We’ve all been taught to create one multi-purpose resume that could be used for any job we might apply for.
This strategy worked before the days of digital resumes, job boards, online applications, and applicant tracking systems. It worked when there were shortages of candidates.
Branding yourself as a commodity just isn’t good enough anymore …
When you combine the technological changes that have transformed hiring practices with job changes, the one-size-fits-all resume strategy doesn’t work well anymore. In yesterday’s job market, you just had to get close to get a good job – In today’s job market, you have to present yourself as an exact match in order to even get interviews.
Contrast this with how today’s job seekers brand yourselves. Today’s job seekers are unfamiliar with customizing resumes, so most of you use a personal brand that describes you as a commodity candidate – one who’s qualified to do many things.
This was fine when being close was good enough – when you could wait until an interview to show you’re an exact fit. But it won’t work when you need to show you’re an exact fit in order to even get interviews in the first place.
How most candidates brand yourselves as commodities
Most job seekers can’t help but brand themselves as a commodity – because it’s how we’ve all been taught.
We’ve been taught by our college placement office to make ourselves look just like everyone else, which helps brand the college as the provider of a consistent quality of worker. We’ve been taught by government, community, church and alumni resources, by outplacement, even most recruiters, career coaches and career authors. We’ve been taught to create a general introduction that tells the employer why we might be good for many opportunities, rather than brand ourselves as the superior candidate for that specific opportunity.
How most candidates brand themselves:
- Objective statements: When there are many qualified candidates, like today, employers don’t care what your objective is. They don’t care what you want, until they are ready to make you a job offer – by that time, they’ve asked. Creating a first impression about what you want doesn’t tell the employer why you’re the perfect candidate for their position – it just makes you look like everyone else.
- Profile and summary sections: Profile and summary sections brand you as a commodity by their very nature – because the entire intent of profile/summary sections are to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what sticks. This random branding doesn’t differentiate you from 99% of the other candidates who do the exact same thing.
- Key skills section: Throwing up a bunch of key skills brands you as a commodity. How could it possibly brand you as a superior candidate? The whole reason you have a key skills section at the beginning of your resume is because you don’t know what that employer is looking for, so instead you dump a laundry list of skills, crossing your fingers and hoping that you match some of the employer’s needs.
What you can do instead to brand yourself as a superior candidate
Start out by forgetting what you’ve been taught about resumes. You’ve been taught to brand yourself as a commodity when it didn’t matter – because there was such a shortage of skilled candidates that you could get a job just by random job search methods. If you sent enough of the same resume to enough people, you could get close, which was enough to get you a job.
Instead use these steps to brand yourself as the superior candidate for the job:
- Superior information: The better the information you have about your target employer and hiring manager the better you can brand yourself as a superior candidate. Even though we were taught to use publicly available information on Google, company websites and job descriptions, it’s inferior. You can find superior information by talking to people within the employer and hiring manager’s department.
- Choose the right information: All employer information is not created equal. When you first learn the hiring manager’s priorities, you can emphasize the problems that you’ve already solved that are similar to the hiring manager’s priorities. To a hiring manager, a superior candidate has already solved problems that are similar to the hiring manager’s priority problems.
- Timing: Gaining this information before you customize your resume is critical. Most candidates don’t do much research until they prepare for interviews – after already branding themselves as a commodity. Most candidates don’t talk to people inside the hiring manager’s department until they interview. You don’t have to be most candidates – by gaining this information early in the process, you give yourself the best chance at branding yourself as a superior candidate.
So ask yourself … do you really want to go the traditional route and brand yourself as a commodity?
Or will you break new ground and brand yourself as a superior candidate?