Differentiating Yourself – Answering the Question: “Why?”

Recently, I attended the NFL game between my Cleveland Browns and the Buffalo Bills.  There were 71,000+ people in attendance and the majority of those fans were wearing something (hat, jacket, jersey) with the team’s colors (brown and orange).  Let’s say that someone that knew me was also at the game and decided to text to advise, “Hey, Mike…heard you were at the game…I’m here too”.  I would text them back to ask, “Great, where are you?”  If they responded with something like, “I’m wearing a brown hat”, that does not really help me find/see them…since probably 70% of the fans might also be wearing brown hats.  If they add, “Oh, also…I’m standing up”, that bit of additional information does help, but I still have little chance of finding my friend among  the 40,000 or so people who are standing up and wearing brown hats.  If my friend adds, “I’m eight rows up, on the 50-yard line, north side of the field, and next to the Browns’ mascot, who is walking up the aisle”.  Bang..!  There he is.  Just a few more words and I was able to quickly find him out of a crowd of 71,000 people (who, in that setting, all basically looked pretty much the same).

The job seeker’s most daunting challenge is to stand out from what could well be a relatively large pool of candidates.  Today, it is still common for a posted opening to receive up to a few hundred resumes/online applications.  So, hundreds of resumes go into the candidate pool, with possibly as few as 15 – 25 of those being perceived by the HR screener or recruiter as attractive enough to be scheduled for a phone screen.  The task of the screener/recruiter at this point is to select from that “first cut” group the 5 – 8 candidates who will earn the opportunity for an in-person interview.Thus, the vast majority of applicants never make it even to the phone screen step in the overall selection process.  This is simply due to the fact that most candidates do a poor job of positioning themselves in their resume as the potential “game-changer” the employer is seeking to find.  And, this is because they fail to answer one very basic, yet tremendously critical question for those involved in the hiring process:“WHY (should you, the HR recruiter or hiring manager) consider/select me from among all of the others in the pool of applicants?”Of all of the many thousands of resumes I’ve read/reviewed over the years, very few provide the HR staff or the hiring manager with the answers to, “Why are the results I’ve produced better than the other candidates?”, “Why am I a better fit for your company’s culture?”, “Why would I be better able to make an immediate impact within your team/group/organization?”, “Why would you feel, six months after I joined the firm, that you would tell your boss that hiring me was the best decision you ever made?”, and, “Why am I the best suited to come into your group/division/company and help to take it from good to great?”.

People to whom I’ve provided job search coaching usually tell me, when advised their resume lacks the “wow” factor, they felt including such would be perceived by the reader as bragging.

It is not.  Unless the “facts” presented are actually embellishments of the truth without any quantification.  For example:

Embellishment – Guy in the next cubicle tells his buddy, one of 10 sales people in the Widget Division, “Dude, you rock”, which the candidate translates on his resume into, “Recognized as one of the top salesmen in the entire Division.”

Truth with Quantification – “Key Accomplishment” on candidate’s resume reads, “Cultivated, over the course of one year, a strong relationship with the president of Really Gigantic Machine Corporation using social media, on-site visitations, and meetings with their key production team resulting in an initial purchase order of the Super XL Widget for $5M. This was the largest single order ever received by our firm from a Fortune 100 company and the largest order ever written by any salesperson in our company’s 80-year history.”

OK…Which of these two examples is more believable?  Which contains the “Why”…the “Wow” factor along with quantification of such?

To catch the eye, and interest, of the HR screener, recruiter or hiring manager reviewing incoming resumes, each of the Key Accomplishment bullets needs to contain a quantified “why”.  Otherwise, why would a hiring manager, whose job might be hinging upon their ability to select a “game-changing” candidate, feel that candidate was “the one”?

They wouldn’t.

Remember that during the course of the selection process, those involved are being asked, “why”.  “Why are these 15 candidates you (the HR Recruiter) selected for a phone screen the best 15 out of the 245 resumes you received for this opening?” or “Why are these the best five candidates, and the ones you want me (the hiring manager) to interview, out of those you phone screened?”.  The hiring manager normally is asked by his boss, “Why did you pick “X” as your top candidate, the one to whom you wish to make the offer?”  Also remember that the hiring manager’s reputation can be impacted, positively or negatively, by how the selected candidate performs.  I don’t know of any hiring managers who desire to be associated with an employee who turns out to be a disappointment.

Simply…if the candidate provides great, “why’s” in the resume, they have a very good shot at being selected for a phone screen and/or in-person interview.  Provide “why’s” also during interviews.  The more reasons provided to those involved in the hiring process regarding why you are a better fit and a better overall candidate for the opening, the easier you make their decision as to whom to make the offer.

Think of it this way…for virtually every suggestion/recommendation we make in our work and personal lives, we are pretty much always asked for some quantification of such:

·  “I think we should close these two production facilities”  “Why?”
·  “We should buy that new Corvette”  “Why?”
·  “I want to promote Susan to VP of Operations”  “Why?”

What’s your “why”?  Will it be enough to separate you from the “crowd”?