Most job seekers treat their resumes and cover letters like a list of job descriptions, not a marketing tool. They don’t realize that it’s about marketing themselves and selling their success, skills and experience. It’s tempting to start sending out resumes, I know. It feels really productive—but you should actually focus on planning your job search before sending a single application.
In marketing, you create content for a specific audience so it engages the exact people you want to reach. That’s how you should approach your resume, cover letter and broader job search. Your job search is really about helping companies find you and understand how you help them succeed, whether that’s more sales, great leadership or better governance. If you’re pivoting to a new industry, you can still market yourself effectively… even if you lack industry experience, education or skills.
Show what you do have and will bring to the role, highlighting experience and skills that transfer well. You’d be surprised how often a hiring manager isn’t even focused on those gaps!
First, plan to run a targeted job search and avoid the mass application strategy. On average, with a success rate of 2-3.4%, it takes 50 applications to land one interview, but don’t mistake volume for quality. You’re better off planning out 10-20 target companies and researching them, strategizing your fit and reviewing your networking strategy than blasting out 100 generic resumes.
As you plan, think about how you fit the positions you’re interested in. Think about the challenges they are trying to solve with this role and how you can contribute. Look at your network for who works there—even former clients, vendors or alumni. It’s only after you’ve done this planning phase that you’re ready to start writing or editing your resume and cover letter because now you know exactly what it takes to get the attention of hiring managers.