Actually, it’s not just LeBron James’s resume that sucks. It’s his resume, his cover letter, his pitch and his interviewing. His entire approach to finding work needs a major overhaul. And it’s not only LeBron’s job search that’s ineffective. The problem extends to most every job seeker; maybe even to you!
Want to know what the problem is and how to fix it?
The #1 mistake that most job seekers make is that you fail to convey deep knowledge and understanding of your craft and your industry.
Now let’s get one thing straight: I’m not saying that you don’t know your job or your industry (though most know the former much better than the latter). And I’m not saying that you don’t do good work. What I’m saying is that you don’t do yourself justice when the time comes to communicate these things to a recruiter.
This mistake is extremely damaging and manifests itself in a number of ways:
- Accomplishment statements (a.k.a., the bullet points) on your resume and LinkedIn profile tell your reader what you did, but not how you did it (i.e., your thought process; your actions) or how well you did it (i.e., the positive, often measurable results of what you did).
- Your cover letter fails to convey an insider’s understanding of your industry (e.g., global trends that will impact your industry in the years to come; the direction your industry will head in the next one, five, ten years).
- Your cover letter fails to communicate how you will leverage your skills and past experience to have a positive impact on the company to which you’re applying. To do this requires a deep understanding of the organization you’re applying to, including its mission, goals, strengths, weaknesses, reputation, press mentions, etc.
- You fail to take the bull by the horns in interviews. Yes, you answer all of the interviewer’s questions, but you don’t drive home why you’re the best candidate for the job (that’s different from claiming to be “a” good candidate for the job). To be the best, you’ll need to provide specific examples of what you intend to accomplish in the new position and how you’ll go about doing that, all the while mapping your past experience to the target job’s requirements.
THE SOLUTION (IN TWO PARTS)
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Tao of Job Search,™ where “Tao” stand for:
Task: What you did
Action: How you did it
Outcome: Proof that you did a good job
If you’re a basketball fan like I am, you know that LeBron James is having a totally ridiculous February (note: “ridiculous” is a good thing in basketball), scoring more points on fewer shot attempts than any other player in NBA league history. But despite LeBron’s record-breaking on-court achievements, his resume leaves something to be desired:
123 Main Street, Miami, FL
- Increased shooting percentage by a lot
Now, imagine that you’re the owner of an NBA basketball team and you don’t know who LeBron James is. Would this bullet point give you the information you need in order to bring this guy in for a tryout? Does it give you the sense that LeBron is special? That he understands not only how to shoot the ball, but also the ins and outs of the game?
Now check out this revised bullet point, which leverages The Tao:
- Increased personal shooting percentage from 47% (2011-12) to 57% (2012-13) while simultaneously helping to improve team’s overall shooting percentage (from 42% to 47%) and playoff seed by studying game footage, participating in 100% of team practices and working with a personal shooting coach in the off-season; advanced user of Microsoft Excel*
See the difference? In the second version, LeBron tells us more specifically what he accomplished (increased shooting percentage), how he did it (relentless practice; off-season work) and the ultimate result, or outcome of his efforts (he helped to make his team better).
* The Excel mention is a joke, but an important reminder to only include in your resume skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the job you’re targeting.
I will provide more examples of The Tao in future blog posts.
Take a risk. Having 10, 15, or even 20+ years of experience in your field isn’t enough. There are guys and gals with 20+ years of experience who’ve been coasting along (note: if that’s you, I’m not criticizing…it’s just a fact) and if you’re a go-getter…a thought leader…a visionary in your industry, then you need to differentiate yourself from the pack. How? Extend your neck a bit. Formulate an opinion, based on your expertise, about the future of your industry; the concerns that you know are swirling around inside the head of the hiring manager who’s interviewing you; a project that, if hired, you would like to spearhead in order to effect positive change. Write (cover letter) or speak (interview) from a place of authority while using a professional (not arrogant) tone. And be sure to tell your interviewer exactly why you’re the best person for the job.
Taking a risk like this will pay off in spades: you’ll come off as confident, intelligent, experienced and invested in your work. And you’ll know that, like LeBron, you left everything on the court.