- Get Attention
- Capture Interest
- Create Desire
- Call to Action
Using these advertising principles has helped thousands of people in their job search--some of whom were up against formidable odds. It can help you promote yourself as well--and give you the ammunition and confidence to target higher-paying jobs.
STEP 1: HOW TO GRAB YOUR READER'S ATTENTION
To get your attention, copywriters focus on the single strongest benefit the product offers -- FIRST. You don't have to "skip to the end of the book," so to speak, to find out what the benefit is.
Next time you flip through a magazine or turn on the radio, pay close attention to the ads. You'll begin to see a pattern. More often than not, the strongest benefit is seen up front, in the form of a headline.
You can use your "headlines" as a theme throughout the job search. Make them a common thread in your networking, cover letters, resumes, and interviewing. The table below lists four "headlines" an advertising agency copywriter might use in networking, cover letters, the resume, or the interview process.
Where You Can Put Your Headlines to Use:
||"I'm Sheridan McKenzie and I write for a living... I specialize in success stories." (Use of intrigue in response to the age-old inquiry, "So what do you do for a living?")
||Creating attention-getting, hard-selling television ads has generated millions for my clients. (Example of a hard-hitting introductory sentence)
||CLIO award-winning writer featured in Advertising Age and AdWeek. (Qualifications summary)
||"As a top-notch agency writer, I have delivered copy and concepts that exceeded clients' marketing objectives... I can do the same for you."
One of the real benefits to preparing your resume is that none of your prep work will go to waste. Every minute you put into it can be used throughout the networking,
correspondence, and interview process. More important, the process will add to your sense of accomplishment and, best of all, your confidence! You'll need every ounce you can muster as you launch your job search.
Most of us think of visuals as pictures. For the purposes of designing your resume, I'll use the word visual to refer to overall eye-appeal.
It takes me three to four seconds to decide if I like the "look" of a resume--whether it has eye-appeal. The key to eye-appeal is using classic design elements. With consistency! Inconsistency in design (also referred to as formatting) makes for an ugly-duckling resume.
In some resumes, you can also draw in your reader by using a visual they can relate to, such as a small graphic that represents your industry or profession.
Using a graphic worked for Jennifer.
Jennifer Marsden, a recent graduate, used this graphic of a mortar and pestle for her pharmaceutical sales search. It gives the impression of industry identification... despite the fact that Jennifer had no experience in pharmaceutical sales. The goal statement was developed from researching Web pages of pharmaceutical companies.
Goal: Pharmaceutical sales position with a research-driven organization committed to manufacturing and marketing products that preserve and improve the quality of human life.
Visual appeal is a HUGE factor in successful resume design. Consistent formatting and use of a tasteful graphic can help accomplish the first step in the employer's "buying" process: Get Your Reader's Attention!
Chapter 8, "Visual Artistry: The Missing Link," will equip you with the complete "how-to's" on design, layout, and format tweaking for maximum visual appeal. Don't miss this chapter.
But now, on to Step 2 in the buying process.
STEP 2: HOW TO CAPTURE YOUR READER'S INTEREST
In real estate, it's location, location, location. The value of the property is based on where it is located.
My husband and I own a 1940s home with what some people consider loads of charm--arched doorways, shiny hardwood floors, ice-cube brick accents, panel doors, picture window overlooking garden. It's located in a nice and relatively safe neighborhood (I guess no place would qualify as absolutely safe these days). The neighborhood just a half mile north of us boasts "preferred" schools, upscale shopping within walking distance, and lower crime rates. The
result: homes of quality and character equal to ours sell for about $100,000 more. Location, location, location.
In resume writing, it's position, position, position. Unless your key information is seen, it won't have value.
TIP: Positioning information is THE critical element in capturing the interest of your reader. If you don't deliver the goods at the visual center of the page, you've lost the reader.
You may be the indisputable, undeniable, hands-down best candidate for the position. But if the evidence to prove it requires your reader to have the investigative skills of Sherlock Holmes, or (my favorite) Hercule Poirot, forget it.
TIP: It is your job--not the reader's--to prove that you fit the position to a T. Organize your material in such a way that the reader would have to be blind to miss your key selling points.
Later in the book, I'll be walking you through the steps of what you should write. First, however, I'll arm you with strategy on where you should position your strongest information... your heavy artillery, if you will.
Selling Points--Front and Center
Art directors at advertising agencies pay careful attention to designing ad layouts. You should too. Remember what your previous primer on advertising taught you? The headline's job is to do this:
To get attention, the headline should focus on your product's single strongest benefit.
A common mistake people make in resume writing is waiting too late to list their most impressive accomplishments. Suppose that your best accomplishment is buried in your reference to an employer from 10 years ago. The reader might need to wade through 7 inches of text before seeing that accomplishment. Will it be seen before the 10-second screening is up? Without hitting hard at the beginning, you're gambling that the reader will read far enough to see
your best point.
A better strategy is to place your strongest selling points at the visual center of the page, which is a two inch horizontal band approximately two inches from the top of an 8.5 x 11-inch paper. On a computer screen, the visual center of the page is the first one or two screens (before the reader scrolls down several times).
A visual center worked for Sean.
The following example is an illustration of how the visual center technique can help an applicant see an employer who had previously screened out the applicant. Sean, a construction management professional, was with a company that was headed south... and not in the geographic sense.
Despite Sean's accomplishments, market factors beyond his control led corporate execs to close the Boston office. Sean was working with a headhunter who presented Sean's resume for a business development position. The company said it wasn't interested.
Sean faxed me the resume he had been using. He knew that his "better" material was buried toward the bottom third of his resume. He just wasn't sure how to overcome this. I suggested a number of changes, including a qualifications section (called Key Accomplishments / Values Offered) with subheadings such as Strategic Planning and Profit Performance. The Before (2.1) and After (2.2) versions are shown next.
Sean tried again with the employer who had turned him down. He got the interview. He also got several others, which eventually presented better offers.
Supporting Information--Below Visual Center
Use the area immediately below the visual center of the page for supporting or secondary information.
Don't be misled by the words supporting information. I am not saying that you should relegate filler material to this area of the resume. To the contrary, you can and should include accomplishments and contributions here. You've already caught the boss-to-be's attention by packing great copy at the visual center of the page. The individual will be motivated to read on. Reward that person's quest!
Using supporting material worked for Veronique
Veronique wrote the paragraph below. Take a pen and underline the 11-word phrase that indicates her accomplishments as regional manager.
Responsible for operation of Dallas and Fort Worth facilities; broker of auto salvage for major insurance companies. Develop and monitor operational budgets; surpassed company goals in sales and service while decreasing operational costs. Develop and organize biweekly auction sales. Client development and ongoing services. Recruit, train, evaluate and supervise staffs in Dallas and Fort Worth offices. Report directly to company
Did you find it? Good job. Now, under her job description, write the accomplishment next to the arrow.
Responsible for operation of Dallas and Fort Worth facilities; broker of auto salvage for major insurance companies. Develop and monitor operational budgets. Develop and organize biweekly auction sales. Client development and ongoing services. Recruit, train, evaluate, and supervise staffs in Dallas and Fort Worth offices. Report directly to company vice-president.
It's amazing how repositioning information can improve your resume. Veronique's accomplishment now stands out. All that was needed was a simple move. It gives it a fresh look, sort of like rearranging the furniture in your living room.
Skimmable Material--Bottom of Page
Your reader will rarely take the time to read a block of thick, paragraph-formatted information at the very bottom of the resume--at least not on the first read. So make it easy on them.
Reserve your final 1-1 1/2 inches of the page for list-driven material, that is, information which lends itself to a listing of items, rather than full-sentence descriptions.
Categories such as education, training, affiliations, travel, and computer skills are good candidates for lists.
A list worked for Carmen.
The following text (Before):
The Volunteer League is an international nonprofit, community service and leadership training organization. Member of the Board of Directors for eight years. Served as president twice from 1989-90 and 1994-1995, with the ultimate responsibility for operations, achievements and morale of the membership. Served as vice-president and Projects Board Chairman, Nominating Chairman, Membership Chairman, Chairman of Volunteer of the Year Award Community
Luncheon, Fashion Show Chairman, and Chairman of Annual Sponsor Dinner. Attended training and leadership conferences, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989. Alumni Advisor to the Board of Directors, 1990-92, 1996-1998.
was reformatted as follows (After):
|COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT (partial list)
The Volunteer League (international service organization; local chapter is 400 members strong):
- Board of Directors
- Nominating Chairman
- Alumni Board Advisor
- Membership Chairman
- President (2 terms)
- Volunteer-of-the-Year Chairman
- Tri-County Fashion Show Chairman
National training and leadership conferences in:
- San Francisco
- San Diego
STEP 3: HOW TO CREATE DESIRE FOR YOUR PRODUCT -- YOU!!
You've passed the first and second benchmarks in the advertising sequence--you've got your reader's attention, and you've generated an interest in you. Your next move is to create desire.
Desire is created when you
- show why the employer needs you.
- show how you can satisfy the need.
- prove your superiority in fulfilling the need.
When your effort to create desire is persuasive, the buyer (your boss-to-be) will want to "own" the product (your services).
Why You Buy
Your decision to buy a product is driven by different needs and wants:
Why Employers Buy
Employers as well have motivations to "buy"--among them, to
- make money
- save money
- save time
- make work easier
- solve a specific problem
- be more competitive
- build relationships/an image
- expand business
- attract new customers
- retain existing customers
Finding the "buying motivators" of your boss-to-be may take some digging. Research the Internet, industry publications, company newsletters, or annual reports. Call friends in the industry. Interview company employees, customers, or competitors. In short, develop a list of specific needs the company has; then address those needs in your resume or cover letter.
Both sides win when you address buying motivators in your resume. Your boss-to-be will get the company's needs met--problems solved, profits realized. And you'll get your needs met: you'll be employed, appreciated, and paid more.
Addressing buying motivators worked for Mario.
Mario knew that DataSafe Company was growing by leaps and bounds. The company specialized in data security and disaster recovery. He'd read about the company in the Business section of the newspaper. (This is a great source of job leads--if you're on the prowl for a new job and haven't been reading the paper, get to the library today and check out back issues.) A star salesman, Mario wanted to be part of the action with this local company that had made
Fortune's list of fastest-growing companies.
Mario made three calls: one to an employee in the company; one to a customer; and one to a competitor of the company. Asking a few pointed questions, he found out what the hot buttons were for DataSafe: territory expansion and product launches. Although he had extensive experience in both areas, his resume didn't show it. The section below shows how rewriting just a few of his accomplishments honed in on
his boss-to-be's needs.
- Managed geographic region from Stockton to Bakersfield.
- Negotiated contracts where TelTech served as exclusive supplier.
- Managed campaigns for three new products.
- Territory Expansion: Recruited to open new 300-square-mile central California territory; met 12-month sales goals in less than nine months.
- Customer Conversion: Persuaded 15 major accounts to sign
exclusivity contracts that generated more than $700,000 in
- Product Launch: Orchestrated introductory campaigns for
three new products, gaining market share ratings as high as
70% and shattering competitor's control of market.
Notice how Mario introduces his accomplishments with words that specifically address the needs of his target company.
Prove Your Superiority
You can also create desire by proving your superiority or reliability. This is most easily done through the use of comparison--with others on your team, with other regions or districts in your company, with your company's competitors, or with the industry standard.
CAUTION: When comparing yourself with others on your team or within your company, be careful! You don't want to sound like a narcissistic Lone Ranger in a climate that worships the consummate team player. Use phrases like "contributed to company successes in revenue growth, profit enhancement . . ." or "member of team that delivered threefold growth in sales...."
Asserting one's own superiority without putting down others worked for Liz.
Liz had interviewed for a sales position in the DME (durable medical equipment) industry. During the battery of interview questions from the interviewer, she was asked:
"Where do you rank among your sales team?"
Liz's response was this:
"Well, I don't have a ranking, since I'm the company's only full-time sales associate."
After the interview, Liz reviewed her handwritten notes. She realized her response to the "where do you rank" question could have been stronger. So, in her thank-you-for-the-interview, follow-up letter, she redeemed this weak response by writing the following:
". . . During our conversation, you inquired about my sales ranking. As I mentioned, the present structure at Dantron does not lend itself to ranking since I am the branch's only full-time sales associate. However, I did some research and found a few numbers that will confirm my performance as a top producer.
The average sales production for the two sales associates who preceded me was $27,000 per month. As of January, my monthly average was $39,000--a 44% increase in sales activity and a record for the branch.
Branch performance is, of course, a team effort. At the same time, it is driven by individual sales. Again, because I was the branch's sole full-time sales associate, my contributions were critical in improving performance scores across-the-board in 1997. For instance
- Irvine tied for first place in the gross profit percentage category.
- The branch generated 100% of sales to budget in a year when the figures for promotions and other expense categories more than tripled.
- Most important, we finished first among eight offices for pre-tax income to budget."
Notice how Liz demonstrates her superiority through comparison with former sales associates and with other branches... without stepping on anyone's toes. She dispels any unvoiced thoughts of the Lone Ranger Syndrome by weaving in the sentence "Branch performance is, of course, a team effort." She also addresses another of the interviewer's buying motivators. The interviewer told Liz her DME company was "driven by sales." Liz had taken good
notes in the interview, so she "fed" this point back to the interviewer with the sentence "At the same time, it is driven by sales."
If you're like most of us, you'll walk out of the interview wishing you had phrased something differently... or, two hours later, you'll remember a great example that would have perfectly illustrated your skills. The follow-up letter is a great place to polish up responses that may have been rough or lacking during the interview.
CALL TO ACTION
You've grabbed attention, captured interest, and created desire. You're at the last step in the sales process--ask for the order. Obviously, at this juncture it's pretty hard to ask for the job. What you'll want to accomplish, however, is to get your reader to take action... any step that will get you face-to-face so that you can eventually "ask for the sale."
Getting the reader to act worked for William.
Many job-hunters close their cover letters with something along the lines of this:
Thank you for the opportunity to be considered for the Product Engineer position.
Much more effective is the technique that William, a production engineer, used. Here's the closing paragraph on his cover letter:
Your schedule permitting, I'd like just a few minutes to show you some prototypes. The technology I developed was successful in solving issues similar to what ABC Company faces. I'll be in the area next week and will call on Monday, the 21st, to see what time might work best with your schedule.
William persuasively, yet politely, wrangled himself an audience with the plant manager... who, by the way, cleared a two o'clock slot on his calendar to get a look at William's prototypes.
Make it easy for your reader to take action. Make sure your telephone number is easy to see. If you're relocating for your next job, consider getting a pager with an 800 number. Or, use a friend's telephone as a message number to give the impression you're serious about relocating.
Adding a pager with an 800 number worked for Ross.
Ross had recently married. His wife Zena lived in San Francisco. He lived and worked in Fresno. A 7-hour, round-trip commute is not terribly conducive to a healthy marriage. Ross was looking for a new job in the Bay Area. Simply revising his resume heading from this:
1442 East Sunnyside
Fresno, CA 93727
1437 12th Avenue #1
San Francisco, CA 94122
Pager: (800) 222-7474
helped to generate call-backs on three of the next five resumes he sent out. The address and telephone were his wife's flat in the city. The pager made it easy for employers to reach him. Your accessibility may mean the difference between getting an interview or not.
Create a hard-hitting lead or headline.
Ensure visual appeal.
Use classic design elements with consistency.
Experiment with a tasteful industry-related graphic.
Position selling points at the visual center of the page.
Position supporting material in the mid to lower range of the page.
Position skimmable list material at the bottom of the page.
Call for Action
Offer some enticement for the employer to meet you (work samples, ideas, and so on).
Ask for the interview; politely suggest a date.
Make it easy for your reader to contact you.