I estimate that I have looked at more than 10,000 resumes in my career which has spanned more than 45 years [so far.]
Recently, in the Q&A portion of one of my presentations on careers, I was asked to describe the "perfect" resume. I kind of fumbled and mumbled, but eventually, with plenty of feedback from my audience, WE (emphasis on team effort) determined a great [not perfect] resume had at least these four factors:
[I've expanded on each in the red type in brackets]
- Relevance [generic resumes just don't grab attention - the resume must be focused on the target company and what it needs or wants combined with how the candidate meets those to add value]
- Pain spotting [the candidate must do sufficient research to spot the real pain behind an opening and show how he can alleviate that pain - did a key player die or leave and need to be replaced? is the target facing new pressure from customers? regulators? competitors? is there new ownership/leadership looking for a new team? etc. etc.]
- Humanize/normalize the narrative [don't speak of yourself in the abstract third person - if YOU did it, be proud and say I DID IT! Make concrete statements, don't hedge. If you were only "a helper," what value does that have for the purpose of getting attention? Average candidates are expected to be "team players;" exceptional candidates show they are more than sheep in the flock.]
- Storytelling [the primary point of providing a brief story about the candidate's successes (the impetus, the buildup, the climax, the epilog) is to help fix the exploit in the reader's mind and sets the candidate apart from those who just make blah lists of accomplishments.]
By the time a candidate gets to a face-to-face interview, the hiring folk have pretty much determined he has the minimum skills and experience to do the job. What they are looking for are two things:
- Validity [does the candidate really have the skills set forth in his application or did some outside wordsmith just make up a good story?]
- Compatibility [how is this candidate going to fit into our organization? Despite many claims to seeking "outside the box" thinking and "leadership ability," interviewers do not want to hire antisocial loners or prima donnas who will run roughshod over the staff or embarrass the organization when dealing with customers, suppliers, or regulators. Candidates will be on trial for appearance, speaking ability, social grace and charm, general intelligence and quick wittedness.]
The points in the resume list are equally important in the interview - especially showing relevance [translate the candidate's previous success into a benefit or value for the target company - don't assume the interviewer can guess - TELL HIM!]
The interview is a great place to confirm the "pain" for the target company, show empathy, and assert the power to relieve that pain WHEN hired. (not IF)
Finally, recognize the interview is a special kind of sales call. Don't hesitate to make "trial closes" to assure the target is still ready to buy. If the candidate is interested in the job, he should say so - this is NOT the time to be coy. It is also appropriate to test the interviewer to determine if he is still on track.
Also, don't hesitate to close the interview if it is obvious there is no match - what value is there to continuing the interview if either the candidate or the target are in the "NO SALE!" column?