Coach Candidates to Produce a Persuasive Résumé

As Covid-19 continues to challenge corporate payrolls, many professionals now find themselves searching for their next career. Most haven’t updated their résumé in years much less even thought about it. As a staffing company professional, you know that a résumé is the most important instrument in a job search arsenal. Unfortunately, many of our candidates are unprepared to thoughtfully write a compelling résumé. How can you help guide them through this process so they produce a persuasive story about their experience? Start by educating them that résumés have 3 main purposes. It creates an overall impression, depicts relevant experience, and secures an interview.

Customize the résumé. Has your candidate built one generic résumé that they use for every job? Résumés are not like baseball hats where one size fits all. Coach them to review the job posting closely and understand the required qualifications. They should tailor the résumé and experience to mirror what the employer is seeking. In addition, they should provide details so an employer can easily see their depth of skills and experience. Instruct them to clearly illustrate their achievements and accomplishments. Have they saved their company money? Have they developed a product that exponentially increased company revenue? Help them quantify this and express it in dollars or as a percentage. If they completed projects under budget or on time, let the employer know by how much. Teach the candidate to showcase and articulate their accomplishments and stand out from the crowd!

List work experience with employment dates. As staffing professionals, we know It is a good practice to list all work experience with dates of employment. Some candidates are not aware of how to do this effectively. If they have a tenured work history, it is ok to remove older positions that are no longer relevant to what they do today. It may be great that they were a server at the local steak house, but it is no longer applicable. Most employers don’t like to see gaps, as it often leaves them wondering what the candidate did during that gap. Help the candidate depict what they have done and be prepared to address the breaks. Keep their résumé to two pages if possible and succinctly describe experience. Anything beyond two pages is overkill.

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Choose words wisely. Candidates often don’t use action words that communicate experience and accomplishments. Words such as “directed,” “generated,” “implemented,” “executed” and “constructed” demonstrate that they are an effective and capable leader. Furthermore, many candidates fall into the trap of using corporate speak and vernacular to describe processes and work functions. It can happen to everyone! A potential employer may not know what these terms mean since they operate in a different environment so it is critical they avoid special vocabulary. Counsel your candidate to explain their knowledge and experience in plain terms. Finally, they should only share personal information that is relevant to the job. Maybe they collect leaves off rare maple trees, but that won’t impress an employer. Less is more.

Remember the essentials. Inform your candidates that résumés with garish fonts, designs, and images won’t necessarily attract the right kind of attention from an employer. We want the employer to notice skills, expertise, and experience and not a candidate’s bold sense of style. Remember preferences are a matter of opinion, so keep it simple. Remind them that their résumé is an advertisement, and they are the product. Don’t detract from qualifications by using trendy colors and whimsical designs.

Speak the truth. In the information age where information can be verified or disputed with a click, some people still embellish their résumé to the point of dishonesty. It happens frequently, and eventually they will be caught. It may not happen in the interview process, but it will happen during the background verification and onboarding process. Make sure candidates never exaggerate skills, education, or experience. Advise them to start their relationship with a potential employer on a positive note and be accurate in their claims.

The ultimate instrument. The résumé is a sales tool. The content of it should illustrate what the candidate will offer a potential employer. How will they enhance their business? How will they solve their issues? How will they add value to their organization? Why should they hire one candidate over another? The résumé is a unique personal commercial to answer those questions. Recommend they enlist a friend or colleague to read their résumé and offer unbiased thoughts and suggestions. Does it convey the intended information, and is it easy to understand?  If not, they should think about improvements. As staffing veterans, we provide a myriad of services to our candidates. Résumé writing is a skill, but possibly the most important way we can add value to a candidate’s job search!


Kim Henderson

Kim Henderson
Kim Henderson is managing director of Cobalt Compass Solutions, which provides consulting and training services for the staffing and professional services industry. She can be reached at kh (at) cobaltcompasssolutions (dot) com.

Kim Henderson

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