Focus your resume in the value you can provide, not the tools you can use

We all do the same thing: plaster our resumes with every single detail we know or ever heard mentioned. From the most critical technology stack to the smallest recondite tool, we always focus too much on the tools we can handle and forget something much more important.

Our resumes should be more about the value we can provide and much less about the things we will use to achieve that value.

Often, people making hiring decisions do not understand how to solve their problems in the first place, so it's tough for them to make the connection between your list of skills and their needs. I've been on the hiring side enough times to understand this.

Companies have problems, and they are looking for candidates that can solve them. During my interviews, I spend most of my time trying to find a good fit for the candidate in front of me — I'm making the necessary connections in my mind, doing the translation from the list of skills to the value that those skills can afford me. This works when I know what I'm talking about, but it's tough when I'm trying to hire people that know how to do things that are entirely above my head.

You should consider selling yourself better.

Stop focusing on your skills; those are the tools that you can use to provide value, and they are great, and fancy, and buzzwordy, but knowing them is a feeble measure of whether you'll be able to solve any problems. I bet you've never hired a contractor because they told you they had a chainsaw and a hammer, right? You hired them because they showed you they knew how to solve your problem. You can apply the same logic here.

This is how you can do better:

  1. Look at your resume and make sure you are not focusing too much on the tools. If you have more than four or five skills listed there, you are probably giving too many unnecessary details. Try to shrink down the list by removing everything that's not relevant. As an example, I've read too many resumes for a Senior Engineering position listing things like "XML," "JSON," and "Visual Studio .NET."

  2. After the first pass, you can try and consolidate the list even further by abstracting your specific skills to what matters to the client. For example, instead of listing "HTML," "CSS," and "JavaScript," you can say "Web development," or instead of listing "Objective C" and "Swift," you can say "Mobile development."

  3. Your resume should be tailored as much as possible to the position you are seeking, and your experience should reflect what you've been able to accomplish working under similar responsibilities. How were you able to provide value as a "Mobile Developer" in your last company? Did you do something out of the ordinary? Were you able to reduce timelines, or cut budgets, or come up with a novel solution to a problem?

  4. Finally, whenever you can, make your application as much about the company as possible. This might be hard if you are applying to small, lesser-known firms, but sometimes you can find a lot of information online. Identify different areas in the company that you can improve, and use your pitch about how to solve those problems as the introduction to your resume — A cover letter is a perfect way to do this. Tell people how, thanks to your experience, you can provide incredible value to their operation.

Even if you do a little bit of the above, you'll stand above the legion of people that stubbornly keep sending resumes meant for search engines and not hiring managers.

A little bit of salesmanship is something that we can all use to our benefit.

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