Faced with increasingly more-able competitors around the world, employers are now seeking workers who can make a difference on the job. They describe these individuals as 'A-level' performers or with the more general term ‘talent,’ but what they really want is nothing more (or less) than smart workers.
How can you prove you deserve that description? First, of course, you have to be at the state-of-the-art in your occupational field. Then, you have to promote that fact using a smart resume.
Smart workers are always looking for ways to learn from their experience on the job. They see themselves as a ‘work in progress.’ To them, every assignment including the most mundane and ordinary and every challenge including the most demanding and frustrating is a means of developing their skills and knowledge.
That added expertise isn't passive, however. Smart workers are learner-contributors. They seek new expertise in order to improve their performance at work. They want to know more in order to do more and do it better.
That's why employers are trying so hard to find and hire them. If you have any doubt about that, consider the findings of a recent survey by SHRM, the association that represents recruiters and HR professionals. It compiled two sets of data one from 2004, well before the last recession, and the other from 2008, right in the middle of the downturn.
Here’s what the survey found: before the recession, 61 percent of employers were paying hiring bonuses to lure smart workers in the door. In 2008, in the heart of the deepest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression, that figure had increased to 70 percent. Similarly, in 2004, 27 percent of employers were paying retention bonuses to hang onto their smart workers, and in 2008, that number had grown to 38 percent of employers.
Why are so many employers ponying up real money to hire and hang onto smart workers? Because they believe those workers are in short supply. Why do they believe that? Because smart workers are very hard to identify.
Anyone can say they're smart and many people do but how do an organization’s recruiters know candidates will actually perform that way on the job? Old-fashioned resumes are clearly not doing the trick. What’s needed, therefore, is a variation of that document. I call it the smart resume.
What’s Unique About a Smart Resume?
The goal of a smart resume is to portray its owner as a 'work in progress.' It describes both what they have done in their career and what they are doing in their job search as a continuous record of learning. It sets them apart by highlighting their acquisition of skills and knowledge which will enable them to improve their performance continuously.
How does it do that? A smart resume has two distinguishing characteristics:
What you have done on the job.
A smart resume adds a new segment to the description of each job in the Experience section of the document. Once the tasks performed and accomplishments achieved are listed, it concludes with a statement that begins, What I learned. That phrase is followed with a list of the skills, knowledge, insights and wisdom you acquired through that work experience. The statement should not run more than two lines, but it should be as explicit as possible in detailing how you have grown and developed on the job.
What you are doing during your job search.
A smart resume codifies a person's ongoing quest to add to their skills and knowledge even while they are looking for work. Why should anyone add to the pressure and demands of a job search by enrolling in an academic course or training program at the same time? Because doing so tells employers you see yourself as a work in progress and you take personal responsibility for acquiring additional expertise. The resume makes that point by adding a description of your ongoing development to the Education section of the document.
Finally, a smart resume also recognizes that recruiters are often inundated with applicants for their openings. The first review that a resume gets, therefore, is cursory at best. If it doesn't pique the interest of the recruiter in the first four or five lines, it is unlikely to be read any further. To address this situation, a smart resume leads with its owner's strengths.
Since we humans read from the top of the page, a smart resume highlights its owner's commitment to learning where it will be seen first. Directly beneath their name and contact information, it provides a Qualifications Summary which lists their key skills and knowledge. And, the first in that sequence should be something to the effect of "An inquiring mind that is always learning."