What Job Seekers Can Learn from American Idol

The people who do well in the world’s biggest karaoke show might not seem to have much in common at first glance. In recent years we’ve had indie rockers, country singers, R&B, southern rock, pop … and this year we have everything from a a gay glam rocker to a church-going widower, but all these people do have one thing in common. A clear personal narrative that everyone can describe in just a few words.

Each year there are many contestants who don’t have a clear identity or narrative and a year later, no one even remembers their names.

When I work on a client’s resume, this is what I also shoot for – a clear narrative for each client. Some call this personal branding, a term I don’t think is helpful but which I mention because no doubt you have heard of it. But whatever you call it, the goal is the same: create a resume that tells a clear story, so that the recruiter or hiring manager understands exactly who you are.

Storytelling in Marketing

Seth Godin is a marketing blogger and he talks about this concept in his book ‘All Marketers are Liars.’ He’s not really calling all marketing people liars – the point of his book is that the best marketers craft and tell a succinct clear story about their product, one that everyone can easily understand and relate to. Unsuccessful marketers never get to this clear story – instead they may tell lots of conflicting stories trying to appeal to a wide audience, or they may tell not story at all – just present the consumer with a long list of product features with nothing to explain why they need to buy this particular product at this particular time.

How Does This Apply to Your Resume?

This is tough to do when it comes to yourself. After all, we’re all complex beings with lots of different personality traits, experiences and skills. How do you boil all that down to one clear and compelling message? I think you do it by spending some time identifying what makes you uniquely valuable. What is it about your particular skills, experiences and personality traits that make you different from everyone else applying for the same position. None of us are alike – the key is just pinpointing your difference.

For example, I am a former HR exec. I’ve hired a lot of people. I’m also a good writer and I have always had an innate ability to take lots of information, see the key points quickly and summarize them. So my value narrative is my combination of writing ability and real world HR experience. Other resume writers will have different narratives.

Once you know what you individual narrative is, writing your resume becomes so much easier. Because now you know that you should include only the information that supports your personal narrative.

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