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Résumé Writing Roadblocks

Create A W-i-i-f-m Résumé

Job Seeker's Story

Bradley loved fishing and hunting and had managed to secure a job right out of college for a top-brand fishing rod manufacturer and distributor. With a bachelor's degree in communications, his love of the outdoors, and an outgoing personality, Brad fit the role of Field Sales Representative very well. After five years of trying to move up the ranks in this family-owned business, Brad realized his career was stalled. Even after talking with the owner of the company about his concerns, Brad did not receive any reassurances about his future with the company.

Thus, Brad began a job search for another Field Sales role that would make the most of his sales background in the outdoor sports industry. He was quickly approached by contacts in the industry who were anxious to have him submit his résumé.

Brad hurriedly wrote his one-page résumé over a weekend, highlighting his job history and duties with bullet points such as “Responsible for identifying and developing new accounts.” In fact, Brad began every bullet point with “Responsible for….” followed by a specific job duty pulled from his job description.

As Brad distributed his résumé to his eager contacts in the industry, he anticipated a couple of quick interviews and job offers within the month. Sadly, those interviews and job offers did not materialize; in fact, Brad did not hear back from his contacts at all. After leaving them voice-mail and e-mail messages with no response, Brad was discouraged and angry. He felt betrayed. “After all,” he thought, “I supplied my résumé as my contacts requested.” Brad could not fathom why they weren't they following up with him.

Job Seeker's Stumble

Brad was well-liked in his industry, so when his professional colleagues heard he was “available” they were intrigued and eager to review his résumé. In the sales world, this situation would be tantamount to having a “warm” lead, which is highly desirable. However, Brad killed his chances with this audience by producing a mundane and ordinary résumé with no proof of value and no personal branding to differentiate him from other candidates. His résumé failed to get buy-in from his industry contacts. In essence, he failed to answer the prospective employer's question: What's in it for me (W-I-I-F-M)?

Job Seeker's New Strategy

Although a résumé based on a job description and “responsible for” statements may orient the reviewer to the job duties you have handled, such a résumé does not market you to your target audience. Instead, it positions you as a commodity, the same as many other candidates who possess similar skills and have similar job descriptions. To establish your uniqueness and gain consideration, use the following C-C-A-R formula for each position you have held:

  • Context: As an artist preparing a blank canvas with white paint before painting a scene on it would , prepare the reviewer with the background for your accomplishments to follow. Typical elements to consider include the niche industry, its ranking compared to competitors, the way you were brought on board (if selective and prestigious), who you reported to (if senior management or board of directors), and the scope of your responsibilities (number and type of employees supervised, primary functional duties, and budgeting/profit and loss oversight). This description provides a context for the impressiveness of your accomplishments.
  • Challenge: Explain the problem or challenge you stepped into when you were hired. What did you have to deal with that made your accomplishments even more remarkable? Was the company undergoing a change? What was it? Were you given a turnaround, business-building, client-loyalty revitalization, or new technology transition mission? Was the previous person in your position so outstanding that it was difficult to fill her shoes?
  • Actions: Choose the primary skills and actions you took to show how you managed to meet the challenges you faced. These primary actions and how you did them define your personal brand or modus operandi. This is the essential piece that allows the reviewer to begin to understand if you could be a company-culture and team-culture match.
  • Results: Start your accomplishments bullet points with the results you obtained from the sum of the actions you took over a period of time. Results are directly related to your duties and responsibilities; they represent “what happened” when you did your job duties and responsibilities. Not every job duty has an exemplary result or is relevant to your job target, so be selective about which ones you want to emphasize in your résumé. Also, the results must be germane to the employer's needs and the accompanying W-I-I-F-M concept. Quantify the results wherever possible to paint a clearer picture of the scope and impressiveness of your accomplishments. For example, compare these two statements:

Contributed to profits by saving downtime costs on manufacturing production line.

Secured $8 million in manufacturing production-line cost savings over 10 years by reducing downtime by 160 hours annually (average) where per minute labor and materials costs exceeded $100 per minute.

  • Which of these two statements (both true) has the more powerful impact and more precisely conveys value? By casting a critical eye on your accomplishments you can use both selectivity (to choose the most relevant accomplishments) and quantifiers (to denote the impressiveness of the accomplishments) to flesh out your résumé with W-I-I-F-M results that will catch the reviewer's attention.

Putting the pieces of the C-C-A-R formula together could have yielded this more-compelling résumé content for Brad:

Context and Challenge

Recruited by #3-ranked outdoor sports-equipment company to boost business development and sales in challenging transition to online marketing and sales automation. Within six months of hire, entrusted with managing $250,000 sales department budget and reported to company owner. Selectively hired, trained, and motivated sales team of four field sales reps.

Actions and Results

Revitalized stalled business sales from $300,000 to $800,000 annually, and increased new accounts by 50% within first year by successfully pursuing and capturing overlooked market segments and optimizing newly installed automated sales technology.

Using the C-C-A-R formula allows you to structure your résumé with a consistent pattern of high-value benefits to the prospective employer, answering his W-I-I-F-M question. In addition, it can serve as a vehicle to convey a sense of your personal branding and preferred methods. Because the results and actions taken are bulleted, the reviewer's eye naturally falls on the bullets first when scanning the résumé—and that's exactly what you want. Even if the reviewer plans on only spending 10–30 seconds on your résumé, using this format ensures the key takeaways (prime benefits to the employer) garner immediate favorable notice, so you can be screened in rather than screened out.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesJob Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview TipsRésumé Writing Roadblocks - Be Selective And Careful With Your Résumé Content, Caution: Résumé Typos Ahead!, Oh, The Tangled Web We Weave…