Job Search Advice: You At Your Best vs You At Your Average

Dec 28 2011 in Featured, reCareered Blog, Resumes by Phil Rosenberg

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Employers expect you will present your best … so why do most job seekers present yourselves at your average?

Of course, you don’t intentionally undersell yourself. However, there are many ingrained job search habits we’ve all been taught, that present us as average rather than as superior.

We’ve been taught to sell ourselves at our average

We learned most of our body of knowledge of job search from placement and career offices, starting with our College/Grad school placement office – even High School placement offices teach much of the same stuff.

From the Great Depression up until the end of 2007, there was a valid assumption about job markets – candidate shortages. Even in prior recessions, there were shortages of qualified candidates.

During candidate shortages, employers have a tough time finding candidates with the basic skills they are searching for … so employers search for skills and experience. Doesn’t this sound much like the way we were all taught to write a resume – focusing on skills and experience?

Today’s job market doesn’t describe candidate shortages – it describes job shortages. The current job market features about 5 unemployed workers for every advertised job and 84% of currently employed workers looking for a new job (CareerBuilder estimates) … this means that there are more than 25 times more candidates than jobs.

… but we weren’t taught how to job search during job shortages, remember? We were taught how to job search assuming candidate shortages.

And employers choose who to interview and hire in a very different way during job shortages.

Employers expect candidates to sell themselves at their best

During times of job shortages, especially when so many currently employed workers are competing for openings, employers find plenty of candidates who meet their basic requirements of skills and experience.

Since employers find many candidates with matching skill sets, HR reps/recruiters pre-screen for skills but hiring managers look for superior candidates. When there are many candidates who meet basic criteria, hiring managers look for candidates who have already solved the problems they face today.

How can you show an employer that you’re a superior candidate?

  1. Personal Branding Statement: A well crafted personal branding statement gives a crystal clear first impression that you are a superior candidate, who has already solved the priority problems the hiring manager faces. Creating a great personal branding statement requires research (beyond publicly available information) and inside information into the hot buttons of the hiring manager. See for more information on personal branding statements.
  2. Don’t focus on job responsibilities: Focusing your reader on your job responsibilities tells your reader that you think the most important thing about you is that you met the minimum requirements of the job – that you’re an average performer. Focus your reader’s attention on examples of how you’ve already solved their priority problems and how you’ve delivered value to your past employers.
  3. Show Subject Matter Expertise: When an employer expects to find many qualified candidates, employers look for candidates with a subject matter expertise that can help solve their most pressing issues. Generalist skills are secondary, even for generalist positions – employers first look for subject matter expertise to determine who they will interview, and then determine ability to apply skills to new situations during the interview. In today’s job market, branding yourself as a generalist is a great way to get overlooked … because it’s impossible to see what makes you superior when you describe yourself as a generalist.

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So what do you think happens to your resume when you describe yourself at your average, but your target employer is expecting candidates to describe themselves at their best?


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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