Your Job Search Toolkit — A Resume Template and User’s Guide

Editor’s note: as recruiting professionals, it is important for us to know as much as possible about the candidate side of the recruitment process so we can do our own jobs effectively. I feel that this article from Susan San Martin provides a few good tips from the written perspective of a recruiter offering resume construction resources to job seekers.

I am an executive recruiter . . . a retained recruiter . . . meaning that companies partner with me to identify and secure talent for key positions within their organizations. My expertise is search within the Communications and Marketing disciplines. Prior to executive search, I spent my career rising through the ranks of various Communications and Marketing roles; this is what I know and it was a very natural segue for me. 

My approach to search is very comprehensive. While my priorities are obviously with my clients, I believe in really getting to know candidates for two reasons. First, a deep conversation allows me to assess not only the “technical” fit of the candidate for the hiring organization — the “can this person do the job” fit — but it also allows me to measure whether this candidate’s own career trajectory is aligned with where my Client sees the role going. I also have the ability to determine whether this person will be the right “fit” for the organization; culture fit can be as, if not more, important than “technical.” Second, I enjoy getting to know the broader circle of candidates because I know that if you, Candidate, are not right for a current search, you may be for the next one.

All of these conversations start with resumes . . . my first glimpse into a candidate’s professional story. With the process of getting to know you, can come the familiarity that is usually preceded by, “Can I say something to you without hurting your feelings?” It’s the way you feel when you know you should point out to your beloved uncle that his shirt and tie are so mismatched that to let him go out in public would be devastating. I feel that way about candidates and their resumes, at times. More often than not, I have to tell a candidate that he or she is simply not right for the search. Many of those times have been followed by a “May I make a comment about your resume?” And then I’ll share what didn’t work for me. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a misspelled word or a spacing issue; but frequently, there’s something else . . . something that goes deeper than a technical misstep. It’s more about the fact that what you’ve told me, Candidate, is not what your resume is saying. There’s a disconnect.

Because reading resumes occupies so much of my time, it is inevitable that certain styles will stand out more than others — for good or for bad. As I mentioned in “Is Your Resume Guilty of Horror Vacuii,” a preferred style started emerging after an exercise where I spread dozens of resumes across a table. I then started pulling out the resumes that caught my eye because they were attractive . . . they stood out because they were inviting. I would then focus on content; it was a case of form over function, at the outset.

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When delicately broaching the subject with candidates, I found myself making small suggestions . . . hints about how a few changes to his/her resume could provide a more accurate reflection of who they are as a candidate. In some cases, I rewrote sections . . . in a few instances, I’ve completely overhauled resumes. The suggestions, though, were always consistent with what I saw in the “survivor” resumes from the Great Table Experiment of ’09. Because resume writing is not a service I provide, and the process is so time-consuming, I started pulling those sections together and forming a template that could help those who wanted it. I shared the finished product with several members of the Plan B community who were actively seeking new positions. I wanted to take the template for a test drive and am happy to say that those candidates received very positive feedback about their new resumes.

As I was getting ready to release the template to a broader group, I thought it would be appropriate to provide an accompanying explanation of why I was recommending certain styles or approaches. I soon realized that this would be no small feat . . . that a few paragraphs would not do. Thus, the User’s Guide, which contains about 80 pages of resume guidance from my perspective, was born. As I mention, you can ask 100 recruiters or resume writers or career coaches their opinions and get 100 different answers. These are mine based on what resonates best with me.

With the hiring landscape improving, why not improve your opportunity for being noticed by making some changes . . . or completing overhauling your resume? I am providing links for the Resume Template and the User’s Guide. I’m more than happy to answer questions about either or both, here, or on my company’s Facebook page. I hope you find these tools helpful as you start the New Year with a new perspective on your search efforts.

Susan San Martin is the Principal of Plan B Communications, a retained executive recruiting practice that focuses on mid-to-senior level search for Communications and Marketing functions across all industries. Her career recruiting experience includes key searches for clients such as S. C. Johnson and Son; Davita, Inc.; Western Union; Dell, Aramark; Cardinal Health; Lowe's Companies; The Blackstone Group, among many others. She is an active member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the IABC (International Association of Business Communicators.) Prior to commencing her career in executive search, Susan was a Corporate Communications and Marketing professional with companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. She has worked in several industries including energy, real estate, finance, and business services. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Susan attended St. Joseph's College and Syracuse University School of Law. She lives in southern California with her husband and two daughters.


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