How to Write a Resume that Gets Noticed — Getting a Job, Part I

J.C. LaCroix Personal Finance, Personal Productivity

Everyone keeps throwing around the phrase that makes me grit my teeth. It goes one the news, something like, “Well, in these troubled times”, or in radio and TV ads “We at Brand X know money is tight”. First off, news anchors don’t know a damn thing about troubled economic times in any economy with salaries in the millions, and companies that can still throw away money on marginally effective advertising don’t know a damn thing about tight budgets. Secondly, it bugs me because they’re just plain full of it, and all they’re doing with all that rhetoric is making people panic more, and clamp down on their spending more, which is just hurting the economy, even more. And, the truth is – they’re just plain wrong. Just because the board has shifted doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of people out there who are prospering their little assess off – and no, I’m not talking about the real estate moguls who are picking up foreclosed properties like a whore attracts crabs, or the folks who bought into oil before the war, and laughed all the way to the bank. I’m talking about the hoard of other people, who understand a simple principal which I call the First Law of Darkworking. Even if they don’t call it that, they know it, understand it, and apply it on a daily basis – and its why they’re pulling a massive check right now and most people aren’t. In this article, because I hate theory on its own, I’m going to reveal this First Law to you, and then apply it to the job-seeking process. In my following articles, I will show you how to get an interview, and then how to nail it once you’re there.




Let’s roll….


The First Law of Darkworking: “No one actually cares about your problems, but you.”


Simple, right?


Now, lets set aside the whole argument about altruism, or compassion in general for second. Just a little second. And, if you’re one of those people who objects to the Law by saying, “But my mommy cares about me…”…..well, just…just turn off the computer and go suck titty…I have nothing for you. But, for the rest, free your mind, and take a little walk with me.


Lets assume this statement is true. Let your brain work it and roll it around for a second.


Try it out. Assume its true and look out the window and see the world with those eyes.


At first glance, you might feel a cold world, an uncaring world – but also, it’s a motivating world, it implies that no one will solve your problems but you, so it forces you to get off your butt and do something. It is the essence of self-reliance in a brief, encapsulated phrase. That’s the first part. Everyone gets that part and, quite unfortunately, they think they’re insightful.


The real power, though, comes from the second part. In the second part, what you realize is that YOU are the only one who cares about YOUR problems. So, if you want something, or need something, and someone else has it you have two options – you can take it by force, or you can use what they want get them to give it to you, because they only care about their problems. Now, in the job market, I wouldn’t advocate the former, but I’d strongly advocate the latter.


Now that we understand this, how do we see a resume? Do we see it as a showcase of our best talents and abilities? A record of our finest achievements? A guide to our working career expertise? No. Strongly, no. We see it as a piece of sales literature, nothing more.


You have to stop and look at all your “stuff”, your work history, knowledge, training, skills, abilities, achievements, and disembody it and look at it from the outside, the same way you would evaluate the cover of a cereal box. Take a look sometime, notice which ones catch your attention and why. The decision makers in the job market are being bombarded each and every day by thousands of cereal boxes – your sole objective is to create the box that makes them pause for a second, and take an actual look.


You see, your resume never gets you the interview, not the one you really want – it just gets their attention. And the only way to do that is to talk about what is in your, your life, your experience, etc that is congruent with what they want. Not you, them. Of course, “them” here pertains to the decision makers that have the power to tell you that you are hired. You have to stop and shape your resume based on what you know is going on in their lives. They have problems, problems they would like to solve. Provide the solution to problems, and you have what they want.


Hard to frame properly, but easy to do once you have the right perspective.


When you combine this with the technique I’m going to show you in the next article, you’re going to start to get interviews.


Now, I would recommend you write your resume targeted for one broad industry, such as accounting, hospitality service, etc. If you want to apply to more than one industry, you need a new piece of sales literature, targeted to the wants and desires of those executives, because what they want changes based on their field.


You must show them you are the solution to their problems, then they will solve your problems, namely, your employment problem.


So, to start off with, put your contact info at the top of the page – name, email, phone, address – make it slightly bigger than the rest of the resume, especially your name. After all, the “brand” of the cereal is the biggest thing on the box, right?


If you have an objective statement, cut it. They don’t care about what you want, remember? If they do, they will ask, but what they are really asking is, “Can we invest in this person or are they going to bail on us, not being happy with the job?”. You are going to replace it with something far more powerful: Your top four sales points. Title this statement, “Performance Capabilities” or something similar. Tailor these to your target industry. It is very important, because this is generally all of the resume that people will read. These top four points make the difference between a call-back, or a tossing to the top of the no-stack. Ask yourself, what are the top four things about me that people in this industry will find most valuable? Don’t be afraid of this even if you’re not in a “professional” trade, or in more of a service-related field. Your job provides value, or it wouldn’t exist. Hard-to-get liscensing is good for this section, as well as anything you can quantify, “Profit-based management style drops your turnover cost by 40% on average”.


Now, this brings me to the second point – phrasing. Each statement is a sales item. Use the word “your”. After the word your, put in a simple statement of the benefit for them. In front of the word “your” put things about you that are strong, don’t be afraid to be a little abstracted and general, they will ask you what you mean in the interview and that gets you a chance to sell yourself, for example:


  • MySQL project-based programming expertise lowers your design cost by 30%.


  • Prooven excellence in customer service guarantees your guest retention doubles in one quarter.


  • History of manufacturing initiative raises your production standards by 10,000 units per hour.



You see how this works? You are forgetting about what you want, stopping to think about what problems they might have, and offering yourself as a solution to their problems. And, in “these troubled economic times”, everyone is looking to find ways to increase profit. Of course, “when money is tight”, everyone is looking for ways to decrease cost.


That’s how you leverage the law and get their attention, mis amigos.


Now, if you have any certifications, specialized training, language skills, college, or trade school – put it in before the work history. Only put in your g.p.a. if it’s a 3.0 or higher. Don’t give them a list of your courses, keep this brief. All they want to know is if you will be able to do the job, or more importantly (and this is what you really get out of a degree), they can put you in the “doesn’t need to be babied like an idiot, and I have a degree, so I know they’re my kind of people” category. Of course, if you went to a top Ivy-League school, highlight that, especially if you think someone you might interview with might have a degree from a similar school. But, if you only have high school, or something of that nature, put it at the end – they usually don’t read that far.


Now, in your work history, select three jobs you have held that are relevant to the position – do NOT list your complete work history in your resume. They don’t care. If they’re interested, they will ask you about gaps, and you can explain. With these, list company name, title (put the generic title used in your industry, not your specific title, so Hospitality Expert, becomes Waitor, and Senior Development Financial Systems Manager, becomes Accounting Manager), also list years worked, and then two short, one-sentence explanations of your experience. These sentences in the resume should do the same thing as the Performance Capabilities section, except follow this format:


(Initiative-Verb and Awesome-Ness Verb), (thing that you did), (effect of thing you did, with specific quantified numbers)


So, here’s a few examples of this in action:


  • Spearheaded and Developed an HTML program, which cut invoice keying times in half.


  • Discovered and executed a Server-Rotating system which cut restaurant turnover cost in half.


  • Designed and implemented a joint coupon program with complimentary retailers that increased profits by 10,000 per quarter.


With the third sentence in each job section, list 3 to four keywords of your experience. So, if you were in Accounts Payable: Did general ledger, audit, assigned GL codes, etc”. First off, this gets you past the “word sniffers” that HR departments use to filter resumes, second, it keeps everything quickly digestible. This also helps you to break into a new industry, but you will have to go to the library and look up trade journals. Find out what degrees people hold who have the job and scan their textbooks. Pick up the keywords from them. Understand their problems from them.


Each line in the resume should offer a solution to a problem, and keep overall length to a minimum. I prefer one page, anything past two is a snooze fest. Remember, you just want a call back, like the cereal box wants your eyes for a second. Who buys the cereal with paragraphs of info sitting on the front? Nobody, they move to the next one with the shiney letters and short statements that talk about benefits to your health and 30% more sugar content…make your resume the shiney, solution one.


See how this works? You see, your job title, when used in the generic form, tells them a lot about what you did, in a simple, concise format. Now, you get to leverage your job points, not with some boring narrative, but with more sales points, more solutions, more focus on their wants.


Now, after education and work history – wrap it up with an Membership, Organizations, and Achievements section. Here, your objective is to pick the most interesting things about yourself – the things that would make someone say “Hey, I’d like to have a conversation with this person over a Saturday morning cup of coffee”. This is paving the way to their second question – which immediately pops up after you have closed the sale in the interview, which is “Will I like having this person around?” It also tells you if they took the time to read the entire resume, a very, very good sign. For example, I usually put my Junior Olympic medal for Taekwondo in there – it always gets a bit of conversation at the interview.


Now, go write that puppy, and start using it as it was intended – a sales pamphlet. Tweak it as you go, just like you would an advertisement for something you are selling. Remember, its not you they are rejecting, its your sales pitch. Nail the pitch, which you will inevitably do if you are focusing on their wants and needs. Hand it out to everyone just like you would advertising. Carry 100 copies on you at all times, and pass it out to everyone, even people who aren’t hiring. Drop it off at job fairs. Make small talk. Make chit-chat. Get easy with it. Get comfortable for the sales pitch you will have to deliver – the real interview, which I will show you how to get.


 In conclusion, this is the power of Darkworking. We begin in the First Axiom, Accepting Truth. When we do so, we come closer to ourselves, but also gain power. Thus is the case of the First Law. We realize our own power when we accept it, but we also now have power over others because we understand ourselves – without ideation, without pomp, without mental jewelry. What rushes in to fill that void that is created when we let all falsehood fade away is nothing short of miraculous, and well worth the growing pains it may cause.


In the next post, we will continue to use (invoke) the First Law to apply it to the next step, landing a targeted interview.