How to Become a Top 5% Job Seeking Candidate

First, let me say that I do not profess to be an expert in the field of job searching.  It is, however, “what I do” with nearly all of my time these days:  I am looking for the right career opportunity, therefore I am learning the “best” methods for achieving my goal.  Then, I pass along to you what I’ve learned and where I’ve learned it in an effort to save you time in your job search.

Recently I discovered a fantastic site. : ERI (Executive Resumes dot com)  By watching a 30 minute video, I was inspired to not only write today’s blog post, but — fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective — I’m convinced that my “awesome” résumé needs a helping hand.

When you have 30 minutes, you won’t be wasting your time by watching this video.  In the mean time, I’ll summarize what I learned today:

Interesting Facts

  • There are some 40 million résumés in circulation today.
  • Most people make at least 1 of 10 major mistakes that keeps them in the bottom 95% of job hunters.
  • By avoiding all of these 10 major mistakes, you’ll become a member of the top 5% of job seekers — and that’s where you’ll want to be.
  • Most job seekers access only 2% of the job market in their search efforts.

The Top 10 Mistakes

  1. You lack a game plan, and you rely on archaic job searching methods;
  2. You do not adequately market your best 12 -15 transferable skills;
  3. You fail to properly minimize your liabilities;
  4. You fail to uncover your best industry options;
  5. You do not have an “A” résumé, but rather have something that is average, at best;
  6. You can’t find enough good openings in your industry;
  7. You don’t compete for private job openings;
  8. You don’t uncover sufficient leads and contacts;
  9. You neglect to place your résumé with those contacts that you do have; and
  10. You are not “interview ready”.


By establishing an effective game plan, you increase your chances of success ten-fold, by some estimations.  While you may think that you have a game plan — “Write résumé. Mail résumé. Send follow up.  Interview.  Get job.” — chances are, you do not.   According to the professionals at ERI, you are only on the right track with your game plan if it incorporates one of their 15 methods for obtaining an interview.


To market yourself, you have to sell your transferable skills, 12 to 15 of them, in a single résumé, and that’s just for starters.  You also need to devise a 20 second summary of those skills, and take the opportunity to “sell, sell, sell” in all of your emails, postings, and correspondence.  Branding makes this easier.  Create a personal marketing website (discussed below), and discover the best industry options for your skill set. If you do not market yourself, you will remain in the bottom percentage of job seekers.


The following is a list of common liabilities (whether or not you agree that they should be a negative):

  1. You are unemployed;
  2. You’ve been unemployed for a while;
  3. Your age (40+);
  4. You’ve changed jobs too often;
  5. You’re too specialized;
  6. Too generalized;
  7. Too long at one firm;
  8. Too long in one industry;
  9. Your career may have peaked;
  10. You lack large corporate experience;
  11. Your firm has done poorly;
  12. Jobs have all been similar;
  13. You lack career progression;
  14. Your history shows gaps;
  15. You’ve been passed over for promotions;
  16. You have doubtful references;
  17. You need confidentiality;
  18. You lack a degree;
  19. You’ve been an entrepreneur (You know, like Bill Gates);
  20. You have a short work history;
  21. You need to change careers;
  22. You’ve just changed positions;
  23. Your achievements are minor;
  24. Your earnings are too low.

Great.  It’s a “damned-if-you-do…” list, but one that is important.  You may choose to ignore your liabilities, but, guaranteed, the employer will not.  Hiring a professional to help you minimize the negatives may be in order.


Clearly, this is a big topic.  Perhaps you’ve already read Résumé Rules on this blog.  But there’s always something new to learn.

According to ERI, most résumés fail for the following reasons:

  • 98% look the same;
  • liabilities are revealed;
  • 12 – 15 transferable skills are not being sold;
  • it is an index as opposed to a vehicle which communicates your skills;
  • it doesn’t project an image of distinction;
  • it isn’t “scanning” ready (meaning, a quick read, not a digital scan);
  • it doesn’t communicate a compelling summary

To get into that cherished Top 5%, your résumé has to pass all of these tests.  AND, you’ll need 3 versions:  a universal résumé, a “quick response” résumé upon which you can jot a handwritten note, and an electronic version that looks good on the receiving end when uploaded to a site or sent in email.

ERI proclaims 10 key principles for a Grade A résumé:

  1. It makes clear how you will contribute;
  2. It is “scanning ready” — a quick read still emphasizes your best assets;
  3. It has a 20 second summary;
  4. Liabilities are not revealed;
  5. It sells your 12-15 transferable skills;
  6. It projects a 1st class image;
  7. It is fast paced and easy to read for first impression excitement;
  8. It’s style is interesting and compelling, providing an interesting and exciting message;
  9. It meets the challenge of preselling you. (When you walk into an interview, you can be up to 85% pre-sold with the right résumé);
  10. It protects your reputation in future years, when it can still be retrieved online.  “The internet never forgets.”

It is the first 7 of these key points that make up 50% of résumé success, heavily weighing the importance of the last 3 key points which make up the remaining 50%.


With a Personal Marketing Website, you are able to provide — in one click — all of your credentials in a style that suits you best.  While readers will undoubtedly scan the information you provide, you are still able to get more bang for your buck.  And speaking of bucks, there’s no reason to pay for a site.  Free sites abound and allow you to easily create your own PMW.

People are impressed with a PMW.  Especially for the Over 40 crowd, it shows that you are up-to-date with current marketing trends for job seekers, and it identifies a certain level of technical savvy on your part.

According to ERI, on average each person who clicks on your PMW will pass along the link to 3 – 5 others.  If you invite 20 people, for example, you will average 60 – 100 site views.  That’s a lot of bang for your “buck” when dealing in multiples of 10, for example!


To make it to that Top 5%, you also have to be ready to interview.  If you’re still working on your résumé, you’re not ready.  If you haven’t practiced with several unbiased test subjects, you’re not ready.  If you can’t summarize your 12 – 15 transferable skills, you’re not ready.

Part of the interview process involves negotiation.  How well do you negotiate, and how well do you negotiate on behalf of yourself?  Do you know how to approach the subject of a signing bonus?  Only you know the answers, and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know whether you’re ready to interview or not.

Imagine, though, being one of the top 10 candidates from more than a 1000 applicants who actually makes it to an interview — only to lose out because you are unprepared!  I recently read an example of an applicant who, after interviewing, was going to be extended a job offer.  Unfortunately, she didn’t explain in the interview that her employment status had changed, that it was different than was represented on her résumé.  As a result, she appeared to by lying.  Sad case, but true.  If she knew how to honestly deal with an apparent liability, she would have gotten the job.


Are you ready to start searching, and do you know where to search?  Job boards alone won’t cut it.

You are ready to start searching when you have a step-by-step plan, you can handle your liabilities, you can sell your 12 – 15 transferable skills, you’ve identified or can identify your best industry options, you have an “A” grade résumé, your impressive personal marketing website is up, your ready to interview and negotiate, and you can access and identify both public and private vacancies.

That’s a lot.  But especially in today’s market, it is what it takes!


Here are some interesting stats and tid-bits, compliments of ERI:

  • The published (public) job market includes web sites, job boards, magazines, newspapers, and recruiter sites who post jobs.
  • 50% of all jobs are public.  The other half come from private vacancies.
  • There are more than 300,000 employer sites, 1500 job boards, 2000 newpapers, and 3500 recruiters who post job announcements.
  • Most of us access only 2% of all the available public jobs in our job search, and only a minute number of private jobs, if any.

Where are the jobs?

  • If you’re seeking a salary of up to $100,000, approximately 50% of all vacancies will be private.
  • Should you be earning $101,000 to $150,000? 75% of your vacancies are private.
  • And for those of us seeking $150,000 or more,  90% are private!

Old school teaches us that networking and building an extensive list of contacts is “THE” method for reaching the private market.  And, this method still works — but it’s not enough.  Today a job seeker needs to do more, and “doing more” may require the help of a professional.


There are so many “experts” and “professionals” advertising their services, it is hard to know who is genuinely “the best.”  There are certain things to look for in making your choice, including a certification if they proclaim to be “professional résumé writers.”

I’ve searched the internet extensively, and spoken with various industry professionals.  As a result, I can personally narrow the list to my Top 2 “best” professionals (And, my apologies to those other folks who are very good!)

1)  Laurie J. Smith, CPRW, JCTC the premier solo practitioner, a woman who is on the Certification Board for résumé writers, and with whom I’ve personally enjoyed a conversation to learn more about her qualifications.  Highly recommended!


2)  ERI:  An Executive Résumé writing service — and so much more!  Spend some time, at the very least, checking out the many videos available.  I have not personally spoken with anyone from ERI at the time of this publication, but I am very impressed by their website and videos — and I am not easily impressed.  ERI promises to increase your access to the job market from 2% (doing it alone) to 97% !  By getting first notice of more than 22,000 job leads daily, ERI scoops the competition.


Back in the day, we typed up a résumé, mailed them out, and scheduled interviews which were somewhat informal, for the most part.  It really wasn’t that difficult unless the unemployment rate was high.  Today, it’s a different world — one that requires a greater effort than ever before, in our search for our perfect career opportunity.

Those who are willing to do the work — and get it done — get the jobs.  May that short list include us!

~ Lynda C. Watts

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2 Responses to How to Become a Top 5% Job Seeking Candidate

  1. Pingback: Critical Resume’ Formatting Tips | Professionals Over 40: Careers & More

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