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  • Writer's pictureAmory Borromeo

Applying for a Job these days

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

I’ve had a number of conversations lately regarding resumes, interviews, job descriptions and navigating today’s job market. People want to know what to do. How do you differentiate yourself when everyone else is already different? Are there any standards or traditions anymore?

The truth is, myself and most of my generation don’t really have the answer to help the folks entering the market or to compete. It isn't as clear cut as it used to be and no one has really adapted the model with the changing times. I’ve had the luxury of being a hiring manager and an applicant in a variety of disciplines and fields. I’ll share my ideas and thoughts with you, with the intent that it will help you determine how best to navigate for yourself.

I learned to write personalized cover letters, standard templated resumes and always, always follow up with a thank you. For the first 15 years of my career- that worked. Now a days, things are a bit different.

No one writes cover letters anymore, right?

These are hit or miss. I’ve had some come through with applications and was grateful for a little more insight into an applicant, but when it’s a generic, boring letter- it’s actually pretty pointless. Now you’ve just wasted the hiring teams time with fluff.

That said, cover letters are a great way to show a little personality, showcase something your resume doesn’t and prompt the person reading it to call you. Here’s what you do:

Get clever and definitely be personable. One of the most commonly asked interview questions is “why us?” Do your research and fill in that blank in the very beginning. This way all of the people you’ll interview with already have those bases covered.

Adapt your message to your audience. Doing your research also helps you get a sense for the culture, so you can adapt your messaging to fit. If the company you’re looking at has a really fun website, incorporate that fun side into your letter. Show them that you’d fit in. If they are more formal and that’s your jam, showcase that and speak to the areas within that environment that suit you. That might be process, structure, or something similar.

Be memorable. Close out with something clever that will grab the readers attention. I work primarily in the tech industry, where being relevant and knowing the latest trends is important, so naturally, I ask the reader to “Page me.” Some of you reading that might not actually know what that even means - which only adds to the hilarity of it. (And makes me feel old) I've also asked people to send correspondence via owl (Harry Potter reference) or with the batsignal.

Get Creative. Don’t be afraid to take risks and show your personality here. One of the most critical things about your work place is fitting in with the culture. If you show your personality and folks don’t seem interested, then it probably wasn’t going to be a good fit or a long term home for you.

Remember that your cover letter is part of your brand pitch. Who are you and why are you worth someone’s time? The other part of the pitch is the resume.

Resumes are boring.

Not only are resumes boring, but after reading 100+ resumes, they all begin to look the same. The same format, the same buzz words, similar skills sets, yada yada yada. If you really want to stand out - do something different. Try creating a more visual resume with a timeline, infographics or simply include iconography. Or you can totally mix it up and create a short presentation to showcase your skills and experience. I’ve played around and created a few different concepts you're welcome to leverage for ideas. Here is one I used when applying for a Product Manager Role.

The best resumes are:

  1. Succinct & aligned - Get to the point quickly and easily. The paper route gig you had when you were 16 doesn’t apply to this role, so don’t include it. A lot of us have had some interesting roles and we always feel inclined to include them to show something - we’ve been working a long time, we didn’t have any gaps in employment, etc. Include the critical, applicable roles you had and be prepared to speak to the other stuff.

    1. For example: Interviewer: I see you had a gap between 2013 and 2015, what were you up to? You: “Well, actually, I worked as a pastry chef while I attended school” or “I was actually working as a project manager during that time at Company X, but didn’t think it was relevant for this role.”

  2. Keep a Master Resume with EVERYTHING on it. I've gotten cute with resumes and while that usually earns me at least a call, it often results in a request for a "traditional" resume. In this case, the team wants more context and the full resume, e.g. more than 1 page, is acceptable. Having a master resume is also helpful when I'm applying for various roles where I want to pull in different experiences without having to recreate the context each time.

  3. Be Specific - Have you heard that data is king? I'm pretty sure I have, which is why I try to translate as much of my resume into something measurable. Did I increase participation by implementing a training program or did I implement a training program that increased participation by 75%, resulting in continuous certification for 90% of the operations staff. The latter shows that you are detail oriented, results driven, and add value to the organization.

  4. Translation Please - Have you only ever worked as an engineering but you now want to venture into project manager? Translate your skill sets into the desired role you're seeking. Pay attention to your verbs and learn to translate your experience into something that's valuable to your perspective company. For example, you may have spent years executing on code, but you can translate that into executing on projects? Find ways to pull in any experience you have that demonstrates your ability to perform the role. One time I even made the case that training for marathons gave me the skills needed to become an engineer.

  5. Innovate & Iterate - Not that I would condone wasting someone's time, but I have on more than one occasion applied for a position that I knew I wouldn't want or that I was over qualified for, just to see the reaction for a new format. It helped me to temper how funky I was, how innovative my format was, and what to share in my content.

At the end of the day, your resume and cover letter is the first impression you make on a company. It's super important that you reflect your personal brand, knowing that if you don't hear from the company, the company likely isn't the right fit for you. This process is as much about you vetting your potential company as it is them vetting you. Be bold. Be brave. Dare them to test you out. Embrace your true self and see what comes of it.

Want to know more? Reach out with questions. I also love blogs like this one that share with us what not to do. Good luck!

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