When you’re on the job search, you are a product. If you are going to sell that product to a recruiter or hiring manager, you have to answer the same questions that any company selling a product has to answer:

  1. What does this product do?
  2. How was this product made?
  3. How can this product benefit someone who buys it?
  4. How durable is this product?
  5. Why is this product better than a competitor’s product?
  6. How can this product be purchased?

If you begin to think in these terms,and answer these questions about yourself, you will be able to develop a resume that “works.” Your resume that works should include the following six things:

1. A Job Title (What Does This Product Do?)

Almost everything has a title – blog posts, newspaper articles, books, TV shows, and even careers. Your job title tells the reader what it is you do – e.g., you are a retail salesperson; you are a system analyst; you are a Web designer.

Like any title, your job title should be at the top of your resume, perhaps right under your name and contact information. Your job title might be tweaked a tiny bit depending upon the specific position title used in a job posting, but for the most part, it should be consistent with what you do.

2. How You Got Your Job Title (How Was This Product Made?)

This is your “performance profile,” and should be titled as such. It will be a short section of your resume, perhaps 3-6 bullet points, about accomplishments in your prior work experience that have groomed you for this position. You should not list specific companies yet – that will come in your actual work history – just things you have done that relate to this position. One of the things that readers appreciate is a scannable and simple resume – one that gets to the point, stays on point, and contains no fluff.

If you do not have work experience (e.g., you are a recent grad), then speak to coursework that has prepared you for the responsibilities listed in the job description. Perhaps you had an internship that groomed you. Do not go into detail yet – just put in a bullet point or two about what you accomplished. You can also use a phrase or two that shows you understand the requirements of the position.

In both of these instances, your profile should include keywords from a posting, because resume search engines give high priority to resumes that contain these keywords. The higher up on your resume these keywords are, the better.

3. The Value You Can Bring (How Can This Product Benefit Someone Who Buys It?)

BankYour value will be demonstrated through your work history which, of course, will focus on your achievements, not just your responsibilities. It’s not enough to tell an employer that you have handled the same tasks the open position involves – you have to demonstrate that you accomplished things by way of those tasks.

Again, if you don’t have lot of work experience, focus on internships and/or positions you may have held in clubs, organizations, or in volunteer organization. But make those clubs/organizations worthwhile. You probably don’t want to mention that you were president of the stamp club – unless the position relates to hobbies and collections.

4. The Additional Strengths You Have (How Durable Is This Product?)

This relates to “soft skills,” but do not simply list any of generic terms like “team player” or “problem-solver.” Instead, give specific examples of how you have demonstrated these skills in the past.

5. The Things That Set You Apart From Other Job Seekers (Why Is This Product Better Than a Competitor’s?)

This is a tough one, because you probably don’t know who your competitors are.

Focus here on accomplishments that do not show up in your work history, things that show leadership and initiative (e.g., awards you have received, publications to your name, etc.). These things will set you apart. Being on the board of a charity, being named “volunteer of the year” – these are things you want to mention in this section.

6. Contact Information (How Can This Product Be Purchased?)

Your name, phone number, and email address will suffice. Get a professional email address before you send out any resumes. You can always set up a separate Gmail account just for your job search. It is also a good idea to include links to your LinkedIn profile or to your website or blog, if you have one.

A Few Additional Tips

Watch your format. Remember, the resume has to be scannable. No reader wants an essay or your life story. Use headings and bullet points.

In previous years, the standard wisdom was not to be too creative. This has changed somewhat, and finding ways to add some creativity to your resume can be appropriate. No one is suggesting that you use a purple background with an orange border for a resume that will be presented to a bank. However, creative touches can be added depending upon the type of organization to which you are applying.

Paper AirplaneIf, for example, you are looking for a graphic design position, of course you can demonstrate some of your talent in your resume format. Even for more conservative positions, a subdued background (e.g., gray) with a classy color print (perhaps navy) for your headings is fine.

No one likes putting together a resume. But if you think of yourself as both a salesman and a product, it will force you to focus on the key selling points and what you can bring to the table, rather than on what you want. Remember: The company has to want you, too.

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