Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Employer Value Statements Make Your Resume Sizzle

Do you want to be perceived as the perfect candidate for the job? Who wouldn't, right?

When I talk to hiring managers, I often ask if they have ever seen the resume of a perfect candidate - one who was born to do the job.

The typical answer is not often ... but yes. The interesting thing, is how hiring managers typically answer this question - they usually go into a story about the candidate and usually raise the pitch of their voice, giving a very emotional response. The typical reaction signals that the hiring manager still remembers that perfect candidate and is still excited about them after all these years.

Would it be helpful to your job search to elicit such an emotional response from your reader?

Read more ...

Gaining this response doesn't have to be accidental - it can be managed by the ambitious candidate.

What's In It For Them:

One way to be perceived as the perfect candidate is by using employer value statements. Employer value statements help candidates clearly present the ROI they have provided for past employers. In today's challenging job market, it is critical for candidates to clearly show a hiring manager What's In It For Them (WIFT) - hiring managers view past accomplishments as an estimate of WIFT.

Unfortunately, few resumes I see as a coach, that I saw as a recruiter and as hiring manager effectively convey WIFT. Instead, most tend to be egocentric (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/05/do-you-recognize-these-early-warning.html) and focused on WIFM (What's In It For Me - the candidate). Most recruiters, HR reps and hiring managers who see many resumes will recognize this trend in the majority of resumes they see and share that WIFM resumes often get passed over. This occurs because most candidates have been taught and reinforced to concentrate on responsibility and experience (what's important to candidates) ... at the expense of value and accomplishments (what's important to employers).

Demonstrating employer value is relevant for employees at all levels - including admins, manufacturing floor employees, all the way to CEO's ... from rookies (volunteer, part time and internship experience) to highly experienced industry vets.

In "3 Things Your Next Employer Will Search For In Your Resume" (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/3-things-your-next-employer-will-search.html) I explain that employers look for a solution to their problems, employer value, and fit. Strong employer value statements can help a candidate cover two of the three items employers search for, solutions and value, increasing a candidate's chance to be perceived as perfect.

Employers list experience criteria, but are really searching for value:
Don't confuse experience with value. Few employers list value in their job descriptions, because they have difficulty explaining the value they seek - but they can recognize it when they see it. Employers list experience based criteria as a proxy for value, hoping that by asking for certain experience, the value will become apparent in a few candidates (hint: those candidates are referred to by a special name ... finalists).

I'm not suggesting you ignore experience completely - you'll need to list it to get through the pre-screen processes of HR, recruiters, and databases. Just don't make the mistake of emphasizing experience over value. Employer value is almost always more important, but only if that value you present is relevant to the employer's current problems.

How to demonstrate value:
Create an extensive list of employer value statements, so you can select ones that are relevant for your target company and target hiring manager. Often this is a brainstorming session. Remember that some of the greatest value you provided your employer may not have taken a great deal of effort or time. Some candidates may find that the greatest value they provided was an idea that took only a short time to develop, but yielded great value for their employer. However, candidates often perceive less time intensive activities as less valuable because there wasn't heavy lifting involved - don't fall into this WIFM trap.

Claim responsibility for your participation. Rather than using words like participated in, or responsible for, use action words to describe the value you delivered. Make it easy for the employer to see by describing it simply, and by tying your accomplishment to revenue, profits or costs. Suggested language includes:
  • I increased revenues by X (or X%) by doing Y
  • I cut costs by X (or X%) by doing Y
  • I increased profits by X (or X%) by doing Y
Listing the result first catches the readers eye, telling them that the accomplishment was significant (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/04/do-you-create-employer-value.html). Tailor your accomplishments to the company's needs - If you discover the company is in cost cutting mode, list items from your list that demonstrate how you've cut costs. If the company is in growth mode, list the value you provided that built revenue. If you work for a Fortune 500 company, the value you provided may not be significant to the billions of corporate profits, so compare to your division, product line, or expense category for more impressive results.

No one is going to audit these numbers - they don't have to be exact. I'm not suggesting that you lie, nor am I suggesting you make them up. Rather, I recommend you take an educated guess if you don't have exact figures. This is especially relevant for past companies, accomplishments that did not deliver full results until after you left, or post implementation numbers that you didn't have access to. Use estimates, from project scope if you don't have post implementation numbers. These numbers don't have to stand up to the IRS.

Choose relevant value statements:
Use Guerrilla job search tactics (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/11/guerrilla-job-search-tactics.html) before you send a resume, to first understand the current problems of your target company and manager. The inside information you gain will help you choose which value statements you include, which you emphasize, and which you exclude. Your most important statements (to the employer - WIFT) should be highest on the list, and less important accomplishments should be near the end of your bullet pointed list. At the very end of your list of bullet points, list experience, just to match listed criteria to help HR, Recruiters, and databases find you. Value statements are best presented as bullets under a specific job experience.

The better you are at understanding your target company's and manager's problems, demonstrating that you've already solved those problems using the target company's own language, and demonstrating that those solutions provided great value to your past employers ... the more you start to look like the perfect candidate.

Rethink your resume ... what items can you add to demonstrate the value you have provided your past employers?

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Related Articles:
How A Personal Branding Statement Can Help Job Seekers
10 Ways To Manage Your Resume Real Estate

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Jess Faith said...

excellent advice

cv customization is hard indeed,
i always get stuck, staring at the screen...

Caren Rabinowitz said...

Your advice is excellent for people like sales people whose jobs provide numerically calculable achievements. I was a librarian in a law firm and my accomplishments can not be given a numerical value. I was able to reorganize the catalog to move from print to online which was placed on the firm's desktops. Reclassifying the catalog made it more efficient to find books. I was the firm's most proficient Bloomberg searcher and so became the sole Bloomberg searcher for all firm offices. Not only are these abilities quantifiable by number but most employers see the label librarian and don't see underlying translatable organization and analysis skills.

krvince said...

"Value statements". An interesting concept, but how do you distinguish them from fluff or hollow pretentions? I know for a fact that Enron had some great ones.
Other sites have pointed out that the % gains and benefit bullets are starting to make eyes glaze over, because readers have seen so many of them. They've taken the place of "action verbs" as the new "must have".
I've also heard that "proposal resumes" are being promoted: highlight what you can do, not what you've done. Trouble is no one can produce an effective example of one and the very people promoting them no doubt fall back on the traditional format when asked to submit one. Much food for thought here.

Phil Rosenberg said...

@Jess, It can be difficult, but it's so much more effective. Who said looking for a job was easy?

@Caren, You reorganized a catalog from print to digital. Sounds like that project saved the library money, increased customer satisfaction, and reduced customer search times - all of these items can be given numerical estimated values. Because you were the most efficient, you were able to reduce total search time, allowing the library to save on search costs, again something that can be quantified.

If you translate your organizational and analysis skills into qualities that businesses recognize, you are more likely to have your skills seen as solving business issues.

Laughing Linda said...

@Jess - I'm a resume consultant as well. And, when a client asks, "Should I tailor my resume to each job?," I ask, "How good are you at perfectly wording and formatting a Word document?" Most aren't. So I suggest that, instead of staring at the screen -- or avoiding it altogether -- you keep the resume the same and adapt each cover letter to each job.

@Caren - what Phil said...and, if you cannot estimate, ask the people you work(ed) with/for. If you don't want them to know you're looking for work, tell them it's because you want to be prepared for your next performance review. And, if you absolutely cannot come up with a number or percentage, then the words "substantially" and "significantly" sure can come in handy!

Phil Rosenberg said...

@Linda - The only problem with Linda's advice is that so few employers make their decisions, or even look at (or even get) cover letters toady. Research I published in December showed that 96% of hiring managers, HR reps, and recruiters make their decisions based on resumes, not cover letters. Customizing is a powerful idea, but customize the item that is used to decide whether to interview you, and then whether to hire you.

See the research here: http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-your-cover-letter-obsolete-tradition.html.