Sunday, May 2, 2021

Rethinking The Resume: How Marketers Should Market Themselves

If your resume doesn’t market you well, then expectations
of how you’ll do marketing for an employer will be just as low.  

I’ve interviewed countless marketing (and sales) candidates. And probably reviewed 50x as many resumes. 

What has struck me is how totally bland and generic 95% of them are.  For all the work people put into writing their CVs, it’s confounding how many are downright undifferentiated.

Then I thought: “Shit, I’m trying to hire a Marketing professional…  if they can’t market themself well, then they sure won’t be good at marketing for me”.

It struck me: Could it help to offer a Marketer’s interpretation on how to write a resume? It would be based on using basic marketing principles.  Gone would be all the BS we were told about using exciting verbs, acronyms, claims about team-orientation and collaborative skills, eagerness and energy.  

Instead, consider thinking about the CV as a “marketing data sheet” about you: You’re selling a unique, differentiated individual, with a career arc and set of achievements that will uniquely solve the hiring (and functional) need of the buyer (hiring manager). Plus, that document should use words and proof-points to catch the eye of the right buyer and pull them deeper into the details.

So I’ll propose an approach to (re)designing the CV the way a marketer would: 

  1. Positioning narrative and headline

  2. Articulate differentiation and uniqueness

  3. Focus on your buyers’ needs and persona

  4. Use proof-points and data… not claims

  5. Use keywords and think SEO

1. Positioning Narrative and Headline

Let me start at the beginning: The mindset you want to adopt when thinking about rewriting your resume is to start with the classic approach to writing a positioning statement (which you should adapt to your own situation) e.g. 

For companies in the xx category needing yy skills, <yournamehere> provides an exceptional zz record of accomplishments. Unlike the average Jane/Joe, <yournamehere> has shown they have and can deliver, and is likely to show increasing promise for you in the future… 

And if you don’t have a sense of how you want to position yourself, you’ll immediately fall into the trap of sounding generic. Frankly, I can’t stand seeing 2 things: Resumes that *don’t* have a line or two of summary, and resumes that say completely generic garbage, e.g.

Motivated marketing professional and team-player looking for a challenging opportunity with a growing company.

That approach tells the reviewer absolutely nothing.  Instead, consider using the summary as communicating the “brand” you want to give yourself, and the specializations you have, i.e. under the umbrella of your positioning: 

A proven demand generation professional specializing in business-to-business software sales for hard-to-reach SMBs

The other thing I like to see at the top of a resume - just as with a data sheet - are a few bullets summarizing Background, Skills, and/or Highlights.  Did you personally achieve something great? Win an award? Specialize in certain tools or techniques?   These bullets should be eye-catchers for the lazy/tired professional scanning dozens of resumes each day.

2. Articulate Your Differentiation and Uniqueness

Any good marketer should know that - counterintuitively - narrower focus is better than generality. Being everything to all audiences means you’ll identify with none.  The more focused your message is, the more it will resonate with your intended audience. You actually don’t want responses from *every* audience, you want a response from an intended one. Why? Because hiring managers rarely want a jack-of-all-trades with zero specializations. Rather, they look to fill a specific role/need with someone who’ll fill it well and grow with the needs of the function. 

So, as you think about how to position yourself as unique and focused, make sure that you carry through a thread that speaks specifically to what you uniquely bring.

Avoid sounding generic, or listing everything under the sun: 

  • Marketing program management

  • Product marketing for Cloud technologies

  • Demand generation, audience marketing, messaging, strategy, program management, cloud marketing

Rather, appeal to your strengths, and to the needs that a hiring manager will need:

  • Integrated marketing and campaign program management

  • Product marketing for B2B SaaS cloud-based offerings

  • Demand generation utilizing audience-based technologies, persona-based messaging, and SEO analysis

Now, you may think “Gee, this approach is too narrow for me. I’m looking in a few areas, not just a single-focus”.   That’s fine. Then you should maintain 2-3 *different* resumes that focus in distinctly different areas.  I’ll talk to more of that in the section below. 

3.  Focus on Your Buyers’ (e.g. Hiring Managers) Needs and Persona

Too many resumes are just vanilla statements that don’t target hiring managers. They’re akin to writing a product description, web page, or data sheet without a specific buyer persona(s) in mind. This pitfall (again) is like creating a general everything-to-everyone statement... but specific to none.  Remember: a hiring manager looking for a candidate profile that doesn’t speak to them will spend 12 seconds reviewing it, and then throw it aside.

Instead, approach your own positioning, language, job descriptions, and achievements in the following classic marketing manner to appeal to the buyer:

  • Their Need: Consider the role the hiring manager is trying to fill - A missing function, a new role, or an additional skill-set? Do they need  a leader, a doer, or a subject-matter expert?  Think about what YOU want to bring to the table, and “spin” your CV in that direction with words, descriptions and proof-points (across all of your previous roles) that speak directly to the need of the “buyer”. 

  • Their Persona: If you’re applying for an entry-level individual contributor role, the persona you’re speaking to is probably a departmental manager looking for a specific set of skills to add to their team. But if you’re applying for a managerial-level role, the hiring manager is likely an executive, looking for leadership and broader strategic thinking.   The message here is to write your CV keeping the buyer right persona in mind.

If you’re like most professionals, you probably have two or three skills, a few different potential roles you’d be great for, and a few different titles you’re gunning for.   So take a page from target marketing and create 2-3 *different versions* of your CV, each targeting a different need, role or position.   The classic marketing example of this is the Tylenol® brand of products, where a small number of medication formulas are actually branded and marketed as a wide variety of products (e.g. extra-strength is just more of the regular strength, which is just more than Children’s).  Focus, focus, and customize.

4. Use Proof-Points and Data… Not Claims

The most meaningful and impactful part of a data sheet or a convincing report is *proof* and *data* that the product/service performs.  Use of this approach is more common than you think… you always hear “9 out of 10 dentists recommend…”,  “cleans 90% better than the next leading brand…”  or “Kills 99.9% of germs…”   Yup, proof-points sell.

You also don’t see marketers talk about how their product merely helps…. They focus on the value of what the product *does*.   So avoid talking about how you “helped launch blah blah” or “supported the blah blah program”. Those terms are passive and meaningless.  Instead focus on what you did: 

  • Launched blah blah using an SEO campaign yielding xx% increase in new visits

  • Grew the blah blah program by yy% by scaling global outreach into zz new geographies%

You just don’t see knowledgeable marketers make empty claims or use general words - they all are specific, and show results. 

Say what you did, highlight your results, and prove the difference you made to the company. Illustrate quantitatively to show you were effective… and know how to measure your own achievements. Data is convincing. Hiring managers want that.

5. Use Keywords... and Think SEO  

More initial screening of resumes is done by machine automation than ever before. Hiring managers tell recruiters to look for specific companies, titles, skills, products and technologies.  Recruiters then literally tell resume scanning systems to search for matches and score candidates.   

So write your CV using meaningful keywords.  Repeat the words/terms that you *want* to be recognized for, and specific industry terms that a savvy hiring manager will look for.   Oh… and while you may have been told not to use abbreviations or acronyms, that’s all changed in the Tech Era.  Nobody in their right mind says they program HyperText Markup Language; you wouldn’t say you’re a specialist in Search Engine Optimization; a security would never say they work with the Open ID Connect standard.  Just say HTML, SEO and OIDC -- that’s what your hiring managers (and algorithms) are looking for. 

In Closing: 

If you can’t market yourself as a marketer, how can you expect someone to hire you for that? If you can’t sell yourself as a salesman, why would you expect to be chosen?

Take a step back from your resume, and re-think: Is it a dry historical summary of jobs, or is it a compelling illustration of accomplishments and future promise? 

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