Get the Job!
Published in CareersConnect, November 2012
By Travis Authier
On a given day, a recruiting team may pull hundreds of résumés from which they select the most available, capable, and affordable candidates for further consideration. Those that are noticed first generally have the right credentials—and they show it! Of course if you know you’re light on qualifications, give yourself a fighting chance by presenting a thoughtful, professional résumé that best represents your capabilities.
Like a savory dish at a five-star restaurant, you have to add garnish to your résumé to get it the attention it deserves. Decoration in the form of professional certifications, training, and degrees are the way to make this happen. This is easier said than done, however, because they can be time consuming and expensive. Nonetheless, realize that the labor pool of qualified professionals is getting saturated and it’s becoming harder to distinguish oneself with experience alone. In fact, while the federal government often exchanges experience in lieu of professional certifications in their hiring process, the same standard doesn’t always apply when they request talent from their industry partners. The unfortunate truth is that many consulting firms that specialize in contract management support services have had to turn away seasoned veterans with 20+ years of experience because their client required a certain certification or training from their candidates. Don’t let this happen to you! Instead, stock your résumé with relevant training and certifications that will make it shine. There are four distinct benefits that immediately come to mind:
Aside from making yourself more marketable, certifications also serve as a great form of employment protection. The more of them you have, the more insulated you are from being unemployed for a prolonged period of time. Having a CFCM, MBA, or FAC-C Level II alone should get you an interview by someone and, of course, if you have other related training and experience to accompany it, you’ll surface in even more recruiter web searches and become marketable to even more firms. Remember, even if you don’t have the certifications themselves, annotating related training can only help your case.
By knowing that you are among the most qualified of candidates from whom a recruiter has to choose, you automatically shift the balance of power in salary negotiations. Now, instead of hoping that someone offers you a job, you can negotiate with more confidence and wait until the right offer comes along. All of a sudden, instead of “seeking” work, you’ve become more actively “sought after,” which is the ideal position!
Just as lawyers and doctors often place designations such as JD (Juris Doctorate) or PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in their signature blocks, contract professionals have designations, too. Placing your hard-earned CFCM or CPCM title in your own signature block is a subtle advertisement in every e-mail you send. It tells the reader that you’re a qualified professional in your field. Adding these same designations to your name on different social networking sites, such as LinkedIn or your ContractManagementJobs.com account, will get you instant recognition.
This may be one of the more overlooked or least considered benefits that stem from obtaining professional certifications and education. The truth is when recruiters and their clients see these in a résumé, they are less inclined to probe a candidate for information out of fear of offending a true “contracting professional.” Your relevant certifications and professional education alone validate your standing in the contracting community and your knowledge of contracting principles, thus making your opinion on related matters worthy of consideration.
If you do not have the have the time, money, or experience that professional training or schooling requires to jazz up your résumé, there’s still hope! Even the most accomplished contract managers often sell themselves short by not avoiding some very basic rules concerning résumé presentation. Don’t let the same happen to you. Make the most of your limited credentials by taking a few minutes to consider the following before posting your résumé.
Unless you know your audience and are fairly confident they understand the meaning of an acronym, err on the side of caution and spell it out to avoid confusing them. If you’re applying for a contractor position that supports a federal client, there is a great chance the client will want to see your résumé so it’s important to use terminology with which they are reasonably familiar.
Good contract managers have a keen attention to detail and there’s no better way to misrepresent yourself to a recruiter than by displaying a lack of it in your résumé by demonstrating poor grammar and punctuation. Remember, recruiters need professionals that can represent the company well, so they place a premium on avoiding résumés that appear less than professional grade. Therefore, before posting your résumé on a job search engine, print it, comb it for errors, and consider having a trusted friend review it as well. Your resume is a reflection of you and therefore you want it to represent your capabilities, experiences, and achievements in the best possible light.
Most professionals, save for the most seasoned contracting veterans, cap their résumé at two pages. Recruiters appreciate succinct résumés because when written correctly, two pages are generally enough space to demonstrate if the candidate has the necessary background and training. Consider focusing on quality and not quantity and not generalizing or being overly repetitive. For example, if you’ve performed many of the same tasks throughout your career then find ways to differentiate them. Get specific. For example, instead of mentioning several times the prosaic “performed closeout functions,” turn it into an accomplishment such as “Led team of four in closing out 700 expired contracts in two months, recouping $10,000 in unspent agency funds.” Such statements tend to resonate with the reader.
Final thought: Chances are a recruiter doesn’t know you and, therefore, has only your résumé from which they can base an opinion. Your résumé is your only spokesperson! So think of it as the invitation to your party that you’re dying for recruiters to attend. Create a buzz and generate interest about it. Make the recruiters want to RSVP!
About the Author
Travis Authier, CPCM, CFCM, CCCM is a Senior Program Manager at YRCI. Prior to joining YRCI, he served as an active duty Air Force Contracting Officer and an Acquisition Consultant. As YRCI'c Senior Project Manager, he is responsible for the recruiting, staffing, and execution of a large portfolio of projects on which YRCI employees serve as acquisition consultants to a variety of federal and commercial clients around the nation. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.