Stand out

My buddy Janos forwarded me a Daily Kos article about resume/cover letter writing.  It made several of the standard good points, some general like “say not what you’ve done but what you can do for the employer,” some specific like “put your name on the resume,” but my favourite by far was this:

If you are going to write a summary, tell me something unusual about yourself.  I’ve got hundreds of “creative deadline-oriented professionals with XX years of progressive experience” and I can’t tell one from another.  “Creating Flash designs is a passion.” “I read seven daily newspapers to keep abreast of current events.” SOMETHING to make me remember you.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Most job seekers aren’t willing to take a risk on a  job that they don’t even have yet.  What does that say about the type of employee they will be?

People say to themselves “ohh, i don’t know if is should say ‘i dream about new business plans’ or ‘i slept in a van in 23 states last year to get obama elected’ because they are afraid that they will offend someone.”  Such “cautiousness is a total miscalculation of the risk.  The risk of getting of getting lost in the shuffle is much much greater than the risk of offending someone.  You’d be lucky to get that far with a cold submission.

As Janos points out,

“… it’s better to be aggressive in ten interviews in the hopes of landing one job, but since you usually land interviews one at a time, you tend to overthink each one and act [too] cautiously.”

And this is coming from a man who scored one of the highest acceptance rates for summer corporate law internships in his class, all while wearing hair way past his shoulders and a beaten leather cowboy hat.

Personally, I think the “one-size fits all” hiring process is broken.  Several studies show the resume/interview process to be, at best, about 50% satisfactory.  There are better ways, but that is for another post.

But until people get hired based on something more substantial than cover sheets and interviewing skills, you might as well make both stand out.  Rock and Roll.

2 responses to “Stand out

  1. Nice post – As someone who plays it a little safer, this was good to read to push me to think more creatively. I’ll play devil’s advocate in two ways 🙂 First, I think that implicit in this strategy (stand out) is the fact that you are taking a more typical path to getting a job (submitting a resume/cover letter, interviewing). In this environment, you might be dead in the water if you go the typical route – seems like this strategy should be coupled with a simultaneous mass networking push. Second, seems like stand out is the right strategy if you naturally stand out and that’s part of your brand (totally the case w/ Janos, the case w/ you as well). I think stand out would be a little bit down my list, with “be yourself” at the top. If the two coincide, they you are a lucky person.

  2. As someone who is responsible for hiring based on resumes, I can say this rings true.

    Best tip: when submitting/posting electronically (or sending to a friend of a friend of linked-in), name your resume LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME_2009.pdf, or something equally informative.

    If you’re applying for a job at Google, don’t title your resume “GOOGLERESUME” or, worse, “Resume-new-2009.pdf” – are you kidding me?

    That and too much ‘formletter’ and I stop reading the cover-letter. Basic minimum skills should be stated, proficiency with SPECIALIZED programs (if you can’t use MS Word and Excel, the resume is good for Burger King and little else) then set yourself apart.

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