By Wendy S. Enelow, CCM, MRW, JCTC, CPRW
Enelow Enterprises, Inc.
Whether writing your resume, cover letter, or executive leadership profile, having an informal networking lunch with a colleague, or sitting in the boardroom during an interview, it is critical that you speak the language of the position you are seeking and NOT the language of the last job you held. What does that mean?
Here’s an example: Suppose you’ve just resigned from your position as VP of International Sales and are now looking to transition from sales into marketing. DO NOT focus your language on “sales” words (e.g., territory management, sales team training, key account management). Rather, transition your sales skills into “marketing” words (e.g., strategic market planning, competitive analysis, new business development). By doing so, you are presenting yourself as a qualified marketing professional and not just “some sales guy trying to transition into marketing.”
Here’s another example … You’re a CFO seeking a promotion to CEO. In this situation, you don’t want your language to focus on spreadsheets, currency hedging, and corporate treasury. Rather, the emphasis should be placed on strategic planning and development, new ventures, financial achievements, and the like. Describe yourself as “one of three senior executives responsible for leading the entire corporation” and not “just” the CFO. If you use the “right” words, you’ll create the “right” perception. In this instance, you won’t be viewed as the “number cruncher,” but rather as a business driver and leader.
This same strategy applies to industry-specific language. If your entire career has been in the plastics industry and you’re now seeking to transition into the high-tech arena, don’t talk about extrusion molding! Use language that is more general. Talk about the size and scope of the organization you managed, quantifiable achievements, business and operating improvements, and information that is applicable across industries and market segments. Don’t niche yourself into a particular industry by focusing so much of your language on information that is, for the most part, irrelevant at this time.
Language also extends to customer names. Using the “plastics to technology” example above, if your company sold to Amana, Black & Decker, and Whirlpool, either (1) don’t draw attention to those companies, or (2) refer to them collectively as “Fortune 500 customers.” On the other hand, if your customers were IBM, HP, and Dell, be sure to mention them. That language ties you directly to the technology industry and instantly changes a prospective employer’s perception of who you are.
You can also use language that will tie industries together. Again, using the “plastics to technology” example, rather than describing your past employer as a “$45 million manufacturer of automotive and aerospace electronics,” describe it as a “$45 million manufacturer with state-of-the-art technology center.” See what a tremendous difference it makes? Instantly, you’re part of the technology industry and not an outsider.
Underlying ALL of what I’ve written above is one simple and vital rule … YOU MUST BE 100% HONEST! What you write on your resume and what you say during an interview must be totally accurate. There is an invisible line that can never be crossed. So, choose your language carefully and truthfully, but allow yourself to focus on what lies ahead of you and not behind.