Given that I hate stupid acronyms – “All you need to make a million dollars is remember L.U.K” and, “If you want to be truly happy in life, just G.R.Y.N” – what on earth am I doing using one? I didn’t mean your resume should literally be rubbish.
OK, I didn’t say I wasn’t a hypocrite. I do, however, have years of experience running an employment agency and I’ve seen more of that real trash than I care to think about.
So, what do I mean?
T.R.A.S.H in this case stands for Target – Relevance – Attitude – Standards – Hook and, if your resume doesn’t have it, then you may as well consign it to the trash can right now.
Remember, having a resume written professionally needn’t cost the earth – it’s perfectly possible to get it done properly for under $100. Just use this guide to give the resume company the raw material they need to make you shine.
So, now let’s look at each of the five T.R.A.S.H. elements individually.
Target means that you have a specific job for a specific company in mind. Firing off hundreds of ‘generic’ emailed applications is a complete waste of e-stamps (note to self – invent ‘e-stamps’). For an application to be successful, you need to aim it towards a definite job. The personal statement, for example, needs to reflect the rigors of the position you are applying for. Writing “I am very good at working alone on projects” is not going to impress an interviewer who is under instruction to find a ‘team-player’.
Everything about your resume needs to be geared towards the job you are applying for. This does not mean that you have to write each CV out individually. To save time, do have pre-written blocks of text that are aimed for each of the job types you are applying for, and don’t be afraid to adapt pieces or add to them as the occasion arises.
One Resume – One Job – so is it decreed
Sometimes our need for a job or career change takes us off in different directions to what we are used to. The trouble is that, if all your working life you’ve been a baker (for example), what do you know about a job in factory management? Your resume is going to drone on about how you’ve made various loaves, cakes, cookies etc but that will singularly fail to impress a recruitment officer trying to fill a position for a production controller. On the other hand (and assuming that you are actually capable of doing the work), you can make sure that your ‘Principal duties’ for each job, include some relevant statement(s). For example:
- “Oversaw junior staff and ensured products were ready in time for agreed deadlines”
- “Chased up suppliers to prevent tardiness of goods inwards”
- “Organized baking schedules to run at optimum efficiency”
- “Liaised with stores, negotiated viable delivery times, and followed up to see that these were always met”
Basically, you are showing that you understand the main thrust of the job and can demonstrate you are capable of doing it. No good boasting about the different types of things you’ve made or how many thousand loaves a week you’ve turned out – it’s just not relevant!
Relevance – If you don’t know why they should give you the job, why should they?
I’ve seen some terrible things in resumes over the years. The trouble is that this is such a wide field that all I can give you are examples of highly revealing comments written into CV’s and their covering letters.
You are best advised to get a friend to carefully scrutinize your own offerings to see that you aren’t guilty of including something similar to the below:
- “I’m looking for something not too taxing”
- “Will I be refunded for my traveling expenses?”
- “How much are you paying?”
- “I’ve got holidays booked so I’ll need to work round them”
- “I don’t like working overtime”
… and so on.
While, with the exception of the first, they may all be things that eventually need to be discussed, they do not belong in an application. Your resume wants to sing out (in a subtle way) about how wonderfully diligent you are, about what an asset you would be, and to generally entice the company to invite you to attend an interview.
A fisherman doesn’t wind in his line until the fish has firmly taken the bait.
Attitude – if you have it, don’t show it, because, if you do, it will cost you the job.
When I was a lad, one of the senior managers took me on one side and said, “Son, this you have to know. When in a strange town, always look for the bakery with a queue outside at lunchtime – that’s the one to go in.”
Great words of wisdom, indeed.
Sometimes you have to judge things by implication rather than by direct experience. The interviewer can’t try out half a dozen candidates to see which is best – they want to get it right first time. Therefore if you send in a resume peppered with spelling and grammar mistakes, what does it say about you?
The following ‘qualities’ come to mind:
- Poorly educated
There’s a good video on Youtube which can help you make sure that your resume goes out error-free.
The level of the standards you display in your resume is directly proportional to the probability of you getting an interview.
The hook is what makes your resume stand out. This does not mean spraying it with perfume/cologne, printing it on luminous paper (don’t even think about it) or stapling a pair of lacy undies to it (especially if you are a man).
The hook is what truly personalizes your application and entices the interviewer to want to know more about you. Understand that, as the interviewer, you would be swamped with applications – many pointless or semi-insulting, loads of other no-hopers, and a few genuine candidates among a heap of dross.
The person doing the pre-screening is probably bored rigid (I used to be) so think of them. Give them something original to ask at your interview.
A hook can be defined as a snippet of information which:
- Connects you and the job in a unique way
- Shows how the job appeals to you for some reason other than money or work
- Tells the interviewer a truly fascinating fact about yourself which they will want to follow up on
The hook is like a competition tie-breaker so, if every job has a catch, every application should have its hook.
If you’ve been out of work, it’s easy to give up. The simple answer is – don’t! No matter how dark it may be, there is light at the end of the tunnel so it’s just a case of persevering. However, if you’ve read this blog, you should, hopefully, have some ideas on how to stack the odds in your favor and that never hurt anyone!
Summarizing, you should always be on the look-out to see your resume and covering letter tackle the following questions:
- What exactly are you applying for?
- Why should they give you the job?
- What hidden message are you conveying about yourself?
- Why should you be trusted to do this particular job?
- What will make the interviewer want to see you?
If, on looking back at your resume, you haven’t at least adequately answered these questions, you really should consign it to the trash can and start again.
The Boss ran an employment agency for 12 years before selling it to a rival company. During the years of his directorship, the business received over 15,000 job applications and had nearly 1,000 active outworkers at any one time. Before that, The Boss was a senior officer in marketing and management. As a key part of his work, he has both devised aptitude tests and interviewed extensively. He is now a busy careers journalist.