The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
Sometimes it’s just a feeling. I don’t have any proof, can’t cite any source—I just have a feeling about the right way to do something. And when talking about how to write a résumé, I have a feeling. It guides a lot of my writing. It nags me about the words I choose, what should be said, and what shouldn’t. In short, this feeling tells me that the person reading the résumé is intelligent and competent, and that’s the way résumés should be written.
This feeling makes me wonder why résumés need bold-faced titles like “Experience” and “Education.” Is there something unclear about “University of Somewhere, BA 2008, GPA 3.75”? What else might “North Shore Hospital–Registered Nurse” be about? Some may disagree, saying that a reader may be more interested in Education, so helping him find it is a good idea. To which I counter, precisely so. It is the job hunter’s job to know the most important points the reader will be looking for, and to put them on top, where they will be seen within the 10-second deadline. If a job hunter doesn’t know that, then he doesn’t know enough about the job itself, and he’s not going to get hired no matter what he writes.
So right under the billboard, that three-sentence grabber that I wrote about previously, what should come next? Education? Well, an employer will get excited about your education in the same way that people get excited about owning a brand new car. At the very beginning, it’s a big deal. But soon after, performance and reliability become far more important than that new car shine. So if you are just starting out, your education is your strongest point and it should be listed first. Be sure to mention your GPA, honors, awards, etc. Not that a high GPA means that you will be a better worker, but the key here is to stand out from the crowd in any way you can. So think over your time in school, even back in high school. Did you ever take a leadership role? Tutor, mentor, train, assist, or support anyone in any way? Did you do research, write a paper, compete in anything? Employers know that future enthusiastic, committed workers are former enthusiastic, committed students. So make sure that message comes across in the way you describe your education and you’ll be a step ahead on the road to “you’re hired!”
If you have any work experience at all, even if you were a volunteer for an organization, that goes first, right under the billboard. You will list the company/organization and your job title. I strongly recommend adding a line underneath the company name that gives a quick description of the company: Cohen Electronics is a retailer of home entertainment systems with 6 stores in the New York area, 100 employees, and annual sales of $80 million. The goal is to help the employer imagine you fitting right in at his company. Then you list your accomplishments. Let me say that again. Accomplishments—not your job description. Almost every résumé I see says things like “Cohen Electronics . . . Salesman” followed by “Sold electronics . . .” Are there salesmen at Cohen Electronics that don’t sell electronics? So please, remember the rule I wrote above. Assume that the reader is intelligent and competent. Don’t waste time telling him that salesmen sell things, or that nurses give medications. Speak about accomplishments, using verbs and numbers. “Exceeded monthly sales quota by at least 25% for 27 consecutive months.” Or “managed a department of 4 employees, improved productivity by 15% while keeping cost increases under 3%.”
Impressive accomplishments are certainly nice if you have them, but what if you don’t? What if you went in day by day, did your job well, and now it’s time to move on? So then you can use a formula I created called “who, what, with?” Imagine a registered nurse whose résumé says that she administered medications. Not surprising, but not very effective at helping stand out from the crowd. So she should write, “administered medications (what) to cardiac patients (who) using the Accu-Med system (with). Even if this nurse doesn’t want another job working with cardiac patients, using the “who, what, with” formula helps establish the level of complexity that she is ready to handle, any technology that she knows how to use, and what other skills she can transfer to her new job.
Telling a potential employer about what you learned or about the things you have done is a complete waste of time. Shining a spotlight on what you have gained through your education and experience, using terms that show what you are ready to do for this new employer, and showing the value you can deliver and the problems you can solve, are the stepping stones to your new job. 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.