The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
“Do you have 10 seconds?” When you are writing a résumé, it’s not a question, it’s a statement. You’ve got 10 seconds. Research shows that an employer decides whether a résumé is worth a shot, or worth a shot to the trash can, within 10 seconds. With the clock ticking, there’s no time to waste.
Yet most résumés do waste time. They begin with high-sounding “personal statements,” which include important information like “a self-starter, highly motivated team player . . . seeking a position where I can help a company grow.” That information would be important if all the other résumés said, “a lazy, disinterested hermit . . . seeking position where I can stagnate.” Since nobody says things like that, the self-starter stuff will be on every résumé, and therefore, the best possible message it can convey is, “I’m just like everyone else,” which is to say, “There’s no good reason to hire me.” Not the message you had in mind.
Not only are openings like that useless (which doesn’t stop many “résumé professionals” from writing them) they point the whole hiring process in the wrong direction. It opens the conversation with a potential employer by saying, “Let me tell you about me.” Well, at the risk of upsetting sensitive job seekers, I’m getting straight to the point. No one is interested in “you.” At all. There is one thing and only one thing that an employer wants to know, and that is, “Is this the person who can do the work I need done better than anybody else?”
And since that is the only question being asked, it should be the only one being answered. I believe that this answer is most clear when it is broken down into three parts. They are: (1) “I know what the job is”; (2) “These are the accomplishments that prove I can do it well”; and (3) “These are the specific skills I know are important to you.” With these points, a job hunter can write the lines that belong at the top of the résumé, where they will be seen well within that 10-second window of opportunity. I call these lines “the billboard.”
Imagine that your child just got engaged (mazal tov!). You will probably want to hire a photographer. No, you want to hire a wedding photographer. Well, not any wedding photographer, but one that has experience with weddings like yours. A wedding photographer with experience doing large, heimish yet elegant chasunos that will be attended by several important rabbis and large extended families. And you want to see a sample album. If you find the best photographer in the world but he’s never done a heimish chasunah, you are not hiring. I hope. Every employer works the same way. Except he’s got a high pile of résumés and no time. You need to show him that you know what his job is about and that you have accomplished things using the skills that are important to him.
Imagine that you are a bookkeeper who wants to move to a bigger company. A friend tells you that Abe Schwartz needs a bookkeeper. You send a résumé that says the usual: “bookkeeper, responsible for accounts payable, receivable, work with CPA.” On and on . . . Zzzzz . . . Straight into the trash. You have told Mr. Schwartz that you are just like all the other bookkeepers. So why should he hire you?
If you have done a little homework about Mr. Schwartz’s business, you should know enough to open your billboard with the points that he really wants to see, the ones that say, “I am the perfect person for your job.” For this job, it would be something like, “A bookkeeper with 6 years’ experience using QuickBooks to manage payables, receivables, and payroll.” Your willingness to go straight to the point grabs his attention, and then you prove your worth. “Increased efficiency while lowering turnaround time by 30% by fully implementing QuickBooks for all functions. Lowered bank fees by 15% through improved cash management. Enabled outside CPA to deliver annual audit 30 days earlier because all necessary records were clear, complete, and up-to-date.” (Examples borrowed from a client.)
The third sentence of your billboard lists skills that you know are valuable in general, or specific to this job. Did you mentor other workers? Create or help adapt new procedures? Know how to use important computer software? Those are always worth mentioning. If Mr. Schwartz does business in South America or South Florida, how’s your Spanish? And then you’re done. Showing that you know when to stop talking is as important as knowing what to say. You’ve said that you know what the job is, you’ve got the key skills, and you’re ready to get to work.
The billboard will grab an employer’s attention within 10 seconds and show that you are a candidate worth considering. The rest of the résumé will complete your picture of the best person for the job. Stay tuned. v
Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.