Modern dating rules* include things like: don’t talk too much about yourself; be sure to make good eye contact; and above all else – be yourself. Similarly, job seekers use tools like building rapport, communicating value, and articulating their value in a resume to gain access to job opportunities. In many ways, a first date and a resume have much in common.
In a job interview, our goal is to make ourselves relevant and compelling, to set ourselves apart from the competition, and to cause the hiring manager to feel, “I cannot find anyone better than this candidate!” Sounds like the same goals for a first date, doesn’t it? Regardless of whether the candidate or individual wants the job (or a second date) the goal is to get the offer.
To give yourself the best chance for success, your resume (and first dates) should follow these strategies:
Start with the WHY
The most common mistake job candidates make on resumes is listing the what, how, and where of their background and experience but forgetting to communicate the “why.” By default, a resume is a listing of what you did in the past – from your professional roles and your successes and achievements. But more importantly, a resume should indicate what you are passionate about, why you have achieved the goals you did, what you are looking for next, and how you see your ability to produce results and add value in your next job.
Add language to your resume that highlights what you are capable of, what you aspire to, where you want to grow your career, and what you care about, and then connect that narrative with your past. Don’t forget to relate your future goals and dreams to your current position.
Similarly, on a first date you’ll want to ask good questions, listen for the answer, and respond accordingly. Your goal is to understand the motivation and drive behind the person’s answers and offer your own. Simply answering questions is not relationship building.
Sound like yourself
I’ve seen many resumes that do not sound or look like the person I’m sitting across from. In some cases, professional resume writers craft the resume’s content to the point where the candidate cannot speak to the experience listed.
Be sure you will feel proud and focused when you hand over your resume. Can you speak to every job, result, and accomplishment listed? Does your resume reflect your humor, energy, passion, and confidence? If your resume looks sophisticated and professional, yet you are relaxed and casual, it will be a challenge to help a hiring manager see that you are the same person listed on the pages.
On a first date, it’s ill advised to act like someone other than your authentic self. Why would you? You run the risk that the person you are meeting really does want to know someone like the real you… and will miss that opportunity. Or, you could create this dazzling and captivating (and inauthentic) persona and your date likes it… then you will have to either maintain that façade or come clean later.
Leave something for the interview
Have you ever seen a 4-page, single-spaced resume? Did you read the whole thing? Me neither. Your resume does not need to include everything you ever did from grade school forward or every accomplishment, award, and success you’ve achieved. Your resume should highlight the relevant skills, talents, experiences, and value the hiring manager is recruiting for.
Leaving some items off your resume may feel risky. You certainly need to include the certifications and keywords the resume reviewer will need to put you through to an interview, but you do not need to include everything. You have room in your cover letter to highlight some of your background and can link to your online profiles (LinkedIn) to supplement your talents and background with even more.
Ever had that first date where the person feels a need to tell you everything about themselves? That certainly doesn’t build intrigue and interest. Sometimes too much information is just that – too much.
Customize to the job requirements
As a job seeker, your resume should be modular – able to be adjusted and tweaked to fit the job requirements. A one-size-fits-all resume is like job seeking with a blindfold on. Hiring managers and recruiters are often overwhelmed with resumes for open positions. The easier you can make their job, the more likely your resume will get reviewed.
For example, look through each job requirement or job description and identify:
- What are the skills needed? Do I have those skills?
- What type of background are they looking for? Does my experience relate to that type of background? Can I make it relate?
- Are there keywords listed in the job requirement? I need to pull those same keywords out in my resume and use them often.
- What is the company culture? Will I fit in there? What makes me a fit? How can I work that into the tone and feel of my resume?
- Do I know someone who works there? Mention them in my cover letter.
Dating is similar. Deciding whether you and another person fit well together starts with understanding what you are looking for… and what they are seeking. Then, as it feels appropriate and natural, you find common areas and build from there. Much like we do with a resume.
Leave off the personal info (married, birthdate)
Many job seekers make the mistake of including their birthdate (including year), marital status, and medical situation on their resume and online profiles. This information is not required and should never be a way to market yourself for a job or career.
It is fine, however, to include a “personal interests” section on a resume or online profile. In this case, you will still veer away from information that can be used to dismiss you, and instead focus on hobbies, interests, and talents that relate to the job you seek. For instance, you might say, “passionate about environmental causes and sustainability,” if you are looking for a career in natural resources exploration.
While I do advocate sharing marital information on a date (yikes!), I also do not believe it’s relevant to share medical limitations or birthdate (including year) on a first date.
A resume is a part of your toolkit, not the entire solution. Successful job seekers build their personal brand and reputation and have a resume, which serves as an extension of all that information.
Similar to a first date, a resume should promote authenticity, clearly articulate a vision and intention, and highlight that unique value that makes you interesting, compelling, and relevant.
*In the spirit of full disclosure, it has been well over 13 years since the author has had a “first date.” Happily married to her husband, she does provide this guidance to her two adult sons, however.