Is Your Resume Like Fine Dining… or an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet?

During dinner at a nice restaurant this weekend, I was immediately impressed by our waiter; he was obviously very experienced – and quite good at his chosen profession.

After my dinner companion and I had reviewed the menu, the waiter politely introduced himself as “John”. John noticed we each had a pre-meal glass of wine (one red and one white) and mentioned the house specialties that may pair well with our choice of wine. Sprinkled throughout his suggestions, he pointed out a few ingredients in these dishes, and why he thought they’d go well with particular wines.

We were sold – on him, and the specials.

And this terrific experience lead me to think of resumes… how? (I might need a vacation…)

Recently, I began the process of bringing on YouTern’s summer intern team. While reviewing the resumes sent in response to our internship postings, I noticed some disturbing trends:

  • Many resumes received were clearly generic; no work had been done to show the applicant had researched our opportunity
  • Applicants customized their resume but still didn’t appear to understand the requirements of the position (for example, some resumes for my Blogging Intern position didn’t even contain the word “blog” – let alone indicate they had any blogging experience)
  • Many resumes had no accompanying cover letter to provide insight on the applicant liked about the position (they provided nothing about how they were uniquely qualified… or why I should be “sold” enough to want to interview them)

Back to the restaurant… and let me further state what our dining experience has to do with resumes (…maybe a day off or two would be good enough…)

Think of our waiter John as if he were an applicant submitting a resume and cover letter:

  • He researched his target audience (noting our wine choices)
  • Name detailed some of what he had to offer (and made us feel good about our choices so far)
  • Even better – he took the time to describe how his suggestions fit well with our displayed preferences

In short, he guided his audience… showing us how what he was offering matched what we may want, and why – and showed a clear expertise and value proposition in the process.

And it took him 60 seconds, total, to convince us how good he was at his job – and why we should listen.

In contrast, many resumes I received for YouTern’s internship positions gave me no indication as to why that applicant should be considered “the one”. Rather than being a metaphorical fine dining experience, these applicants chose their resumes to be a low-end, all-you-can-eat buffet. They said, “here are a bunch of old, generic ingredients laid out in no particular order, Mr. Recruiter. Choose whichever parts of my experiences you’d like. We hope something here suits your appetite… If so… great.”

Which applications do you think I gave more consideration?

  • Fine Dining: The candidates who detailed for me in their cover letter and resume why they wanted my internship, and saved me time by detailing why they would be the best fit?
  • Bob Johnson’s Casino Buffet: Those who sent a generic resume alone, leaving me to interpret why they were applying and what about their experience may fit my need?

The most appealing choice for me – and millions of other recruiters – is obvious. (Hint: I didn’t interview any of the applicants in the latter group, above).

And it should be for you, the job or internship seeker. Like John in our analogy, you must research your audience and guide them to understand your expertise; based on their requirements and choices, you must sell you as their best candidate.

Given a choice, and with all else in the decision-making process being even, every recruiter wants to dine in nice restaurants surrounded by an expert team… not in Las Vegas style buffets where you may get full, but will undoubtedly regret your choice.



Abou the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Community Manager and Content Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s overall “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn, and follow him on Twitter!



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