One of the things I was most surprised by when I got into the jobs business over a decade ago was the prevalence and practice of age discrimination in hiring right here in the USA. Oh, sure... we're not like some overseas markets where job ads explicitly demand youth, or a particular gender, or beauty(!), in the applicant, but there it is...
Everyone can use a little help with their resume, including, ironically, former recruiters.
Take Kathleen Roesing of Bucks County, Pa. Roesing is a human resources generalist with 20+ years experience. She has worked in organizational development, change management, benefits administration, recruiting and virtually every human resources function possible at health care, pharmaceutical and video game companies. She was in a position to know a good resume when she saw one, but hadn’t translated it to her own career.
"I'm the classic case of being the shoemaker's child... I'm very familiar with what recruiters are looking for because I was one," said Roesing. "I knew what was needed, but I was struggling to capture it all. I wasn't really getting enough of the positives that I have to offer, so I needed another set of eyes and a process to work through it all. I wanted to be more tactical."
"Katheleen's former resume was filled with bullet points that weren't capturing the full extent of her experience," said Becky Erdelen, a certified professional resume writer who works with TheLadders."She had a small branding statement, but didn't have her core competencies fully flushed out."
Even with plenty of experience to pull from, Roesing, who has been at the vice-president level since 2000, was more accustomed to being on the hiring end of the job search. It was a lesson in presentation for the HRLadder member.
"Because there are so many applicants in the job market, employers assume that they are able to find talent with all of the exact skills they seek. This is only partially true," said Roesing. "While there are very talented individuals seeking employment, there are even more available applicants who do not possess the extent of the skills they tout on paper. I needed to make certain that my resume could compete with that and be a true reflection of my capabilities. After being in the HR field for so long, many things become second nature. I had difficulty capturing those competencies as succinctly as I wanted."
SAR: Situation, Action, Results
In the resume-writing trade there is a process known as SAR — an acronym for Situation, Action and Results – Describe the situation (or problem), the Action you took to fix it and the benefit that Resulted from that action. SAR is a key component to Erdelen’s approach to writing resumes, including Roesing’s.
"Kathleen had some information in the way of results, and some actions, but not enough of all three," said Erdelen. "And when it comes to doing a resume justice with SAR, you have to have all three."
One of the main ways of capturing this SAR information comes through a detailed questionnaire worksheet. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but the information garnered from the process usually bodes very well for resume participants.
"The most impressive thing to me as someone with a human resources background is that worksheet," said Roesing. "While it was a bit of a pain to fill out, it forced me to be really precise in my answers and to avoid being redundant. And given that I knew I needed to boost my core competencies, I was happy to see an entire page on the worksheet devoted to them... It's one thing to write down your successes in your human resources jobs, it's another thing to write the reasons why, circle pre-determined keywords and qualify everything you've done in your job."
The worksheet, when fully answered, gets you to explain how you did your best work and what it meant in terms of business results for your employer. The worksheet gets under the skin of your career and helps extrude the best on-the-job metrics you've accomplished in the hopes of distinguishing you from a competitive pack of potential job hires, Erdelen said.
"(Erdelen’s) worksheet asks 'What are your 3 to 5 greatest accomplishments and what was the result?' It then follows up with a host of other questions designed to get you to really dig in to answers. Again, it was pretty precise and focused."
From worksheet to working resume
The worksheet captured Roesing's global experience and knowledge of how to get an underperforming human resource organization back on track. These management skills are not easy to find, especially when it comes to international HR experience, like India and the United Kingdom, where there are different employment regulations and working cultures.
"Her original resume did not tell that global story," said Erdelen. "But with the worksheet info and her blessing, I was able to encapsulate the full depth of her experience, in being able to turn around a flailing group and deal with all the differing HR compliance standards in multiple country locations. Under every job title I added sentences that reinforced her global reach where possible."
This global reach combined with her recruiting, training and management accomplishments, stressed Erdelen, will help differentiate Roesing’s resume from the rest of the pack, Eredelen said.
After the worksheet, the resume writer usually has a solid foundation for building a new resume. But often the resume writer will coordinate with the resume owner to follow up on more detail, to assess comfort levels with direction in, for example, the summary area, as well as establishing direct and open communications between everyone. It makes for a smooth experience.
"Becky was really responsive," said Roesing. "I was very happy with the collaborative way we worked together and how she followed up with me on specific tweaks and minor changes. It was a good experience, and I'm quite pleased with the outcome."
Since the new resume has been in Kathleen's hands, she has noticed a difference.
"The feedback I received was what I expected (and wanted), she said. “I knew I had to place more keywords in the resume to increase my odds of having it viewed by employers and recruiters. This has already helped. Becky, through the resume worksheet gave me the opportunity to quantify my background and achievements in a well-written and formatted resume. I now feel I have a stronger edge to compete in the growing applicant pool."