Your Written Elevator Pitch

You have roughly two sentences to convince a recruiter or hiring manager to read your resume. Here are a few things to think about.

It all starts with one sentence.

I’ve been getting a lot of resumes lately.  No surprise. The job market is still tough.  A lot of people have been out of work for quite awhile.  I thought it might be helpful to point out a few things I’ve noticed that might improve your odds in your job search.

To resume or not to resume.  I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two kinds of candidates.  Those whose resumes help them and those whose resumes hurt them.

In the first camp are those people who have gone to truly top tier schools, got hired by one of those great training ground companies in their particular field. Got promoted once or twice while they were there.  Then moved on to another outstanding firm and made some big things happen.  They may or may not be working currently, but if they are out of work, it hasn’t been for very long.  Their resume tells the story of a person who had a career plan and has delivered against that plan.  It’s a resume that oozes success. 

Those resumes can hit any desk and the reader is likely to want to get to know that person.  It opens doors.  You don’t even need a coverletter.

Now for the second camp.  These are the resumes of the individuals who got that first job because a friend introduced them.  Not a bad firm, but not one that is recognized for a particular functional strength.  Often, the first job lasts only a couple of years and then the candidate moves to another firm to get a promotion.  Many of these resumes show several job moves.  Two years.  Three years. Eighteen months.  Some good firms.  Some you don’t quite recognize.  Recently, a lot of these resumes include a start-up.  Or two.  Even three. 

In some cases, the school is great and the first job is top notch, but then the candidate seems to lose their way.  Several moves, all for short stints.

Resumes like these are more common than you think.  And they are problematic.  Resumes like these probably hurt the chances of some very good candidates being interviewed.  If you put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager or the recruiter, you have to admit that a resume like these has risk written all over it.

When I see a resume like this and have a chance to speak with the candidate, here’s what I tell them.  For any candidate, the best chance to find a great job is going to be through their personal network.  For candidates with this kind of resume, it is almost the only way.

What they need is for someone who knows them personally, someone who has worked with them and knows what they can do, to step forward and say, “I don’t care what the resume says, this person can do the job we need to have done.”

Two other suggestions.
If you are using one of those online services to send out your resume to recruiters, make sure you know what the email looks like.  If I can’t figure out essentially what your background is from the email – without having to open the attached resume – that email is toast.  Here’s one I received:

“Attached are my resume and cover letter for career opportunities. I will consider any
offer extended.”

You get about one or two sentences in your email to give the recruiter or researcher a reason to read on.  It’s like a great direct mail piece or the best print ad you’ve ever read.  You get one chance to stop me from hitting delete.

That leads to the next point.  Whether it is in your email or your coverletter or that little paragraph resume consultants still insist on having people write at the top of their resume… say something special.   Here are some examples of emails I’ve received:

“If you are currently searching for an aggressive and street smart executive, who can think outside the box, with a proven passion and track record of achieving significant successes against significant odds, then I believe you will find my resume of interest.”

“I am a person of ambition and desire.  I work best when given a task and a goal and not much in between.  I can generally take a vision and see it through to the end despite any hurdles that come up.”

“I am looking for a senior leadership role with a company seeking to restructure / refocus for long-term sustainable, growth or for someone capable of taking their organization to the next level.”

Are these bad or silly?  Of course not.  But are they unique?  Do they set these people apart?  I don’t think so.  How many candidates won’t claim to be aggressive, street smart executives?  How many don’t have ambition and desire?  How many won’t promise long-term sustainable growth?

The point is, if I can plug in someone else’s name above your opening sentence, then it can’t be very unique.

It’s a tough market.  You need to tell us what makes you special.  And you have about two sentences to do it.