A sales resume can highlight broad skills and experience even in a narrow industry.
“John” had a few things going against him. He had been out of work because of a car accident a few years back, he wanted to relocate to California, and he felt he should consider changing industries.
But his firm commitment to getting it right this time resulted in a top resume and landed him a job as national sales manager for a national broadcast television network.
Here’s how he updated his original resume (.pdf) and overcame the obstacles he was up against.
John’s sales experience was in a very narrow niche of direct-response television advertising. To open up his search to other industries, I highlighted his core competencies that are relevant for any sales position. The resume became focused more on what he can do than his industry knowledge.
The headline on John’s new resume (.pdf) makes it clear that he is a sales manager with experience in local, regional and national markets. It takes into account his know-how in strategic planning and tactical execution.
Because it was difficult to quantify his sales results, we created a separate section for some career highlights in his 16 years of work experience. This section pulled together an overview of what he has done into just over six lines. It highlighted keywords such as “turned around,” “surpassed aggressive six-figure sales goals” and “closed largest single sale.” These are accomplishments any sales department would appreciate. When used as talking points in an interview, industry-neutral accomplishments can support his interest in leaving his niche industry.
Another strategy to pinpoint transferable skills is to highlight unusual experiences in your personal life that make you successful in your professional life. John knew just the thing: He’d spent time in the remote rainforests of Papua New Guinea as part of a volunteer project when he was younger. He said that every person he meets who finds out about this is curious and wants to know more. So we incorporated that fact into one italicized sentence in his profile because it would really stand out. We connected it with his excellent listening and observational skills – another skill any sales department would value.
When I come across a job seeker casting a wide net, I try to give him a “master” resume. That way he can edit this down for specific opportunities both within and outside his industry.
For instance, John’s final resume has a table on the first page with 18 items in it – which is really too many – but this section is easy for John to edit based on the job opportunity. Now he won’t have to shuffle between multiple versions.
One issue we needed to address on the master resume was the car accident.
John was in a very serious car accident in 2002. It took two years fully to recover. He mentioned the accident in his original resume, which I thought was a red flag. It would raise questions about the current state of his health. So, we acknowledged the period of time as a “professional sabbatical.” He is fully recovered now and confident in his ability briefly to describe what happened. John is not obligated to give more information in his resume, and this now accounts for that period of time in a neutral fashion.
The final touch to the master resume was optimized formatting. Originally, the text was all on the right side of the page. It was visually imbalanced and hard to read, with regular and bolded fonts mixed together and no line spacing. Furthermore, his name was not on the second page. John’s new resume now uses the full real estate on both pages for easier reading and a more professional presentation.
John now has a resume with a professional format that can be properly edited. It emphasizes his sales experience and applies these skills to any industry.
Most importantly, the process of writing the resume helped boost his confidence and his interview skills, even before it was completed. And it landed him his new job.
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