more-arw search

Winston Churchill and My Resume – A Lesson in Differentiation

Creating a notable contrast between yourself and others is a combination of what you say and how you say it.

Your resume is probably efficient in conveying all the pertinent data on yourself. When a prospective employer or networking contact reads it independently it most likely works well.
How does it do among a large field of candidates?
The challenge comes when your resume is one of several dozen that the person is using to screen candidates or deciding which networking request to accept.  What is in your resume to help you stand out in the field so that it gets pulled from the pile?
Having run a job transition group since early 2007 I’ve probably read 200 resumes. More often than not the point of differences between documents is very little. This is true both within and across professions, the resumes read and sound alike.
I wondered if my resume was any better. Nope. The source of the problem was easy to see; I used the same blogs, websites, books, terms and expressions as everyone else.   I would only stand out in a crowd of one.
My next mistake was to try to make myself sound like a superstar. After reading my updated version, one would not be shocked if I’d been asked to consider being the Pope. Despite the attraction of Italian food, I decided version of my resume was not much of an improvement.
Next, I posed my challenge to a marketing colleague. His response was simple: You do NOT have to be better than the other candidates. You MUST be different. You must create a contrast between yourself and other candidates, it what gets you noticed.
He compared cars and job candidates. Cars all have the same functions; much like candidates applying for a role will have similar backgrounds (degrees, positions, etc.). Cars are sold by showing their point of difference versus others, so do the same with my background.
In the case of an open position, whether from a database search or scan of roles held, the first pass of candidates who qualify. The next step will be figuring who to invite, it’s the points of differentiation that will get you the invite.
Providing differentiation is a combination of both substance (highlighting unique combination of skills and experience) and form (how you deliver the message). Each of us will know the 3-4 key skills we repeatedly rely upon to be successful in our role, so let’s focus on the form.
The form is two parts. The first is format, the cleaner the better. The second is the message.   
The second is more challenging because it’s what is written that matters to both capture the attention and engage the reader to want to learn more.
I decided to find a source of inspiration to help me use a different method to describe myself and experiences. To use language that would interest the reader.   After browsing in the library, I found a book of speeches by Winston Churchill. (So I guess it was Plan C).
Besides being a fascinating read, Mr. Churchill’s speeches took my writing style in a new direction. I did not use exact lines from the speeches, but it was just the spark needed. I kept all of the required points of interest for a potential employer and their database search, but how I described them was completely different from before.
Saying re-writing my resume was fun might be a stretch (it’s like saying getting dental work is fun), but I sure felt more productive in how I expressed myself. More important was the result: People picked up on the key points I want them to remember and I was surprised at how much more of my resume they had reviewed.
For my own blog, I found loads of inspiration from the writing style of author Jeffrey Fox and Guy Kawasaki’s, which write to the point and tongue in cheek, respectively. 
Look around and find what inspires you – and then set yourself apart in the field.
Good luck today!
Mark Richards