How Don Draper Can Help You Write A Better Resume

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What does a fictional character from A&E’s Mad Men, a show about an advertising agency in the 1960’s, have to do with resume writing you ask?

Let me explain.

You see, a lot of people are confused about what a resume actually is. This isn’t surprising given the amount of conflicting advice out there. So let me get the heart of the matter right up front – resumes are commercials.

The only difference between that advertisement you just sat through before your YouTube video started and your resume is the product being sold. In the case of the resume what is being sold is you.

So it is time to think like a marketing expert. And like all good advertising a resume needs to do 3 things to entice the reader to make a purchase, or in this case give you an interview.

1. Set yourself apart. You are probably competing against hundreds of other applicants, so don’t be like them. What makes you unique? What makes you, well, you? Listing previous job responsibilities won’t do. Showing how you solved specific problems will. Tell a good story.

There are lots of smart phones out there, but people want iPhones. Why? Because Apple solves problems for their users.

When a company wants to market a new product they first identify a problem that consumers have, and then provide a solution. What problems does your potential employer have? How can you present yourself as the solution?

(To really do this well you’ll need to edit your resume slightly for each job you are applying for. Companies will have different commercials targeting different demographics- you should do the same.)

2. Make it easy on the eyes. Yes, visuals and style are important, but that doesn’t mean adding in graphics, excessive font changes or otherwise showing off your expert-level skill with Microsoft Word.  What it does mean is creating a simple, easy-to-skim document that someone could digest in less than 10 seconds.

Here are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind when choosing a resume style. Don’t be afraid of white space. Shorter is generally better. Bullets are better than paragraphs. Nothing is better than hard figures. Make it simple, but significant.

3. Create a targeted message. This is an area most people really struggle with. You have had all these great experiences, jobs and adventures. You want to show employers everything about you. Resist the urge.

Resume writing requires a lot of red ink. In other words, edit out anything that doesn’t directly relate to the desired position and keep the focus on the past 10 years. Previous unrelated positions should simply be listed in an “Additional Work History” section with minimal detail.

Remember number two and keep your resume clean and focused. The less space you devote to off-topic information the more room you have to provide hard evidence of your problem solving abilities.

If your resume handles these 3 things well, then you are treating it like the commercial that it really is.

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