The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
One of the shopping rules that I always follow is that if something I want is free, I buy it. Free is always a good price. So when it comes to résumés, the same rule applies. If there is someone who will help write a really good résumé, for free, then that’s an opportunity worth pursuing. And in fact, there very often is a résumé consultant, perhaps the best one that can be found anywhere, that will help for free. And almost nobody accepts his help. Now I know you are thinking that I’m referring to my own organization, Pathways to Parnassa, but I’m far too humble to say these things about myself (though I’m willing to introduce you to others who will say them). The generous but ignored résumé helper is none other than the employer himself.
I have mentioned before that I do write résumés as part of coaching my clients in an effective job search. But that’s the only time I write them. I will leave my feelings unspoken regarding résumé writers who crank out “rap sheets” for bewildered job hunters, filed together with those who sell roadmaps to people who don’t know where they want to go. But that free consultant, the employer, is really an expert with important things to say. No, I don’t mean calling a potential boss and asking for his help. You don’t have to ask, because he’s already given it. Because the best guide for writing a résumé is the want ad itself.
An effective job search involves identifying companies you want to work for and approaching them to explain the value you can offer. There is no need to wait for a want ad. But if there is a want ad, then the employer has stated clearly what he is looking for (well, as clearly as he can; he may not be so sure himself about what he wants, but it’s the best you have.) So when you write your résumé, both in the “billboard” section I discussed last week, and beneath it under “experience,” your goal is to make sure that you show the employer that you have what he’s looking for. Remember that word, “show,” which has also been discussed before. You should never simply say that you have done something, or used a certain skill. You should describe accomplishments that show your abilities using the skills that the employer has identified. Let’s imagine that the want ad mentions QuickBooks. So you will show what you can do using QuickBooks. Not “Familiar with QuickBooks,” but “Used QuickBooks to manage accounts payable with volume of $5 million monthly.”
The careful reader may be wondering, “If a job search means looking for companies, not want ads, then how can this work? You’ve written that most hiring happens when there was no want ad at all!” True enough. But even without a want ad for the specific job you want, you can check Monster.com or a similar site and find ads for the same type of job. There is also useful information on the company’s website, often mentioning soft skills that are highly valued. Lastly, you can Google your job title and look for articles that highlight trends or important skills.
If the want ad is the employer’s handy guide to what should be on your résumé, does that mean that you can’t apply for a job unless you have every skill that is listed? Absolutely not. You should be able to discern which of the listed skills are vital and which ones are on the “wish list.” Moreover, an ad will often specify how much experience is expected. For example, “5–7 years’ experience in auditing” and you only have 4. You can apply for the job anyway. The “5–7 years” isn’t an actual requirement. It represents an assumption that if a candidate has been working in the field for that long, he has probably seen a broad assortment of issues and figured out how to solve them, mentored newer hires, etc.
So your résumé can meet the same criterion by specifying accomplishments and documenting skill levels that show that you have exactly what they are looking for. You need to be prepared to back up your claim with anecdotes, facts, and figures. But rest assured that when a want ad says that experience is required, the employer means it. I have seen job hunters try to blithely talk their way around the experience issue while showing nothing concrete to back up the claim. Wasn’t pretty. Not only did the job hunter go away without an offer, a “Don’t come back” was added for good measure.
There is actually another free consultant on résumé writing that is ready to help you. You can find him right between your own ears, and he has something really important to tell you. His name is “conscience,” and he gets really upset when somebody tells you to fudge your experience, skills, or anything else. Despite what some “smart” people say, fibbing on your résumé is a really bad idea. It’s pretty likely that you’ll get caught, and even worse, that sometimes you won’t. You could end up trapped in a lie, choking in a stinking rot of deception that will never let you breathe. When your conscience speaks up, make sure to listen. 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.