Why do all resumes look the same?

Article first published in Cynopsis Classified Advantage

I believe strongly that a job applicant’s job is to fulfill the wildest dreams of the hirer by presenting themselves in such a way as to lead them to say “Thank goodness you are here  let’s get you on board stat to take care of my problem.”

Clearly your resume needs to shout this out in order to get you to the interview; and while you can intuit up to a point what is keeping that hiring manager up at night, most of what you will be going by will be the job description.  And these often include so many items that it can be really hard to get a bead on what is the thing that really matters to them.

So there is a tendency, perfectly reasonably, for applicants to tailor their resumes to the needs as described in the job spec.  But think of this: all the other 500 applicants are doing the same thing.  They are all reading the same specs and are probably also trying to tailor to suit.  So they too start including the jargon that they see the employer has written.  What are the chances then that 500 cover letters and their attendant resumes are starting to converge on each other?  And there is the poor hiring manager trying to read between the lines and figure out which ones to put on the keeper pile and which ones to pass by quickly.  Yet they all use the same turns of phrase, the same language she had hastily cut-and-pasted one night when she had to post the job.

“Sheesh” she thinks.  “Isn’t anyone going to rise out from this group and make my life easier and solve my problem.  They can’t all be replicants – there must be someone there who has their own point of view about what they can do.”
And shouldn’t that someone be you?

I don’t want to discount the fact that they may be looking for a very straightforward square-peg-square-hole applicant.  They may be thrilled to get their own needs played back to them so beautifully.  And you may indeed be delighted to get a job that is so carefully designed as to be precisely describable.  But that hasn’t got them around the fact that there could be very many indistinguishable resumes and the only way to sort them out is to toss a coin.

So it’s up to you to not just play back what they give you, but to make your pitch unique and arresting  and of course to make yourself the only possible answer to their problem.