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Your CV is a sales document, not a feature sheet

online_job_searchLast weekend my nephew Josh asked me to take a look at his résumé. He's only 17 years old, so how hard could it be? Provide his name, address, phone number, and job history, right?


A list of your job history is like a feature sheet. It tells what you did, or where you were, but doesn't exactly explain the benefit to your future employer.

One way to improve this job/task list is to emphasize the results you produced, and the things that you learned. But I still find this incomplete. It still requires the future employer to work backwards from what they want and try to see how you would fit.

You need to think of your CV as a sales document, not a feature sheet. To help my nephew Josh, I walked him through a positioning exercise, for himself.

We started this by asking who his desired employer is, what kind of employee they will want, what characteristics that employee should have, and what (if any) "technical" skills may be required. With some idea of the desired profile, we then wrote a CV to align with those desires. The headings will be the desired characteristics, and the bullet points will be the results and previously-learned skills that demonstrate how you align with those characteristics.

Josh is only 17, and he's only looking for a basic job. So I suggested that his employer would be looking for:

hardworking, trustworthy person who is good with people.

Before the positioning exercise, Josh's summary read:

Seeking challenging job and opportunity for part-time employment.

Hardly inspiring, but he's only 17. After our positining exercise, his summary aligned with the type of employee I would want to hire for occasional labor work:

I am young, hardworking, trustworthy, and good with people. I am looking for a job where I can work hard and learn skills that will benefit both me and my employer.

Next, we gave examples for each characteristic that we claimed in the summary. For example:

Hardworking: At McDonalds I regularly worked 16 hour shifts with enthusiasm and energy.
Trustworthy: At both McDonalds and Starbucks, I managed a till with a $2,000 float.
Good with people: At McDonalds, my managers nominated me for Employee of the Year based on compliments offered voluntarily by my customers.

From there we provided a basic history of jobs, time-frames, and duties. But this was provided simply as back-up information for the main points.

Next time you dust off your own résumé, you might consider doing a similar exercise for yourself. It wouldn't hurt to interview a few friendly people who are not hiring today, but who can help you position yourself to stand out from the crowd.

In the job search, you are the product, your capabilities and job history are features, but always remember that you are there to solve a problem for your employer. Figure out what the problem is, demonstrate that you have solved similar problems in the past, and you'll be ahead of the pack.

- Alan

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