The best person I’ve read who seems to understand resumes, how to write them, the specific content to put in and to leave out, and who the target audience is is Liz Ryan.  You will be well served if you find her on the web at Forbes Magazine, at LinkedIn, Twitter, and others.  But follow her.  Check out what she had to say about resumes.  In fact, she recommends writing two different letters as part of your resume: a human-voiced resume, which serves more as an introduction, and a pain letter resume, which illustrates through story the problems that you’ve solved elsewhere and how that same pain is apparent with the company you want to work with.  It’s 80% guesswork but I think it works.    

Why is a specific brand better? It’s because a Human-Voiced Resume, like a Pain Letter, is oriented around pain. Hiring managers have specific kinds of pain. They’re not excited to talk to someone who says “I can do everything!” because that’s not a believable message. When a manager has customer service pain, s/he’s looking for an ace customer service person. When the manager has IT security pain, s/he’ll be looking for an IT security pain relief specialist – like you!

Excellent point.  What she is saying is that don’t expect a general resume to land you a job.  A general resume is something that you might write in a Senior English high-school class.  Avoid that.  Instead, you’ll need to do your homework.  And by “do your homework,” I mean that you must first pick a handful of companies within a specific industry.  On the industry, you’ve got to be focused.  Once you’re focused on it, you will then be able to glean through research a sense of the pain that companies might face and how you can relieve them of their pain. 

Once you have your focus area firmly in mind (we call it A Place To Put Your Canoe in the Water), write a Human-Voiced Resume Summary that describes you and the pain you solve. Give us a feel for yourself as a person. Tell us how you got into the field, for instance:

Since I started writing business stories for my college newspaper, I’ve been a zealot for business storytelling and its power in shaping audience behavior. As a PR Manager I’ve gotten my employers covered by CNN, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune.

These insights are better than the Do’s and the Don’t’s of resume writing.  Instead, Ryan is specific.  On the Pain Letter, she explains its purpose:

Your Pain Letter has an important job to do. Its job is to get your hiring manager out of his or her busy routine to pause for a moment and think about the question you pose in your letter. It is a question about pain! Your Pain Letter is intended to get your hiring manager thinking about his or her biggest problem.

This is key.

Your Dragon-Slaying Story is a way to let your hiring manager know that you’ve relieved the same or a similar type of pain in the past.

Here’s what the hook achieves:

Your Hook is a timely (not more than six months old) accomplishment or event you will mention to get your hiring manager’s attention at the beginning of your Pain Letter.

Who would stop reading a letter that began by acknowledging the recipient for something really cool their organization had recently done?

There are do’s and don’ts and because I’ve been writing them for so many years I tend to take their form, their content, and structure for granted.  Old dogs can learn new tricks.

Trick #1

But the trick must be a good one.  The introduction is not good because it lacks experience

“You only get one shot — do not miss your chance to blow.” Eminem may have been referring to rap battles when he dropped this lyric back in 2002, but he just as easily could have been talking about resumes and the job search.

Hardly does anyone ever get 1 chance at anything.  Isn’t persistence the name of the game?  Yes, it is.  Even after you land a position, your job searching efforts are not done or at leas they shouldn’t be.  Assess your position, its hierarchy, its bureaucracy and what’s required for your next step.  Spot options.  If none exist, create them.  Look to the next certification level.  This should be part of your ongoing strategy.  If not, then you may enjoy being ruled by others.

Just sayin’ . . . .

Know the difference between a resume and a CV.