When I graduated from college it was a difficult job market, and I was growing frustrated as each jobless month passed. I remember hearing about a guy I knew who was delivering pizzas to employers with his resume on the top of the box. It was his effort to stand out from the crowd—and though I thought his tactics were a little bizarre, he was soon working and I was not.
The pizza strategy came to mind when I once read a Forbes article, “How to Stand Out in a Crowded Market: Forget the Traditional Resume”. More recent food for thought is the new book on the Google philosophy that the resume is dying and the traditional way of attracting job seekers (post jobs, screen resumes, interview and hire) isn’t identifying the best candidates. All these counter-intuitive ideas are worth a few minutes of creative thought. Certainly, technology affords far more sophisticated strategies than pizza deliveries, and the Forbes article tells stories about, for example, building an online resume that resembles an Amazon.com product page.
There’s no question that this kind of creativity could distinguish you in the sea of resumes, but I still don’t think we’ve reached a point where the traditional resume is extinct. The real take-away from this article is that in addition to a resume, it’s a great idea to find a “hook” (just like when kids apply to college), or a compelling fact, talent or accomplishment that will set you apart.
Often this hook will be your professional “show and tell”. Artists and writers show their portfolios—and smart job applicants might create something specifically tailored to a desired employer to attract attention and emphasize potential fit.
These are obvious “show and tells” for the creative set—but what do you do if you manage an office or do accounting work for a technology start-up? This is where creative thinking comes in. What can you illustrate from your resume—in, say, a short Powerpoint presentation—to show your skills and contributions in a memorable way?
In the quick ideas category an office manager could describe a renovation project she led, showing before and after photos and describing via a simple timeline how she managed multiple contractors from beginning to end. The accountant’s presentation might be photos of key investments the company was able to make as a result of her accounting acumen—along with a few key details on cost-savings initiatives.
The point is that it’s not a bad idea to make your resume come to life—in a way that will keep you top of mind with potential employers. You can’t send these special presentations if you apply to jobs online, but your job search should be far away from that online black hole, anyway. When you are contacting hiring managers at the suggestion of networking connections, they’ll most likely be open to any (inedible) information that amplifies your skills and experience—as long as it’s engaging and concise. —KAS
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