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How to Write a Resume Summary Statement That Brands and Sells

8 Dec

An effective introductory Summary statement at the opening of your resume is a critical component of effectively branding yourself to a prospective employer.  This is the first part of your resume that a potential employer will read, and the goal is to communicate clearly what your

Photo by Brent Nelson (Flickr)

expertise is and why you are qualified.  Often an “Objective” statement tends to focus  more your own interests as the job seeker, while a “Summary” statement communicates what you can bring to the table in the targeted role for the organization.  Why should they hire you, essentially?  This is communicated by highlighting the most relevent strengths, skills & core competencies that are unique to you as a candidate, versus a trait or skill that’s an industry or professional standard (i.e. “multi-tasker” or “team-player”).

A cover letter basically addresses similar points, but in more detail, and allows for a certain amount of personalization to shine through.  The Summary statement should be approximately 4-6 lines and speak only to your professional background, and not address any outstanding circumstances (employment gaps, change of career, personal experiences, etc.). Continue reading

The Importance of the Details: 7 Critical Ones for the Employee-To-Be

1 Dec

I’ve had the flu, or something of the like, for the past two days.  Neither my wit, nor my mental acuity are operating at peak levels right now, but I’ll try my best to offer something of value here. Nonetheless, the gratitude-subscribing coach within me realizes, “Hey, at least I wasn’t sick for Thanksgiving!”  Glass half full my friends, glass half full.

Speaking of both gratitude and optimism, I found my pants.  The laundromat, trying to be helpful, removed them from the rest of the pile after they realized they were still damp, and tossed them into the dryer for an extra cycle.  Unfortunately, they forgot to take them out, and they ended up in some other Brooklynite apartment, someone who was nice enough to return them to whence they came.  So thank you, whomever took the time to do that.  It’s the smaller gestures that can truly brighten someone else’s day, or your own.

Little things are important indeed.  Little ways in which you communicate, in which you present yourself, in which you brand yourself – they’re little, yet they can make all the difference.  For example, I hate when candidates have “Objective” statements on their resumes.  I tell everyone to remove them and replace them with a 4-6 line “Summary” statement.  Why?  Because an objective statement communicates what YOU want out of a company, as if they’re bringing you into their office to interview you so that they can fulfill a favor for you.  A summary statement communicates your strengths and core competencies, and instead presents the idea of “Here’s what I can do for YOU…Mr. Hiring Manager at Company X”.  It seems trivial, but sometimes a trivial detail is what separates you from the  new hire.

Here’s another one. When you’re thinking about communication, especially in the professional sense, remember this: Only 7% of your message comes through via what you actually SAY.  The other 38% is intonation and the remaining 55% is body language.  So you might have most well-crafted answers to every interview question in the history of man, but if you’re going to look down at your interviewer’s shoes, or around the room, speak incoherently  and lace all your sentences with “like” and “um”, you might as well throw in the towel right there.  Same deal if you walk in smelling like smoke or heavy perfume.

Because sometimes a trivial detail is what separates you from the new hire.  Details are important, and unfortunately ten years of fantastic experience and accolades won’t necessarily overshadow 1 hour of careless, hasty  judgment.

Here are a couple of details to keep in mind whether you’re starting or already knee-deep into your job search:

  • Invest in at least one interview-appropriate outfit, and make sure it fits in with whatever the standards of dress are for your industry.
  • Do a quality-control check on your resume Summary (or Objective) statement – what message are you communicating?  Is it about YOU, or about THEM? (Hint: It should be about how You can HELP them.)
  • Do not use BCC or CC fields when emailing your resume. You should be sending it to one person, if possible, and tailoring it to fit the company and role to which you are applying.  Yes, it’s more time and effort-intensive, but far more likely to yield a positive return.  No decent recruiter or hiring manager will ever reply to an application that is generically blasted to multiple people at once- it shows lack of initiative.
  • In addition to attaching your resume and cover letter as documents, include them in the body of your email.  I realize computers never fail and the chance that the file might not open correctly is slim… but you never know.
  • Creativity is great, just not when it comes to fonts and formatting on your resume. Likewise, unless you’re Stan Lee, keep Comic Sans out of your professional email signature.  Ariel, Courier, Times, Verdana or Calibri are all safe bets.
  • Set your Facebook profile to private, for God’s sake.
  • And then Google yourself. Be fully aware of what information about you is available to the greater public and what messages are being communicated.  This effects your personal brand as much as your LinkedIN profile does, so keep it professional.

Get a Life. Get a Job. Whatever You Do, Get Creative.

8 Oct

When I was applying to colleges, I heard this story about a wanna-be ivy league-er who wrote their admissions essay to Brown University on Post-It notes.  They were accepted.  Doubtfully due to their perfect grammar or well-structured paragraphs, but because they were innovative, and their vehicle for communication, however unconventional, sent the Brown admissions committee a clear message:  “YOU WANT ME! And now that I’ve got your attention, here’s why…”

This is kind of how I feel about cover letters.  I’m not a fan of the old standard.  Yea, they’re “professional”, but unless you’re saying something that really has value to your reader, usually the person looking to hire you… it’s not really worth it to regurgitate the same resume babble everyone else does.  Granted, in some cases, it’s still just required.

Applying to college was the first time we were faced with the challenge of how to be distinctively creative in our communication while still remaining credibly professional.  Nowadays, as job seekers and career changers it’s something we toil with on a daily basis.  How does one creatively make their brand stand out above hundreds others, while keeping the professional face of the subject matter expert?

I worked in recruiting and talent management for the creative industry for close to 7 years, with hundreds of fantastically talented graphic and web designers, developers, producers and writers.  I love the creative industry and people involved in advertising because they perfectly illustrate this idea – boring self-promotion doesn’t work.  I had more people come into my office in faded jeans than business casual, and this was perfectly acceptable within that population.  Because when you’re vying for a job at one of Boston’s top advertising agencies, you don’t strut into the interview in a Canali suit and briefcase.  No, you rock a messenger bag and t-shirt that you designed for your last brand-name client and show off how awesome you are, because in reality, you ARE getting hired for your awesomeness.  And your Flash design skills.

Granted, that’s far from appropriate for other industries.  But regardless of industry, there needs to be a high level of awareness around who your target employer is and how and what your personal brand is communicating, the second your credentials come across someone’s desk.  Very often in the creative industry, a standard format cover letter detailing who you were and why someone should hire you was not very effective.  Particularly in a profession like design or advertising where your creativity is the driver of your success, it’s imperative that your ability to walk the talk is clearly communicated when you present yourself to a prospective employer.

Walk the talk. I’m not saying don’t write cover letters, ignore standards of professional dress or to not follow appropriate formatting guidelines for your resume – not at all.  The type of company and the nature of your targeted industry will dictate what’s acceptable for those items.  What I AM saying is that no matter what industry you are in, there is competition, and you need to differentiate yourself in an effective, creative and credible way if you’re going to beat candidates 1 through 56 into the door.  Boring self-promotion doesn’t work.

Answer this question: Why should I hire you instead of the person who came in right before you?  You know nothing about their credentials or experience, only that you have something great to bring to the table and you’ll bring megawatts of success to the company.  The other person probably has something great to offer as well.  What makes you different, and how can you highlight that in a way that is memorable, appealing, appropriate and makes the person interviewing you or looking at your resume say, “We HAVE to have this person on our team!”  Hint: it has nothing to do with money or blackmail.

A former boss of mine was pitching her recruiting services to a new department in a well-known Boston advertising agency.  The agency had just won a lucrative contract with a well-known beverage brand, and while they hadn’t publicized it yet, surely they would be looking to build up a new creative team to support the account.  I love what she did next.  She did her research and thought outside of the box of how to approach this potential client who pretty much every other recruiter in Boston was calling on as well.  How could she stand out in a saturated, competitive market?  She bought a case of the agency’s new client’s beer, and emptied out the bottles (I’m not entirely sure by what means), and in each bottle, she rolled up a resume scroll-style of 12 different candidates whom she thought would be great for their new team.  She was still presenting resumes to a prospect, but she got their attention.  And unlike the competition, her delivery shouted, “Hire me!  And now that I’ve got your attention, here’s why…”

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a one-stop formula on how to be creative with your resume presentation and win the affections of your potential future boss.  It simply comes down to knowing your target prospect, what keeps them up at night, how you can solve that for them, and then how you can communicate that ability to them in a way that makes you look irresistible.  Make them have to have you.  At the very least, get their attention, and create the venue to tell them why you’re the best person for the job, instead of waiting for it to present itself to you.  Take control – create an opportunity for yourself to communicate your worth.  While your message may not change the world, it can certainly change your life.  But nothing changes if you don’t allow anyone the opportunity to listen to you in the first place.  So go out there, create opportunities for yourself, and then tell the world what they’ve been waiting to hear – “Your perfect candidate has arrived!”

New Tele-Seminar Series: Taking the Leap

30 Mar

This month jump-starts a fresh and exciting new 5-part tele-seminar series for young professionals and those entering into the career realm entitled Taking the Leap.

In an age where logistics and circumstances so often define our career decisions and our lives, it can seem like an impossibility to truly follow one’s passion in the face of adversity and challenge. The “Taking the Leap” tele-seminar series explores the lives of 5 young professionals who each made different decisions to take a leap of faith, and ultimately invent and reinvent themselves to create a career and life they are passionate about.  As young professionals  it’s easy to be blinded and overwhelmed by social, professional and financial obligations, and not realize the many different possibilities that are open to you when it comes to navigating your career path.  Not everyone opts to take ‘whatever comes their way’, to settle for earning a steady paycheck, or to take the road most travelled.  Hear the experiences of a few extraordinary people who faced the typical challenges of being a young professional, and redefined the norm in pursuit of their passions… and succeeded.

For more information and to register see the Events page.  Sign up for all 5 seminars and registration for the fifth one is free!

Register Now for the 5-Session Series

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