information in?

Wrong assumption!  Employers read resumes and cover letters extremely fast, giving between 5 and 10 seconds for a first look. Really. Time it. That is not a long time. This means they don’t “infer” or “read into” anything you write. They simply don’t have time or energy.

What they are looking for is something that they put in their job description, something that shows you know the job you are applying for, something that shows you know the organization/company that is hiring.  So they are looking for key words and phrases. (How do you think the term “key word” came about? Because it refers to the words that are key to the matter at hand, in this case a job.)

This means:  State the obvious in resumes and in cover letters. State what’s obvious to you, but definitely is not obvious to the employer.

In cover letters:

  • Use the name of the position at least twice.
  • Use the name of the company at least twice.
  • Use the job description as a guide to what the employer wants to know.  It’s their “statement of pain.” Employers first want to know that you understand that they have a problem and what it is. Then you can tell them how you’ll fix it, based on your success solving similar problems in the past. Literally tell them that. Use the name of the position when you do this (a third mention).

In resumes, if you want the employer to know something about you, say it.  Make it easy for the employer to choose you for an interview by answering all obvious questions.

  • Use the terms they use in the job description when you list your Core Capabilities.
  • Make sure you list your impact (accomplishments) for each position. Use bullets to call out impact. Impact is a measurable or quality outcome or result – what happened because you were in the job carrying out your responsibilities.
  • Use numbers, not words. That means DO NOT spell out the number 5. Use 5, not five. People’s eyes are drawn immediately to numbers, symbols and capital letters (when used sparingly). It’s better to be effective than elegant.
  • Tell them the scope of your work a brief paragraph. You can use numbers (“supervised 5 staff” and “counseled 2000 students annually”), geography (“sales region encompassed 6 states”), and dollars (“managed budget of $3.2 million” and “developed new business valued at $126,000”), and time (“annual sales of $xx” or “saw 30 clients a week”).
  • If it’s hard to figure out what to put for impact, ask the “so what?” question – so what would have happened if you didn’t do the job (or if the job wasn’t done at all)? so what was the result of you having done this work at the end of your time there?

If you’ve been unemployed for a while, you really need to list any volunteer activities and studies that you’ve done (and you need to do some!). Show that you’ve been busy. Do pro bono consulting and list your company as “My Name Consulting” with a client name after it.  While people say looking for a job is a full-time job, most employers don’t see it that way. They want to SEE that you have kept up your skills, that you are a “go-getter” and that you are still accustomed to the pace of work.

State the obvious!!