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Are You A Zebra In A Herd Of Zebras?

Having personally hired hundreds of executives, plus two decades running my own recruiting firms, and ten years leading ExecuNet's Career Strategy Group, I've gotten to review and critique thousands of executive resumes. What most job candidates don't seem to realize is that their current resume seldom tells a compelling, results-focused story. In addition, most resumes look so similar to one another, as to not stand out. This creates a major challenge for the reader to identify one truly outstanding zebra in a herd of lookalike zebras!

One's resume is one's "personal marketing collateral" that's designed to grab the attention of a hiring executive and get you invited in for an interview. This requires a combination of both the resume's "storytelling" and its appearance. More specifically:

1. When was the last time you saw an "eye-catching" marketing piece using only black-and-white content? And yet, almost all resumes I get to review are "colorless." The questions are: why is there no color being used and, where best to selectively insert the color?

2. To be "findable" on a job board search engine's Applicant Tracking System (ATS,) requires that you use the correct "keywords." Do you know yours? Have you tested your assumptions?

3. Resume readers skim/read from the top of page one on down. How are you encouraging them to actually read pages two or three? Your "unique value," in the resume's first paragraph, needs to drive their interest.

4. Then, follow that value focused paragraph with a bulleted next section that highlights three or four of your most compelling accomplishments, with metrics, from across your entire career.

5. Stop using value-focused generic section headings like "Career Highlights," "Key Words," or "Professional Experience." Recruiters and hiring managers are well aware of what's likely to follow in each section. Why not "brand" each resume section with a personalized marketing statement that helps to differentiate you from your competition--the other zebras?

6. When you tell your career history, do you tell the reader who is the hiring company, what business they're in, and what needs they were looking to address when filling this role?

7. Next, once onboard, what specifically did you do to address those hiring needs? And perhaps most importantly, what were your accomplishments, with metrics to support your impact?

8. Finally, your education, certifications, patents, etc. follow in the final section.

If you're a "visual learner," and would like to see examples of how to stand out and become the "giraffe in a herd of zebra," email me at, and we'll schedule a complimentary review of your current resume and foreshadow what it might and should look like, going forward.

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