Past Issues

November 24, 2014

The Next Step Resume

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The Next Step Resume

Peter Weddle, Author of the new guide to the secrets of job search and career success, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System

If you've been in the workforce for more than ten minutes you know all about Best Practices. Over the years, these procedures have been tested and proven effective in virtually every profession, craft and trade. And, there's the rub. Best Practices are what worked in the past. Next Practices are what will work going forward. That's why in a job search, it's best to use what's going to be effective next in writing your resume.

I call a resume developed with Next Practices a Next Step resume. Such a document acknowledges a very simple yet important idea: things change. The circumstances that made Best Practices effective in resume writing before the Great Recession have been overtaken by events. Today, the definition of "qualified" has changed for job seekers. Employers are no longer willing to hire someone who can do a job; they are looking for the person who can and will excel at it.

A resume developed with Best Practices has much of the information an employer needs to evaluate your candidacy for its opening. The way that information is presented, however, forces the employer to interpret its potential value to the organization. A Best Practices resume tells the employer what you can do, but not how you will use the skills and knowledge you've described for its benefit. And, all too often, they make an inaccurate interpretation.

The Next Step resume presents all of the right information and goes a step further to interpret its value to a prospective employer. It tells the organization what you can do and how you will use that capability to excel on-the-job. It uses a different vocabulary and format to make it clear and unequivocal that you're qualified for the employer's opening, according to the new definition.

The Next Step Vocabulary and Format

The Next Step resume doesn't throw out the Best Practices in resume writing. Rather, it builds on them to make a more complete and persuasive case for your qualifications. It does that by modifying and enhancing two of the sections found in a well written traditional resume: the Skills & Knowledge Summary at the top of your resume and the Experience section.

The way those sections are described, however, and the information they provide to an employer are very different in a Next Step Resume. The changes can admittedly look superficial. They can seem to be both obvious and nothing more than semantics. And, those descriptions are absolutely correct. In today's frenetic recruiting environment, you'll be lucky if your resume gets 10 or 15 seconds of attention, so both unambiguity and words matter more than ever.

The Next Step resume incorporates the following:

  • The Skills & Knowledge Summary is renamed "The Expertise I Will Use in Your Job." This section should not be a generic laundry list of all of your capabilities or even those you think are generally most important to employers. Instead, it should highlight those areas of expertise that will enable you to perform at your peak in the job for which you're applying, given its specified requirements and responsibilities.

  • In the Experience section, each of the descriptions of your work for previous employers will conclude with a new subsection entitled What I Will Contribute. There, you will describe the one or at most two core capabilities you demonstrated in each job and relate it to the vacancy's requirements and responsibilities.

    For example, you might say: What I Will Contribute

    I will use my capacity for high levels of productivity to achieve the increased output goals for this job and do so in the most efficient way. OR...

    I will use my success in managing major investment accounts to meet this job's requirement for expanded customer contracts and profitability. OR...

    I will leverage my knowledge of customer relationship management techniques to deliver the improved rates of customer satisfaction specified for this position.
Simple as these statements are, they convey two important points to employers: First, they signal that you've read and thought about the requirements and responsibilities specified for their opening. And second, they demonstrate your understanding of how to apply your capabilities to meet those specifications and thereby excel on-the-job.

The Next Step resume won't guarantee that you're hired. As with traditional resumes, its purpose is to open the door to an interview with an employer so you can land the job. It improves your odds of achieving that goal by minimizing ambiguity and interpretation by recruiters. That's the key to resume writing success in today's job market - making it totally clear that you will excel at your work.

Thanks for reading,

Described by The Washington Post as "a man filled with ingenious ideas," Peter Weddle has been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and He's also written and edited over two dozen books. Check out his blockbuster guide to the secrets of job search and career success called Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System.

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