Resume-The Most Powerful Branding Tool in Your Arsenal

Guest Blog Post by Rory Kelly Connor

Clear branding (powerful weapon of choice). Focused strategy (targeted and precise aim). Relationship building (team affiliations and reference points). Gaining access so as to create opportunities (qualifying for the competition). Reaching your audience so as to motivate action (hitting the target).

As a brand strategy expert and public relations (PR) pro for almost two decades, I assure you these factors are key elements to the success of any branding or PR campaign. Yet, repeatedly, I see these facets missing from the most powerful branding tool people have in their arsenal – their resume. In those cases, when they take aim at their next position, often times they don’t hit the target. Instead, they have already inadvertently shot themselves in the foot before they even got started. And the overall result in zero to limited response to resume submissions.

Choosing the Right Weapons

One of the first steps I take with new Career Coaching clients is to determine where they are in the work cycle currently and how that differs from where they want to be. While many clients come to Coaching with a need to clarify the kind of work they truly want to be doing, just as many come for support in making a transition to another field or to gain the perspective and tools with which to advance to the next level in their career path. Either way, one of the first steps we undertake together is review of their current resumes.

Not only does a resume give me a sense of where a person has been, it also tells me how they position themselves and their skills, achievements and affiliations. The content reveals the level of strategic writing skill, passion for each position, and whether a person identifies work from a results-oriented or skills-oriented approach. A collection of words, the piece also inherently has a tone or attitude woven within the phrases which generate a positive feeling or motivation (or lack of these) within the reader. Consistently, it is within the words used that I find the most glaring weaknesses from both a branding and strategic perspective.

Remember, your resume is the key branding tool that sets you apart from all the other applicants for an open position. In the current economy, there are hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of applicants for each job opening. It is crucial that you are able to get an application reviewer’s attention in a positive manner while also being provocative enough in your words so as to make companies want to learn more about you through an interview. How do you do this?

Aiming at the Target

Whether you are starting a fresh draft or revising a current version, consider the following guidance to create a powerful and provocative resume:

· Always list an Objective at the top of your resume that applies to the position you are pursuing; this tells the reviewer that you understand the duties of the position, are serious about the job, and that this move would be one that aligns with your goals.

· If you have a wealth of experience, consider highlighting your most noted achievements and areas of expertise in a summary paragraph or two under Professional Experience, before the detailed listing of employers and positions. This allows reviewers to quickly get a sense right up front of how you define yourself, your areas of expertise, and the industries you have worked in or supported. It also allows you an opportunity to generate excitement about reading more.

· Most resumes follow one of several structured templates. These formulas can often feel confining, especially if you are looking to transition from one industry or career vein to another. Ask yourself if the format you are using gives you the opportunity to truly highlight the strengths you bring to the position you are applying for or the industry you want to move into next. Modify your template accordingly and ensure it is visually appealing to the industry reviewer you are targeting (feel free to be a little bold or creative, as warranted).

· You know where you’ve been. Where do you want to go next? Does your resume highlight the skills and opportunities you’ve had that make you a strong candidate for the position you want? Or does it prioritize and highlight more strongly the job skills and achievements of the positions you no longer want? Consider what should stay and remove what doesn’t serve you in the next phase.

· Do not bury details of each position in a paragraph format; it is dense and hard to read. It just gives a reviewer an excuse to put your resume into the discard pile. Instead, use bulleted listings that are easy to read and get to the point.

· Keep details sharp, using action verbs to describe each noteworthy item listed; make sure that every work responsibility notes a positive outcome or result, including reach, effect, importance or impact. Where possible, include relevant numbers, dollars or other positive responses.

· Avoid passive or weak verbs that minimize your roles and the work you accomplished.

· Consider adding special line items under each position to highlight specific information, such as “Clients included” and/or “Select achievements and noteworthy activities included…” Similar to the summary at the beginning of the resume, this section specifically allows you to highlight results and important affiliations that set you apart from others in your field, and separates it from the overall bulleted listing of all your job duties.
· Education always goes last, after professional affiliations, certifications, board positions and volunteer work, as well as honors and awards. Computer skills and Internet technology-based proficiencies always go last. However, if technology skills are paramount in your work history, they should be noted as appropriate within each position. Please note that once you’ve been working, no one cares about your GPA, so leave it off; however, do note if you graduated with honors.

· Use the language of your industry, where appropriate; yet, realize that if your resume is heavy on jargon, it will be unclear to a lay person who may be reviewing it. Take care to be as clear as possible in describing your work duties.

· Remember that a resume is as much about presentation visually as it is about the words presented. Consistency is important throughout in regards to spacing, formatting, punctuation and white space. If you decide to be creative, make sure it makes sense. For instance, using formatting to make certain points or words pop can be powerful.

· Avoid any hint of negativity in any form within your resume. Remember, this is a reflection of your brand – YOU. And you want a positive response to your resume. So call that forth by attracting with like energy.

Shoot Straight on Your Mark

Once you’ve completed your draft, re-review your resume and make sure to weave your own professional “brand” into each and every entry, if possible. Let your passion for your work or desired role come through in a powerful way through your words and phrases. Regardless of your official job titles at each position, identify yourself as your brand. For instance, while I was technically a Vice President in my last employed position before becoming a Certified Coach, I branded myself on my most recent resume as a public relations and marketing strategist, which accurately and powerfully described my expertise, the results I had achieved, and related to the spectrum of my career overall. It also spoke to the positions I was targeting. Make a point of weaving your branding throughout your history.

Then ask yourself the following questions about all content. Is my branding clear? Does my resume reflect details in a strategic manner to get that job I want? Have I highlighted connections and alliances that align me with the industry or company I am targeting? Have I positioned myself appropriately for the level of responsibility I desire and set myself apart in some way as above the competition? Have I been provocative in my words, tone and inclusions so as to motivate an interview request?

Finally, after you have incorporated these suggestions into your resume, I highly recommend you give yourself the gift of a one-hour professional resume review from a brand strategy/PR expert. We know how to powerfully use words and position details so as to strengthen your resume branding in such a way as to motivate action and provoke response. Proven experts at identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, we see the holes, the danger zones and the pitfalls that are invisible to you. And we know how to get into the mind of your potential employers, anticipating their issues, goals and concerns…because many of us have been in that seat ourselves.

Now, equipped with a strategic resume that powerfully supports your very own brand, your resume will more effectively generate wanted attention. Fire away.

Based in New York and Philadelphia, and serving clients worldwide, Rory Kelly Connor is a Peak Potential Coach, Certified Life & Career Coach, and Brand/PR Strategy Expert. For more information, please visit

Can You Imagine Life Coaching LLC © 2011


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