How Strategic Are Your Resume & Cover Letter?

A prospective client with ten years of experience as a PE Teacher and Coach sent me her resume with a note that she’s tired of the long hours and is thinking of looking in a field outside of education. But she’s not sure.

The resume, which read more like a cross between an essay and a biography, began like this: “I am looking for an opportunity that will allow me more time for my family in whatever field I choose.”

Try for just a minute to think of yourself as the school administrator or Hiring Manager who’s reading this. You have a couple of openings and thousands of resumes that you must peruse while attending to the many and very demanding functions of your job. You have a budget and a strict timeframe and you simply cannot afford to hire the wrong person.

Now read that second paragraph again, Mr./Ms. Hiring Manager. The person who sent it to you begins by telling you what she wants from you. For you, on the other hand, it’s crunch time. You do not care what she wants from you. You want to know what she can do for you, and if she doesn’t tell you that very quickly you will be moving on to the next applicant.

This is a problem I encounter over and over again on resumes and cover letters, as well as elevator speeches, interview strategies, and Internet biographies. Many job seekers have a fixed idea of what they want from an employer but fail to convey what they can deliver for the employer. Since this is the primary information every employer is seeking when reviewing a candidate’s history, anything that begins by addressing the applicant’s requirements is likely to fall on very deaf ears. Applicants often compound the confusion by failing to present themselves as a good fit for job openings.

To avoid these pitfalls, YOU MUST BE STRATEGIC. Research companies that interest you, network with friends and colleagues, and when you hear of an opening for which you’d like to apply, all of your communication should specifically target that position.

The above teacher continued in her resume: “I love to teach but I would also be interested in a position in another field. I have a passion for learning. I think ‘teacher’ defines me best.”

To an education administrator on the lookout for a PE teacher who can also coach the girls’ basketball team, this is going to be very confusing. Does the applicant want to be a teacher / coach or not? Again, put yourself in the Hiring Manager’s shoes. You simply do not have time to figure out what to do with this person, so you move on, and she misses out on a potential job opportunity.

Do not say, “I’m a teacher at heart and that’s what I do best” if you’re applying for something outside of education. Instead, define a clear segue between the job you’re doing now and the job for which you’re applying. And do not say “…in whatever field I choose” if you are looking for a teaching position (or any position, for that matter). It signals to an employer that your job search has no clarity, focus, or strategy, and you will not be viewed as a serious candidate.

For example, if you’re a teacher but you’d like to supervise a customer service team, stress your experience working with multidisciplinary teams of teachers, administrators, counselors, and therapists. Talk about the challenge of managing a classroom and give examples of how effective you’ve been in keeping students on task. You can handle demanding parents and intransigent students seamlessly. You are a natural for a position in customer service!

Of course, you can turn this around: Ten years in direct customer service, including seven years as a CSR supervisor, have been the perfect foundation for a career as a teacher . . .

No one who is or might be hiring, or who may know of someone who’s hiring, should ever talk to you or read your resume and cover letter and be left to wonder what in the world you’re looking to do with yourself. Simply put, an applicant who fails to define his or her job target and related qualifications will not hold anyone’s attention past the first paragraph. Career counseling

Be clear and focused. Be strategic in your job search communication.

~ Anne Follis, Certified Professional Resume Writer

© Copyright 2013, Anne Follis. All rights reserved.

We invite your comments and questions relating to this entry or the entire blog. However, please note that off-topic posts, as well as all spam, will be deleted.

Leave a Reply