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Two Ways to Stand Out and Make Your Resume Memorable

"For every position we advertise, we often receive thousands of resumes. It's impossible to find the right person among such a large group of qualified candidates,” said Kristen Buzun, an executive at Microsoft, quoted on The Ladders Web site.

Ask any recruiter: As many as 1,500+ eager job seekers email their resumes whenever a new job is posted on the Internet.

And assuming that your resume breaks through all the new spam filters, a human reviewer will scan your resume for only 10-15 seconds and immediately decide to "pass or trash."

Those are lousy odds.

So here are two additional ways to make your resume stand head and shoulders above the cyber mob: personal branding and conversational writing.

1. Personal branding

Can you articulate, in 20 words or less, what makes you uniquely valuable to a potential employer?

If you're shaking your head, you're not alone: except for a handful of natural born egomaniacs, most people struggle when asked "what makes you so special?' But if you can't quickly and clearly explain your value to potential employers, how can you expect them to see it?

A personal brand distills your top skills, passions and personality into a handful of words right at the top of your resume's summary/profile. When your resume “brands” you correctly, your readers instantly know what you’re good at.

Sample summary from a well-branded resume

Insurance executive with extensive experience and passionate interest in all aspects of insurance business. Started on bottom rung as claims examiner and won steady promotions to executive. Mastery of both big-picture strategy and highly technical policy details. Recognized expert in workers’ compensation (WC) claims, especially complex WC cases that involve catastrophic injuries. Creates, markets, sells, assesses risk and sets pricing for new insurance products. Diligent policy researcher with four certifications in case management. Collegial management style. Frequent speaker at insurance conferences and seminars.

Technically speaking, you position yourself on your resume by showing how you do some particular thing better than your competition. You can decide your own positioning, and you can use your "branded" resume to influence the perceptions of hiring managers—but your reputation in the marketplace is the ultimate arbiter of your brand.

2. Conversational writing and the "barstool test"

How does your resume sound when you read it out loud?

If you sound like you’re having an ordinary conversation with a person on the barstool beside you, congratulations—you passed. But if you stumble, stutter, backtrack or hesitate—like most people who try this exercise—rewrite and try again!

The barstool test is a well-known litmus test for copywriters, who face a daunting, daily writing challenge—persuading a reader to fork over his hard-earned money and buy something. Simple, conversational writing is crucial, because readers don't buy when they're confused or bored.

Most business professionals are scared to death to use a simple writing style because they're afraid of looking "unprofessional." Wrong!

For example, The Wall Street Journal ran an article that ridiculed a press release from Oracle (see WSJ 2/8/08, Gobbledygook). This writing style flunks the barstool test, and so do most resumes:

Oracle today introduced Oracle(r) Communications IP Service and Network Management, a new market offering designed to simplify the lifecycle management of complex IP-based services. This offering enables communications service providers to manage growing IP service complexity, scale operations efficiently and facilitate ongoing network change by providing one integrated solution for IP service management and network change control. Included in the offering are updated versions of two key Oracle Service Fulfillment Suite applications, Oracle Communications Configuration Management and Oracle Communications IP Service Activator . . . .

Difficult to read, right? It's a really bad example of selling with words. Sadly, many resumes are written like this sample, but that need not happen to you!

Let your competitors bore hiring managers and put them to sleep with "businessese." When you write simply your readers catch your meaning at first glance. You stand out, and your resume becomes memorable.

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