You can hear the sweet band of trumpets and percussions in the background playing your favorite song. You marvel at the intricate footwork gracing the shiny hardwood floor. Your heart pounds with anticipation, seemingly in sync with every bouncing beat... For all the bracketologists and devout college basketball fans out there, you know that there's only one "Dance" and everyone wants a shot at getting invited.
Sorry to disappoint, I’m not actually going to talk basketball or predictions for your office pools. I just thought it would be fun to look at the job selection process in a different way, and with March Madness soon upon us, I thought it was fitting to use it as an analogy.
To my fellow sports fans, I know you will follow, but for those who thought the Big Dance was about Dancing with the Stars, please indulge me if you will… :)
I am simply suggesting that the selection process for a job shares many of the same elements as the selection process for March Madness. The teams not entered automatically by winning their conference have to be chosen; this selection process is competitive, serious, and intense. Teams are prudently reviewed by a Committee, and what is most carefully scrutinized and assessed is their track record, their quality and rigor of play, and the way they finish off a season. Those whose records stand out get invited to the “Big Dance.”
Similarly, proven track record, quality and rigor of work, and end results are key factors employers consider in prospective employees. “Proven track record,” “demonstrated ability,” “results driven” – sound familiar? - all common language used in job posts to describe the type of employee an organization is looking to hire. When an employer asks or looks at your resume to learn about your experience, she/he is not just looking to see what you’ve done, she/he is looking to see how successful you’ve been at what you’ve done and at the context of your work (did the team have a flawless record over easy teams or a strong record playing against top seeds/did you help maintain an already high performing school, or did you turn around a failing school). While experience is important of course, it’s quality over quantity. More than just years of experience, employers are looking for people who took on and overcame a challenge in the organization, used an innovative approach to solving a long standing problem for the organization, guided an idea from concept through implementation, created a program that had huge impact the organization’s bottom line, or raised achievement or profit levels. It’s not enough to successfully complete tasks to carry out a job. It’s about outcomes and results!
With that said, the place to start is your resume. Your resume is the instrument that will often determine (potentially along with a Google search, which is becoming more standard) whether you get called for the interview, and get your foot in the door. In a competitive market, where there are large numbers of resumes pouring in for one position, your resume has to stand out. Task oriented resumes are helpful to the extent that they help build understanding around the kinds of skills and experience you bring, but results or outcome based resumes provide the opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates with the same or even more years of experience. Instead of just sharing that you’ve been a teacher for 10 years, take the opportunity to highlight some of your successes in student achievement in your 10 years to separate yourself out from the others. A hiring manager will take notice because you will show that you have skills, know-how, and successful strategies that are proven and are working. Hiring managers may ask for candidates with a minimum number of years of experience (feeling that a person has to have had a certain amount of exposure to the job and the work to be well prepared), but there is no longer the assumption that someone who has more years of experience is automatically a stronger candidate than someone with less. Hiring Managers dig deeper, and not only look at where you’ve worked and for how long, but at the quality and rigor of your work, and the contributions you made and goals you achieved.
Once you land the interview and your foot is in the door, then you’ll have your chance to share more deeply the quality of your experience and the significance of the work you’ve done to that point, and how that all translates to success in the role for which you are applying. It is then that you will have your shot of being invited to the “Big Dance!”
So when you use your resume to guide a potential employer through your professional journey, make sure to point out your successes and all the contributions you have made along the way!
Applying this strategy will be the difference between you wishing or swishing. (sorry, couldn’t resist :))