Former executive vice-president of Telus, educator, adviser and author of Be Different or Be Dead.
Forget the boilerplate versions you find on the internet. They’re all the same, and you’ll put readers to sleep if they read it at all. I’ve hired many people in my career, and I’ve always considered someone’s CV, regardless of the form it’s in, as the applicant’s moment of truth.
If it blended into everyone else’s, I ignored it, but if it had an interesting element, I was ready to lean in and pay attention. Your résumé should be your own individual piece of art, unique and original, a piece of you. It should not be the product of a template that millions of people use – a common and boring approach that says very little about who you are except that you are comfortable copying what the crowd does. If you want to maximize your opportunities to impress a prospective employer, craft your résumé with these five elements.
Make it custom
Your piece of art should be specific to each opportunity you are vying for; it needs to be unique to the position and organization you’re approaching. Using the same résumé to apply for a variety of roles in different organizations will miss the mark because it won’t speak to the differences between each potential opportunity.
The sales director at Nike doesn’t represent the same challenge as the sales director at Apple. The organizations have different cultures and values, and their strategic game plans are a product of their circumstances. Likewise, a marketing manager in any company is different in every way from a sales director, so why would you consider using the same résumé template to show interest in both?
If you are interested in 10 different jobs, you need to create 10 completely different masterpieces.
Declare your uniqueness
Each piece of your art should answer the question: “Why should you hire me and not the other 100 people who also applied?”
The job-hunting herd typically answers the question by trotting out credentials and a smidgen of skills and experience. “You should hire me because I have an MBA from XYZ University and have great interpersonal skills” is a view that gets claimed by most of the competition in the hunt for the same position.
To the people doing the hiring, this kind of response is not particularly useful, because they want to know how you are different from everyone else. The same response will most likely find your art in the deleted folder.
You must declare what you – and only you – possess that makes you stand out. This is done by crafting your personal ONLY statement: “You should hire me because I’m the ONLY one who ...” is a compelling way to separate yourself from the herd.
Dedicate time to creating this piece of art. It will open up career opportunities you never thought existed.
Know their strategy
Have a section that shows you have studied and you understand the employer’s strategy and priorities. Knowledge of what the organization intends to do to thrive and survive makes your ONLY claim relevant; your claim of uniqueness will make sense because it is grounded in what the organization intends to achieve.
For example, claiming you are the only one who has demonstrated experience in a specific marketing discipline won’t resonate if the organization has a strategy demanding a merger-and-acquisition skill set.
Talk about their markets, competition and technology, and that you have some ideas on how you can be successful. It shows initiative and understanding of your target. Few job applicants spend the amount of time that this task takes to do well. But it will make you different and, I suspect, the only job hunter who does it. The employers will be impressed if you can speak their language.
Stress your skills that apply to them
Once you have articulated your understanding of the organization’s strategy as best you can, you now have context to talk about what you bring to the table.
This is where you can discuss the skills, experience and competencies you have that could make a positive contribution to the direction they are taking. A game plan that stresses growth, for example, presents an opportunity to talk about your marketing and sales expertise and your proven capabilities in building effective teams and product sales to achieve aggressive revenue goals.
Talk about what you’ve done
This section is focused on achievements. It’s one thing to promote what you think your skills and competencies are; it’s another thing to emphasize what you’ve actually delivered that would be of interest to the hiring organization.
If you are a recent graduate with limited practical experience, discuss any lab work or projects that would relate to the challenges you’ve discovered the organization faces. The important thing is to create your narrative on what you’ve actually done that is relevant to the conversation.
Your focus on what you’ve done should represent the overwhelming share of your résumé. Your narrative should be 80 per cent on accomplishments and 20 per cent on the more subjective aspects of your persona.
The objective of your résumé is not to communicate what you think your skills and capabilities are. A résumé that actually works – measured by the number of job contests you actually win – cuts through the fog and fluffiness and defines exactly why you are the only relevant candidate for the job.
It declares in very specific terms why you are the only individual who has the proven skills and experience to contribute to the challenges the organization faces.
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