As a professional in Human Resources for the last ten years and as someone who provides guidance in the area of career development and working in your passion, I get asked about resumes all the time. I get asked to look at resumes, what makes a resume stand out, what format it should be in, I have even been asked whether it  is appropriate to include an 8 x 10 glossy photo. By the way the answer to that question is no, unless of course you are a model, trying to get a spot in a photo shoot or just want to ensure that your chances for getting an interview are slim to none.

 At the risk of providing some well known (but rarely acted upon) advice, here are 3 + 1 steps I would suggest to answer all resume questions.

Step 1: Ask the right question

Step 2: Create a job posting checklist

Step 3: Get your “Push and Pull” on

Step 3 +1: Create your own opportunities

Step 1: Ask the right questions

Ask yourself a different question besides “is this a great resume?”: You do not want to provide “generalized” resumes (no matter how great you think they are) to anyone unless you are at a “career fair” or networking type event. Instead ask yourself “how do you tailor each resume to the needs of the organization first, and the individual job posting second?”

Here is why: If you have a recruiter or HR person screening resumes (you will find this in organizations of 150 people or more) then they will be looking in less than 30 seconds, does this have all the needs listed in the job posting? If not you will likely be screened out. Period. Third party online submittals like careerbuilder.com and indeed.com, and company website application processes have become the norm over the last 10+ years. This means that it is not uncommon to get hundreds of applications for a single position since it is so easy to apply.

Step 2: Create a checklist

Tailoring each resume sounds really great in theory but how do you really do that? I have discovered that most people feel like they are doing this already, but when I view the job posting and look at the resume, it is clear that they do not line up. Somebody somewhere took the time to create this job posting, it is really the cheat sheet to the resume test. The easiest way to make sure you are tailoring your resume is to print off a copy of the job posting and then to take a pen or highlighter going down each section like a checklist.  Use this by comparing it to your resume to find out where the gaps are.

Why to do this:  There are large numbers of well qualified people submitting great “generalized” resumes. So… to stand out tailor your entire resume EVERY time. Is it a pain? Yes. Do most people do this? No. Remember resumes do not get you the job, interviews and in person meetings get you the job. A truly tailored resume gets you a much better shot at that in person meeting which in turn is the only way you have a chance at getting the job.

Step 3: Get your “Push and Pull” on

The method of tailoring and submitting your resume discussed above is the push part of the equation, the pull part of the equation is not difficult in any way, but most people are unwilling to do it.

Start by researching who the hiring manager is for the job posting or who may have a vested interest in the decision making process. You can do this by researching LinkedIn.com, givin’ the ol’ Google a try, or if all else fails simply call the person who works at the front desk, be very nice and see what information you can find out from a simple conversation. Company phone directories are also very helpful in getting contact information especially after you know who you need to talk to and have their full name.

After you know the “who” and “how” to contact them. Give them a call and simply explain that you are interested in the organization and want to find out more about what they are looking for in a person for the position that’s open. Listen to (and write down) everything thing they say and then give them a thirty second synopsis of who you are and how you can help them. This includes what your background experience is, what you provide that others don’t, and why you are interested in the role. Remember: 30 seconds and you have already heard both exactly what they are looking for and have a job posting as a cheat sheet to guide what information you feel will be valuable for the hiring manager to know.  After  you do this go in for the close; ask if you can schedule 15-20 minutes with them to discuss the role.

Why on earth would you do all of this: I have personally been a part of over 2000 interviews for multiple organizations as both an HR professional and a Hiring Manager, and I have had maybe 50 people call and speak to me directly. What this means for you is simply this is a job search method that very few people are using so it is an easy way to get a free pass to the interview stage while at the same time making it easier for hiring managers too. Think about it; you have limited time as a manager, someone calls you up that meets the qualifications of the job AND obviously goes above and beyond by taking the time to find out about the company the job and contact you, even if you choose not to schedule the interview you are definitely going to make mention of it to the recruiter or HR team working on filling the position.

Step 3 +1: Be Proactive and Create your own job opportunities

Are you reaching out to organizations that you are interested in and setting up times to meet with the individuals that have the ability to hire you? If so, great keep it up, I am sure you are already generating interviews and meet and greets and this will lead you towards the job of your dreams much faster than anything I can tell you about a resume. If not, this is the next step.

In his book 48 Days to the Work you Love, author Dan Miller suggests the fantastic idea of making a list of companies that you are interested in working with regardless of whether or not they have positions available. I believe that this is a great idea because if you already have a relationship with the company guess who they will likely go to if they have a need later on.

 You could easily begin by using the research techniques in Step 3. Then make a phone call simply explaining that you are really interested in their organization and that you would love to schedule 15 minutes with them even if they don’t have a position open now.  Ultimately the jobs that you are looking for are probably going to be hired from a previous relationship, so as you already know, your focus has to be on establishing the relationship groundwork to truly be considered for a position now or opportunity down the road.

The points I detailed above generated me about 20 meetings/interviews and 5 job offers last time I was searching for a new opportunity. All of these  things are simple to do but are outside of the comfort zone of most people looking for the position they really want. What really gets you that job or career you desire is not a great resume, but instead being willing to do the things that others will not. My advice to you is to put your focus in areas that generate results and leave everything else to people providing the piling up resumes that may never see the light of day.

Comment: What has worked for you in the past?