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Using Psychology to Get Your Resume Noticed

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This week, I spoke with Paul Endress, a nationally recognized expert in the application of psychology to business in the areas of communication, hiring, and retention. Over the past 25 years, he has started nine companies, which means he knows a thing or two about hiring and what to look for in cover letters and resumes.

As President and CEO of Maximum Advantage International, Endress travels throughout the country teaching and coaching companies in the areas of personal and professional development and communication, as well as human resources and employment hiring, training, and managing. Endress shared with me his straightforward tips for getting the job you want, breaking the process down into simple steps to incorporate into resume writing and correspondence with employers.

The greatest piece of advice Endress gave to those seeking help with their resumes was to define a job target and shoot at it. "You've really got to customize it for each particular job," he said. There are too many job seekers today who simply do not take the time to craft specific letters for each company that they want to work for—and that is really the key to getting hired, unless you want to blindly send out hundreds of letters with little chance of getting a response. Job seekers "take [resumes] off the shelf; maybe, if you're lucky, they put your company's name on it somewhere, but generally they're just sending the same thing to everybody. That will probably work eventually, but it's not the most effective method of doing it," he said.

Endress' approach to landing a job relies heavily on his background in human psychology and communication. "The basic technology that I teach is what I call 'the model of the world.' We each have our way of seeing things. The same event can have two completely different meanings to two different people, and they can get two different interpretations out of it. Our natural tendency is to communicate using our model of the world—the way we see things—not the way the other person sees things," he said. Persuading employers to hire you is all about determining what they value. Once you learn what your target companies value, you can prepare resumes and cover letters tailored for them.

"If there is somewhere that you really want to get a job, I would call them up and ask them two questions. I would find the hiring manager who is in charge of this hiring, and I would say, 'What is important to you about the new salespeople you hire?' and 'How will you know when you find that?' Once you've got those two pieces of information, go customize your cover letter and resume so they point to those two things," he said. By identifying an employer's or a company's values and hitting the employer or company on the head with them, so to speak, you will almost always have successful results.

During his 25 years of hiring, Endress has seen the best and the worst—in cover letters and resumes, that is. One of the paramount concerns of a resume should be the objective, which is located at the top. Many times, job seekers tend to go on and on about what they can bring to a company or job position, usually losing track of the importance of the section. "Don't make it four lines long. Give me one sentence across the top of that page. Tell me why you." Developing a catchy and powerful objective will give any candidate's resume an invigorating boost right from the get-go.

Endress also advises candidates not to get too personal or pushy in resumes and cover letters. "You don't want to put a picture on there. You don't want to get too personal. I don't need to know if you're divorced. I don't need to know these things. It doesn't turn me off, but why include information that could have a possible negative effect? Sometimes hobbies are okay, but if it's not strictly relevant, take it off," he said. He has also had job candidates send him gifts, a big no-no. "Don't send presents. It gets you noticed but not favorably," he said.

Always remember that your key focus should be on employers and respect their time. "I'm busy. Everybody hiring is busy. Keep it short and sweet," said Endress. When composing cover letters and emails, job seekers often overlook simple details like not using "I" to start off sentences. "This isn't about you; it's about me, as the employer. If you want me to hire you, you've got to be thinking about me." This goes along with explaining your experience and background in cover letters. Do not include sentences like 'I have experience in...' That is nice, but employers need to see how it applies to them in their company," he said. "Tell me what that means to me."

After finding out about a company's values and sending a specifically tailored cover letter and resume, always follow up, or all of your hard work may go to waste. Employers get so many resumes that when someone finally follows up, it is like finding a needle in a haystack. "You've got to follow up. As an employer, you get so few of them that this gives you a good clue that they're awake. That reflects how good you're going to do once you're in the job," he said.

Once you have obtained an interview with a target company, make sure that you do not blow it. Do all the proper research before the meeting, including finding out "who the major clients are, what the practice areas are, who the managing partner for each practice area is, and the history of the firm," Endress suggested. If you can hold an intelligent conversation with an employer about his or her company, you are already ahead of the game.

So what are the secrets to Endress' successes? How does he approach finding new opportunities and ventures? It is all in how you look at it. Opportunities are "everywhere. It's just that we don't see them most of the time because we're not looking for them because we have not identified what we're looking for. The key is to focus in, tightly," he said. "If you're not looking for opportunity, you don't find it."
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