The 5 Steps to Optimize Your Resume, To Stand Out From The Crowd

career coaching how to write a resume resume resume optimization tech leader power lunch Feb 08, 2021

Transcript of video: 

Welcome to the Tech Leader Power Lunch. I'm excited that you're here! Today we're going to focus on the five steps to optimize your resume to stand out from the crowd. Most of you are probably in some form of a job search. If you're not, and you're calling into today's topic, don't worry, I've got a tip for you at the end as well.


  • Quick intro, in case we haven't met yet, then I'm going to if we have met, I am going to start sharing a little-known fact about myself, so it's not so repetitive every week, just for fun,
  • then we're going to dive into the number one mistake that people make with their resume.
  • Then we're going to talk about the five steps to optimize your resume based on that mistake.
  • And then I'll share a quick tip if you are not currently searching, what to do with your resume.

If we haven't met yet, my name is Melisa Liberman. I am a former tech executive. I have also been a tech leader most of my career. I spent the first part of my career at Accenture and then most of it building a SaaS software company to a quarter of a billion-dollar exit. Now, I've been focused for the last eight years on helping other tech leaders get exactly what they want out of their career. And that's why we're here today, I want to help you with your resume specifically, and get it to the place where it's much more strategic.

So, like I mentioned, I'm going to start sharing a little-known fact for those of you who call in every week and hear the same slide. Today's little-known fact is I grew up on a fifth-generation cattle ranch. So, I guess I'm a rancher, but mostly I'm a tech executive.

1st – The Mistake Most People Make With Their Resume

This is really important because it's going to be the foundation of what of those five steps, I'm going to give you here in a minute, update your resume, what I see in the hundreds of hundreds of resumes that I read is that people are writing it from their own perspective, not from the buyer’s perspective. So, when we're talking about a buyer, in this context, we're talking about someone who wants to hire you and pay you money for doing a job. So, people list out there, you may relate to this, right? You, you are ready to update your resume. So, you go there on the page, and you start listing out all the things you've done. And you list out the responsibilities you've had and you sometimes you put in outcomes and results and numbers in there because someone told you to do that. But and then so you get yourself a baseline. And from there, you start tailoring it as you go as you apply to jobs or as your networking or as you kind of figure out what you want to do next. And a lot of times you do that by shoving in keywords that you find on a job description. And so today I want to talk to you about how that's backwards and why that is causes a problem. The reason this is backwards why this is a mistake is that in doing it this way, where you're basically looking at the resume as just a summary of your experience and skills is that it loses the power of your resume as a sales tool. The resume is a sales tool. It's not a summary of your responsibilities and your background and your skills. And that's a nuance. But it's a very important nuance. And it's what most people are missing. And so what happens is tailoring takes forever to get the job description the way you want it to, for a certain job. If you're using any kind of tool to compare the job to your resume, you're getting really low scores. And you're probably wasting time, you know, I've got a lot of clients who come to me and it, and they are telling me how much time they've spent upfront, getting everything perfect, which is not a thing. And before they even start their job, I was talking to someone the other day, they've been working on it for three months, three months working on this, and they're not even working on the right thing. So don't waste your time perfecting your resume, especially with taking the approach which I just described to you.

And then finally, the impact of approaching your resume that way, the way most people do almost everyone is that your resume doesn't tell a story, it doesn't tell a story of how you can impact your next organization. If you can relate to having taken that approach us in some way to your resume, let's dive into the five steps to optimize your resume, whether it's a retrofit, like you've already got your resume, you're already sending it out, you might have even had a resume writer do it for you. I am not a resume writer, but I'm a resume rewriter. And so that's what's I think more important here, we don't want to have to keep rewriting your resume, because it's not selling you. Or you might be here because you haven't started yet. So either way, what I'm going to share with you these five steps today applies to your situation. And like I said at the beginning, if you're not in a job search right now, at the end, here after the first after these five steps, I'll give you a tip for how to keep your resume the information you need, eventually, so that when you do update your resume, you'll have it. And for those of you who are in a job search, I highly recommend you do this step as well. So it's like a six bonus step.

The 5 Steps To Optimize Your Resume (retrofit or new)

Step 1:

So let's start with step number one, we're going to take this approach that I'm giving you today, these five steps are really looking at the resume as a sales tool, as a way to sell you have to perform a job function that someone is willing to pay for. And so that's why I'm giving you these steps in this order. And looking at your experience from a different perspective. So again, if you already have your resume, just set it aside, do these five steps and the fifth step will I'll teach you how to incorporate what I'm when I'm walking you through into your existing resume. So, we're taking this a blank sheet of paper right now we're not referencing your resume at the moment. And we're starting from the opposite perspective of what you've probably done so far.

We're going to start with step one, on what is someone trying to buy you to do. All right, what is the job description they're wanting you to fulfill. The step here is to really understand from their requirement perspective, what is it they're looking for, not what you have yet, we're not worried about that. We're looking at what are you trying to do so let's just take a project manager, for example, if you are a project manager or a technical project manager, you're going to go out and you're going to find three to five job descriptions that are your ideal job. Don't get hung up on this. So many we're all perfectionists here. I think if you are anything like it think you are probably a perfectionist. Don't get hung up on this. It could be a job in in Boston and you live in, in Phoenix, it doesn't matter. What matters is this is the description of the job, the functions that things I would be doing the types of customers I would be working with the types of activities I would be doing, the types of outcomes that I would be accomplishing the industry that I love, and that's what we're looking for here. So, go find three to five job descriptions. Save them off case they go missing when the when the job's taken down, and then just look at them.

Spend 15 minutes:

  • What are the common themes,
  • what skills are they looking for
  • what types of experiences do they seem to value?
  • What are the key words and phrases that you see? What are they looking for, from an ideal perspective to fill their need?

Now, just as a word of caution, not all of these requirements are going to be must haves. So I'm not asking you to do this to start ruling yourself out and trying to say I don't, I don't qualify for that. That's not what we're doing here. What we're doing here is, this is the finding the three to five jobs you would love to accept. This is it, this is the ideal, and figuring out what it is they're looking for, what are the themes, okay, so don't rule yourself out, that's not the point.

Step 2:

Step two, go back through that list you just made. And list out, you've got your list now ever all the themes, and then just map what your experience is to those job requirements and those things. Very simple. I don't think we have enough time today to do this in sometimes we do the work as we go. But you'll be able to come back, I'll send out the slides on Monday, you can come back and start executing this process. Just as a bonus. This is this is awesome for interview prep, too. So you're going to be killing two birds with one stone here. Alright, so that's step two, step three, this one is if I give you any step, this is the one.

Step 3:

So pay attention to this. brainstorm out why are they hiring you for the role they want to fill?

  • Why would the company pay you? Whatever you're looking for, for you to do the job? What is the return on investment? I cannot emphasize this enough.
  • What results do they want to accomplish?


Here's the answer I usually get from people initially

  • oh, they have a backfill? No, that's not the answer.
  • Or Oh, they need a tester like because testing is the right way to do things.
  • Or they need a product manager because that's the right way to develop software.
  • Or they're too busy and they need more capacity.

Those are not the answers. No one's paying you six figures because they need more capacity. That's not the real reason, right. The reason I'm telling you right now? No, almost everyone I talked to initially thinks these are the answers because there's just kind of the the low hanging fruit, right? This is not the answer.

The answer is something like:

  • they need to increase revenue. They're falling behind their projections, and they need to increase revenue.
  • They're their competitors are overtaking their market share. They need to address their product gaps.

What did these companies hire your role? What kind of return on investment are they looking for? If you're in sales, it's usually much simpler, right? They need more revenue. But if you're not in sales, then you've got to really look at this and say, Okay, why would someone pay me more than six figures or some form of six figures to do this job? It's not for the reason of this is the right way to do things. software can be released with bugs all the time, software can be released with without a usable process all the time, right? That's we're not here to do things right or be paid to, because a company wants to do things, right. We're here because they're trying to achieve a business results. So it might be revenue, or it might be the quality of project delivery. So customers are referenceable and want to buy more like dig in and figure out why whatever you do whatever you want to do as your job. You figure out why or the reason someone would pay for that. And don't settle for these simple answers here. That one's super important. 

Step 4:

Then go back, you've got your list. Now these are all the outcomes and go back and map your experience to those outcomes to those results. So, this would look like things like I worked at this in this particular job title and accomplish X, Y and Z. I worked on this project and accomplish X, Y and Z. I worked with this client and accomplished X, Y and Z and it's all outcome based And it's all quantifiable. All right. So think about your experience from the perspective of why would someone pay you to do this job? Why is someone need what is the return on investment for what you're offering. And again, this step is really good for bowknot for interview prep as well. Because we want everything to be outcome oriented to be a return on investment, to be the person who sees that our function isn't just a fallacy, it's to actually add value and benefit to the organization. And to make that person's life easier, that's hiring you. Alright, so that's step number four.

Step 5:

Step number five - we take the list from step two, and four. And very simply, we incorporate those into your resume. So, we go back to the resume and say, doesn't matter if you spent two hours on the resume, or two weeks on the resume, not a problem, we're just looking at it with a fresh eye. And we're figuring out, does it address the requirements and the outcomes that someone would pay me to deliver? Most of the time, before you have this kind of review? The answer's no. A lot of times, you're like, yep, I've got all my, all the outcomes in there. It's quantifiable, it's great. It's good to go. Someone wrote it for me. And I'm good to go, Melisa, my problem isn't my resume. My problem is networking, or interviews, or whatever it is. And then I look at their resume, I'm like, No, this is not where you're at, we need to make these adjustments. And keep in mind, let's just be clear, the purpose of the resume isn't to get you a job. Right. But it's one of the steps to get you a job. And that's why we're focused on it today.

The other benefit of this, let's just say you are one of the people a unicorn whose resume is great, there are some of you out there. This process also helps you prep for your interviews as well. So let's just do it. Let's go through, add together steps two and four, and then just audit your resume.

Does my resume address all of these requirements that a potential employer is hiring me to do?

Does my resume address all of these outcomes that someone would be paying me to accomplish? And the way to confirm that is, number one, read it out loud? So many people skip this super simple step? Read it out loud to yourself? What does it sound like? This is just a great way to prove it, right? A lot of times you read it out loud, you're like, oh, the tenses are different, right? Like you can find super simple thing just by reading it out loud. But what we're talking about today is how do we make it strategic.

So you're going to read it out loud. And after each phrase, you're going to ask yourself, who cares? We get so attached to things, right? It's like, Oh, I did that project. It was amazing. I have a client who is super proud of this project that she was able to take a process that took like three days down to maybe 30 minutes. It's a great process. It was a great outcome. But she can't have that as the top thing on your resume. When the business impact of it was not, you know, it wasn't saving hundreds of millions of dollars, right? It was like this amazing thing she did. But it's like MIT for the middle of the resume, not for the very first line. But it was such a pet project and something she was so proud of. She had to have it on the top. And I'm like, No, what, who cares? Who cares? Why did I include this to include? Because it was my pet project? Something I loved? Or did I include it because it matches the requirements or the outcome someone would be paying me to do? So just take a step back and say this is a sales tool. This isn't my biography. So I got to think about what I'm putting on here from that lens. Number two, is it outcome oriented? I see so many resumes that just listings like well, the hiring manager should figure it out. Well, I don't understand why the hiring manager didn't see that on my resume. Why is he asking me that question? I have it on my resume like people are pissed the hiring manager didn't get it I haven't there was the problem. The problem is you didn't sell it. Isn't hiring managers gonna spend five seconds looking at your resume? Make it every word count on there. Make it outcome oriented so they can see why you put it there in the first place and and then dive into it in more detail in the interview.

And then finally, did you quantify it? Did you put a number there and use the number, please don't write out the number. If the numbers for put forward, don't put the number written out, the human eye goes to numbers, you're going to have someone spending more time looking at your resume, if you have the number there, then if you have the word. So that's a super simple fix, right? Make sure you have the number there, the numeric value, instead of the word. The other thing people say to me is, oh, I don't remember the number. It was a long time ago, I totally get that. Just put a Tilda there. I think it was about this much in the ballpark, right. So go back and look at your resume from that lens, and turn it into a sales tool versus a biography. And this is what's going to make your resume so much more strategic. And we can talk another day, I promise you about why resumes are more of a formality. But but because today's topic about is about your resume, you want it to count, you want it to count, you want it to be a sales tool, and not just a list of all the things you did and hoping that someone asks you about it, you could tell them more in the interview.

I hope those five steps are really helpful.

The Time-Saving Tip If Not In A Job Search

For those of you who are not in a job search right now. Or after you land a job, I highly recommend you take this simple step I'm going to give you right now. So the time saving time saving tip, if you're not in a job search or after you land your job is to track your results on an accomplishment log, super simple. This is what it could look like. You're literally every month at the end of the month. So that would be today, you sit down, you write out the one or two things you accomplished that month, it was a project some deliverable, an activity of some sort, what was the outcome in a quantifiable way. So that when you have to go update your resume in, in two years, or 10 years, however long it is, you've got all of those numbers. And you don't forget, I mean, we all forget most of the stuff we've done, right? Like you've got some really powerful stuff you're working on, don't let it go to waste. So once a month, just write yourself out two or three of these. Keep that put the numbers there so you don't forget them and jot down your lessons learned. What did I learn from this? What went really well? And what would I do differently next time. And now you've got this amazing point of information, this whole Bank of information that you can use on your resume and for interviews going forward. And by the way, those interviews could be external or it could be for a promotion. So this thing, this step is super important for you to manage your career more proactively. All right, super. I'm super passionate about today's topics.


Okay, so a couple of questions you might want to ask. And I see there's some more in the q&a. So I'll get to those here in a minute.

  1. What if there's more than one job title I want to pursue? What do I do? Just do this more than one time? Simple. Complete the five steps for each job title that you want, and want to pursue?
  2. I'm already in a job search and getting interviews. Is it worth it to update my resume now? Or should I just use what I have and keep doing what I've been doing tailoring it? I would highly recommend that you go through this process. Even if your resume is working right now. And you're generating interviews, don't spend a bunch of time on what I just walked you through. But I do recommend you go back through these five steps because it will help you upgrade your resume. And you know, simply it should take you less time to tailor it as you move forward. And most importantly, it's a great interview prep, great way to prep for an interview answering those questions on steps one and three.


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