If there is one thing that needs to ooze from your resume, cover letter, online profiles, and during interviews: your value. That is, you must sell yourself.
Yes, it sounds complicated. But once you define your value, you can find the words to show it.
1. Show instead of tell.
Remember that from writing class? If you simply “tell” by writing or saying, “I was angry” you won’t be intrigued to read further. Showing is what makes a story work effectively, and examples are what make it work. So instead of writing that you have great communication skills, think of specific examples from your work history where you’ve demonstrated them. That’s what should go in a resume, cover letter, and on your online profiles.
What does this look like in practice? Don’t use cliché phrases such as “excellent written and verbal communication skills.” You are simply telling your reader you have those qualities, and anyone can say that. Give an example from your work history that demonstrates those skills.
2. Make your materials understandable for a wide audience.
Ask someone unfamiliar with your job or industry to read your materials. Acronyms should be written out and companies or organizations that are not well known require a concise description in parentheses after the name.
Don’t assume your reader knows your industry or your job. While the person may have written or helped to write the job description, he may not have an in-depth understanding of what is required for the job and in your profession in general.
3. Provide quantitative and qualitative results of your work.
This can be difficult for many professions, but you don’t necessarily need metrics to show results. Did you save your boss or colleague time? Did you perform research that eventually led to a publication by a colleague?
Don’t lie or over-exaggerate. Estimates are okay to use, but you should not be inflating your achievements. These fibs are usually instantly recognizable to people who read scores of resumes and constantly interview candidates.
4. Demonstrate for a potential employer how you can help them do business in a smarter way.
If you’ve improved processes in your past jobs, you can do that for a prospective employer as well. Make sure those examples are in there.
Don’t make overconfident claims. If you say that you know the company has made mistakes and that’s why a competitor is outpaced them, you may not get very far. You’re still an outsider, and coming in and being critical right off the bat is not going to help your cause. Even if it’s true, their employees probably don’t want to hear it from you.
5. Include awards, honors, and recognition.
Awards and honors should have their own section rather than be hidden under job descriptions. If a colleague or client gave you compliments on your work, find a way to use these in your cover letter and/or interview.
While it’s not easy to show your value in writing or verbally, it’s a skill you must learn for your job search and it will benefit you in your career. Think about when you meet a new person who interests you professionally. Are you going to tell them, “Hi, I’m Mike. I am a great leader and an excellent communicator”? Yawn.
You need to show them what makes you a great leader and an excellent communicator. How are you different than other candidates? Why should they want to talk to you instead of someone else? If you aren’t using examples with impact to demonstrate the benefit you bring to an organization, no one will be inferring it for you, and it’s not likely you’ll get a call for an interview. Be thoughtful about what you’ve done and what stands out, and show them all you’ve got to offer.