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A Resume for New Realities

A woman is using a tablet to look at a resume.

​The global coronavirus pandemic has cause substantial employment disruption. As of April 16, more than 22 million people in the U.S. had filed for unemployment benefits as businesses closed and people followed stay-at-home orders. This is a time when, with a realistic eye on business developments, you hope for the best but prepare for the worst. For your career, this means being ready to take immediate, effective action if you are laid off.

The jobs lost during this economic downturn will come back over time. People who pay close attention to their career management strategy will bounce back because they have invested time in tactical preparation.

Throw Out Your Old Resume

Your resume is the foundation of every successful strategic career move. It is the most important part of your strategy to get back to work after a layoff. Done well, it's the document that puts food on your table and keeps a roof over your head. It opens the doors of opportunity and helps you turn job interviews into job offers. It's simple: When your resume works, you work, and when it doesn't, you don't.

First, let me give you an example of what not to do: Do not create a resume that is a comprehensive retelling of everything you've done in your career. Chronological lists lack focus and cause resumes to sink to the bottom of resume databases.

Recruiters and headhunters search these databases with the intent of finding resumes that fit a specific job opening and job description. In other words, the resume that most closely reflects the experience requested in the job description has greater odds of being seen and reviewed by a recruiter.

Choose the Best Job to Pursue

The most effective resume you can write will not be generic or a complete recounting of your career, but instead it will focus on one very specific job and speak clearly about your ability to deliver on the responsibilities of that job using, whenever possible, the terminology found in the job posting and job description.

Each resume you write needs to be focused on a specific target job. Get started with these simple steps:

1. Make a list of all the jobs you can do (e.g., recruiter for a midsize company, recruiter in a specific industry, generalist for a small company in any industry, HR department of one for one or two different industries, etc.).

2. Prioritize those jobs based on how well you can do the following:

  • Make the strongest argument for it in a resume.
  • Make the strongest argument for it in an interview.
  • Fulfill the needs of the job most successfully.

3. Examine how employers are describing their requirements for each job. Search for each of the titles on careers websites and identify two characteristics:

  • The number of results for each title. The more listings identified, the greater the employment opportunities.
  • How closely your preferred titles match the employers' job descriptions. Make sure you are targeting jobs for which your experience matches the skills the market requires.

If you are currently employed, get your job-search skills up to speed, and be ready to launch your job search right away if your company indicates it may be in trouble. If you've been laid off, I wouldn't advise going after a job that's a stretch or would involve a promotion. Target a job you've already done or can perform with ease.

Write Your New Resume

Make sure your resume is data-dense—packed with the information the employer for that job wants to see and describes your skills and abilities in terms familiar to the employer.

Take the top job from your prioritized list and collect six job postings for that specific job. Note that while titles vary from company to company, the underlying job should be the same. It does not matter, at this point, where that job is located. You just need to get a good idea of what skills employers look for when they recruit for this title and how they express those needs.
This preparation will be the backbone of your new, highly discoverable resume that will help you land interviews. Plus, when you do this kind of homework, you'll be ready for any question that an interviewer might throw at you. That's a how a properly built resume should work for you, with every action thereafter helping you as your job transition progresses.

It will take a few days to do this research thoroughly. Next week, we'll look at how to guarantee your resume's discoverability.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.