Highlight Your Skills
I was asked to help a job seeker under a really tight deadline. The job seeker wanted to apply for a job that appeared to be an ideal match to their goals and needed to get their resume submitted that same day.
Because of the deadline, we focused on the quick and easy changes that would make a huge difference. I wanted to share some of the changes we made.
The job seeker is a freelance graphic designer with a specialty in digital photo editing. The job seeker is pursuing a full time digital photo editing position. The position is a close match to the individual's background and skills. The key is getting the resume to reflect this match.
Below is the original text of the job seeker's most recent position.
FREELANCE PHOTO EDITING 2003 – present
• Create logos, business cards, brochures and a wide range of literature pieces for various businesses.
• Photo editing for websites, books, special occasions, sales; each for both public and private clients.
• Specializes in combing photos, replacing backgrounds, and improving overall appearance of photos.
This employment listing has a lot of problems, starting with being too brief and not specific enough. The first bullet is ok. It's descriptive and gives a list of commercial work the individual has done, but none of it relates to photo editing and seems a little out of place.
The second bullet has a different sentence structure – there isn't a verb in this bullet. The bullet relates to photo editing but doesn't say anything about what the job seeker did. It only lists the applications where the edited photos have been used.
The third bullet is the meat of the description. It lists specific photo editing skills – combing, replacing backgrounds and improving appearance. This is very general and will not impress a hiring manager. Every job seeker that applies for this position will say something about their ability to "improve the overall appearance of photos." If everyone says the same thing, it will not differentiate you to say it also. It is essential to be specific and show how you are different.
We revised the job description to be much more specific. Below is the new description:
FREELANCE PHOTO EDITOR/GRAPHIC DESIGNER 2003 – present
- Creates logos, business cards, brochures and a wide range of marketing materials for various businesses.
- Provides photo editing for websites, books, special occasions and sales materials. Clients include both individuals and commercial businesses.
- Photo editing specialties include:
- Replacing backgrounds
- Cropping photos
- Removing wrinkles, background objects/people and reflections
- Compilation photos: merging people from different photos for holiday cards, switching people from group photos so everyone is smiling and with their eyes open
- Adjusting tint, color and lighting
- Creating video slideshows from still photos including text, menus, transitions, and music
- Stylizing photos with a wide variety of techniques
We changed the job title to show the greater scope of experience, making the first bullet fit better with the job. We added a verb to the second bullet and reworded the description of the clients. The big change was made to the third bullet. We scrap the text and replaced it with a skills list. This is still a general listing of skills but we added extra detail in a few places. In particular, we added a clear description of the compilation photos.
If we had listed just “compilation photos,” this would not have been as effective. By describing clearing a couple of the project types in this category, we demonstrated the job seeker's skill with photo editing. These are more advanced skills. By just listing that the job seeker has completed projects requiring these skills, they establish credibility with these skills and with all of the photo editing skills.
Another advantage of listing all of these skills related to the hiring manager's goals. It is likely that a few of these skills are a higher priority than the others. If they have one significant priority, they will screen resumes by looking for this skill. Listing all of the job seekers' photo editing skills increases the likelihood that the job seeker has mentioned the exact skill the hiring manager wants.
To make room on the resume for the added information, we deleted information from past positions. There were some bullets that demonstrated skills and experiences that do nothing to support the graphic design and photo editing skills. Since these didn't add value, we deleted them. If the job seeker decided to apply for a position focused in these areas, they would need to add them back and deleted some of the detail from the photo editing.
We made a lot of other changes to the resume. One of the most important additions was to add a link to the job seeker's online portfolio. It is important to show your past performance. Most people can do this by describing accomplishments. In design fields, it is often much easier to show what the job seeker has designed. An online portfolio does this very well.