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What makes an employer choose one resume or person over another for a job offer? With this in mind, let’s take a trip down this isle of a grocery store – the isle that sells cereal. Why would you choose one cereal over another?

1. The Packaging
The packaging on the cereal box is certainly the start. Eye-catching colors and descriptive words will draw attention — low fat, energy boosting, multiple vitamins — all the things consumers are looking for.

How’s your packaging? Could you use an update? Appearance and first impressions count.

The words on the package are specific to attract a certain customer base. This is much like the posting the employer posts to find the right candidate. What is the employer looking for? On the resume –  they are looking for the words – key words. Choosing words that will interest the company – using their own postings to find what they want. Using these words will certainly grab their attention.

In the interview – they are looking for someone who they would be proud to represent their company – someone who looks professional, confident and groomed. Of course, the level of dress and professionalism will depend on the job, but there is no excuse for poor grooming.

2. The Ingredients
The ingredients of a cereal can make or break the sale of the product.

The list of ingredients (skills) that you have to offer can make or break the sale of your product – YOU.  Whether the skills are listed on your resume or said in an interview, it is important that you let the interviewer know that you have the ingredients – the skills – in other words, what it takes to get the job done.

Skills can be grouped into three categories:
•    Skills learned through past experience and education (knowledge-based skills).
•    Skills you bring with you to any job (transferable or portable skills).
•    Personal traits, the things that make you who you are.

3. Knowing What Your Product Can Offer – Assessing Your Skills
To aid you in the assessment of your skills, make three columns and label them –  “previous experience/education;” “transferable skills;” and “personal traits.”

In the “previous experience/education” column summarize your experience and education that will be of interest to the employer.

Under “transferable skills” make a list of all the skills and traits that you have that are completely portable – and valuable to any job.

In the “personal traits column” list those skills that make you – YOU. This is a good place to draw from comments you have received from others – or past performance appraisals.

When you are finished, check the list over. You might be surprised at how easily the list comes together, describing who you are and what you have to offer. By dividing the skills this way, the task becomes manageable. Trying to look at everything at once is like looking at those cereal boxes – too confusing.

Getting words on paper is one of the most difficult steps of putting your “ingredients” list together. This is a good exercise for anyone beginning the search process, or as a periodic check or inventory for the more experienced. The skills will be the foundation of the strategy you will use to sell yourself.