As I receive many questions from candidates who find it difficult to differentiate their skills from their competitors, I want to highlight actionable tactics you can use to make a better first impression.
“Jack-of-all-trades” job seeker
I am always hesitant when I hear a candidate tell me that they can do anything. Unfortunately, while this might seem like a great positioning strategy, it is actually one of the worst things you can do when marketing yourself on a résumé.
In today’s very employer-centric market, hiring managers have the “pick of the litter” when it comes to finding a perfectly qualified candidate, meaning candidates have to be fairly specific in their job search (and résumé) and position themselves for something, not everything.
If you find yourself thinking that you want to pursue different career targets, consider having more than one version of your résumé so you are presenting a very targeted picture to each audience.
While you might think that broadening your search with an open résumé might yield more responses, it is likely to do the opposite.
One of the most concerning things that creative candidates do is to create a résumé that does not reflect their personality or talent. If you are a creative individual, it is imperative you take the time to brand yourself and showcase what you can do creatively. Think about it, your ability to market yourself is a direct reflection of your ability to market a product or service.
About 11 years ago, before I was in the résumé-writing field, I was in marketing and conducting a job search of my own. While understanding little about résumé writing at the time, I did know that I needed to prove that I could market myself. I created a simple theme throughout my résumé and cover letter, created personal business cards showcasing some of my key qualifications, and packaged my collateral in an inexpensive folder. To make the presentation more unique, I printed a self-designed logo and some core competencies on a sheet of vellum paper and slipped it into the front of the folder in a swoosh-shaped die cut I made with an X-Acto knife. Sure, it took longer than hitting “apply now” online, but it reinforced my creativity and my willingness to do more than the average candidate.
The results speak for themselves
I received a 100-percent response rate for the five packages I sent out during the first week of my search. I had four interviews lined up for the week of July 22. The fifth package I sent out yielded a call from the hiring manager to tell me he had filled the position but had to speak to someone who presented herself in such a unique and engaging manner. So, a 100-percent response rate and four interviews in week one, all based on packaging and decent content (not stellar as I knew nothing about résumé writing at the time).
On July 21, I went into premature labor with my first child, and my daughter was born on July 22. So, my friend cancelled all my interviews and my life took a different path! I tell you this personal story to illustrate the power you can have in your job search when you take the time — whether a creative person or not — to make your presentation targeted, engaging and unique.
Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job-search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam’s résumé-writing services, visit www.ladybug-design.com or call (614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).