Don't Assume Too Much When It Comes to Your Job Search

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: June 20, 2012

Where's the Beach?

There’s a radio advertisement running on one of the stations I listen to regularly. It’s an ad for “the beaches of South Walton” and hopes to inspire listeners to vacation there. The problem is, the ad's writers assumed a lot about the audience when they created their piece. They barely mention the beaches are in Florida and allude to the "white sands," which requires some knowledge about Florida to conclude the beach must be on the Gulf coast -- because the Atlantic Ocean’s beaches don’t have white sand.

Unless the goal was to specifically target people who already know about these beaches, I thought the campaign a bit odd and off-the-mark. It did make me think about how many job seekers conduct their job hunts in a similar, non-specific manner, though.

Give the Right People the Right Information

When you apply for a position or talk to a networking contact, do you assume the person knows a lot about you already? Are you honing in on your unique value proposition? Does your resume use language or lingo the reader won’t understand, but is important to being able to evaluate your qualifications for the position? For example, do you include company-specific jargon or acronyms to describe your skills and accomplishments? Even when you apply for a similar type of job, if it’s at a different organization, hiring managers are unlikely to give you credit for knowing information described using proprietary language specific to your current or previous organization.

Does your resume require the reader to think too much about what you can do? You need to spoon feed the hiring manager the most important information.

Make Yourself Relevant

Don’t list something you did and hope the reader draws a conclusion about your skills. Consider this bullet point:

Developed assessment tools and designed new framework and documentation.

Does the current employer need you to design assessment tools? Does "design new framework" appear in the job description? If not, this job seeker is forgetting to make her skills and experience relevant for the audience because she is not specifying exactly the skills and accomplishments she offers the employer. A better bullet point (targeting the job description) may read:

Used detailed knowledge of security architecture and auditing to analyze options; collaborated with stakeholders to develop assessment tools and designed new frameworks and documentation, resulting in saving organization $X.

In this example, the job seeker targets topics covered in the job description (security architecture, auditing tools, and ability to collaborate) to describe her experience. Note she incorporates a result– demonstrating her impact on the organization.

Remember What Happens When You Assume...

Take a look at your resume. Are you assuming too much? Don't expect anyone evaluating your materials to think too hard. Most of the time, an applicant tracking system (ATS) -- a computer programmed to look for key words -- will be evaluating your resume and application before human eyes ever see it.

Take the time to be sure it's clear what you do, the skills you use, and your accomplishments. Otherwise, you're creating the equivalent of a radio ad for a beach vacation without telling listeners where the fabulous amenities are located!

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