We’ve all been taught to write resumes that contain job descriptions … because we’ve been taught to job search in a world where there were shortages of candidates and skills.
However, today’s job market is 180 degrees opposite – because there are plenty of candidates and there aren’t skill shortages for most jobs. There are job shortages and that changes how employers look at us as candidates.
During an environment of candidate shortages, you were taught to describe your work experiences by focusing on your job responsibilities. These are a fine description of what you did in your past jobs on an average day. In effect, these are job descriptions from your point of view.
When your resume lists job descriptions, you look average – because that’s the purpose of job descriptions and responsibilities on resumes … to show you at your average. You look like a commodity, the same as everyone else with your basic skills.
Resumes that focus on responsibilities and job descriptions are fine to describe yourself at your average … and were adequate when employers had difficulties finding qualified candidates with minimum skills for the job.
But today, when the average advertised job draws 1,000 applicants, there isn’t a shortage of candidates for most jobs.
… Today there’s a shortage of jobs, which changes how employers evaluate candidates.
Job shortages change how employers choose who to interview and hire.
When employers see 1,000 candidates on average for each opening, they can get picky. When employers have that many choices, they see many candidates who meet minimum requirements, so now employers have the luxury in choosing superior candidates.
To most hiring managers, a superior candidate is one who has already solved the problems, met the goals, broken through the roadblocks that are current (and future) priorities. A superior candidate doesn’t need training or a learning curve and can hit the ground running to provide value quickly.
While employers are searching for superior candidates today, you were taught to market yourself as having the minimum requirements … as an average candidate, as a commodity, in the same way as everyone else.
Branding yourself as a commodity invites ageism, discrimination against the unemployed, focusing on past career (rather than your desire to change), your location or industry. Hiring managers who see a dozen resumes that look the same, start to look for differences – it’s human nature. If the only thing that makes you different than the rest of the dozen resumes is career gaps, age, career change, geographic change, or that you come from an industry in downturn, that’s just what your audience focuses on … again, it’s human nature.
It’s no wonder job search frustrates you – Your entire body of job search knowledge was based on making yourself look the same as everyone else with similar skills, but every career adviser on the planet (including me) preaches that you need to stand out to get noticed.
But no one tells you how to stand out – that your ingrained job search habits you learned (and have been reinforced) over time prevent you from standing out, because those habits are designed to make you blend in.
Employers assume resumes present you at your best
Employers assume that every candidate is trying to put their best foot forward, to market themselves at their best. This is a basic communication gap between employers and candidates, because you have ingrained training and habits to present yourself at your average. Job descriptions and responsibilities are an example of your “average marketing” habits.
So what happens when an employer, expecting you at your best, instead reviews your resume presenting you at your average? The employer thinks your average description is you at your best.
Do you think this impresses an employer? Do you think that gives your reader the first impression of being a superior candidate?
How could it?
What really impresses hiring managers
What really impresses hiring managers are examples that pertain to that individual manager’s problems, goals and roadblocks. Even more impressive is when these examples also describe the value these examples earned for past employers.
When hiring managers make you a job offer, they are taking a huge risk – especially if they didn’t know you. Hiring managers take a huge risk that you can help the team meet its goals, because most companies (and departments) are still understaffed. If you end up being a drag on your team’s performance, the hiring manager’s performance, compensation, bonus, and career can suffer.
In better job markets, the manager might make your work life miserable to encourage you to quit … but during tough job markets few employees are brave enough to tell their employer to “take this job and shove it”. Most of you will hang on to their paycheck as long as you can, rather than face the toughest job market in their lifetimes. Who could blame you?
This presents the hiring manager with still more risk – firing employees make managers look bad. Managers look bad because a large part of their job is to select employees who can help the team surpass goals, who can add value, and turn under performing employee performance around. The decision to fire an employee (especially one the manager originally hired) also shows failure on the part of the manager.
How do hiring managers avoid these risks?
This is easier for hiring managers when there are job shortages and they have an average 1,000 applicants to choose from. When there are candidate shortages, employers typically have to take a risk and leap of faith, because just finding candidates who meet basic skill requirement can be a challenge.
But when there are job shortage, hiring managers look for candidates who have demonstrated that they’ve already solved similar problems that the hiring manager faces and additionally look for candidates who have demonstrated that they’ve provided value to their past employers. Since hiring managers can’t predict future performance, the best guess is past performance.
How to recognize job descriptions on your resume
Here are a few common ways a candidate includes job descriptions, often without even realizing you are hurting your own chances:
- Include a paragraph describing the past employer at the beginning of each job experience listed on your resume
- Include a paragraph describing the job or job responsibilities at the beginning of each job experience listed on your resume
- List bullet points describing what you led, what you were responsible for, what projects you contributed to, without describing the value you brought to your past employer
- List bullet points that make the reader ask “So What?”
- Focus reader attention on the day-to-day, rather than on what you accomplished and the value you provided
So take a look at your own resume …
Is it a job description, giving the first impression of you at your average?
Or is it loaded with Employer Value Statements, describing you at your best?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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