9.2 Percent Unemployment: Time to Rethink Your Resume

Last Updated Jul 9, 2011 6:02 PM EDT

As we learned with last week's uber-depressing 9.2 unemployment rate, getting a job is more difficult than ever. If your resume wasn't getting you interviews before then, it might be time to rethink how you are selling yourself.

There may be many job candidates in this economy with the same skills you own. But job experience is only part of what you bring to the party. We are all much more than the sum of what we have learned on the job. Think about your best work qualities, and then reflect on where those came from. Likely they were developed through experiences outside work. Does your resume tell those stories?

For example,have you been involved in highly competitive sports? For some employers, sports experience can help sell a resume. Take it from Kathy Button Bell, vice president and chief marketing officer at technology manufacturer Emerson. She tells the New York Times:
"I love to see sports in a résumé. A woman who works for me right now was a Harvard swimmer, and I can tell that every time I talk to her about something. She's an endurance athlete. She's tough in a pinch. She will get it done. And I respect that enormously."

Like anything else on your resume, only add experiences that compliment your ability to do the job. Star of your eighth-grade lacross team? I think you can leave that off. But three or four years in a college lacross program? That shows your commitment and ability to blend strong individual contributor skills with team play.

So look back on your life history for experiences or training you've had, that have made you the best person for the job, and be prepared to tell your interviewer why they were important. It may be the best advantage you have over other candidates.

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(Photo by Flickr user BernardBoyGenius , CC 2.0)
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.