shadow of your own resume

Living in the shadow of your own resume

Are you what it says on the tin?

Or do you live in the shadow of your own resume?

I received a CV from a candidate (let’s call him John). My eyes lit up.

A complex search had just become much easier. His CV was powerful, positive, succinct. But unhappily John was not. His responses ranged from arrogant and overbearing to hesitant, unclear and evasive. If his resume had not been on my screen I would have had no idea what John did.

Who was this person?

Many candidates suffer from  what I call Resume Shadow Syndrome. This is when a CV is stronger than the candidate’s personal presentation of themselves, whether in person or on the phone. They therefore live in the shadow of their own resume. This means that they will be called for interviews or contacted by telephone, but will either come unravelled at the first screening stage, or the face to face interview.

Their CVs are highly branded and compelling. They are a white label. Similar but different and not in a good way. Overall feeling of feeling disappointed and cheated.

Basically for different reasons, they don’t own their message.

No quick fixes

They believe that having a strong CV is the magic carpet solution to career change, where they can float over the whole process, preferably at speed. This is a career myth which needs debunking. In fact constructing a strong resume is probably only the 3rd or even 4th step in a building block process to success and by leap frogging all the basics they crash and burn.

It’s like thinking you can tackle black ski runs because you have bought top class equipment and look good. Not happening. Or finding out from the small print that the “top quality fresh ” product is full of dubious additives and unpronounceable, 10 syllable chemicals.

A client said to me “B -players can write or have someone write for an A-player resume. It makes life tougher.”

Why is this so important?

Having a powerful CV is only part of the job search process and although it will open doors, it won’t get you the job! It’s only part of communicating your message (brand) so that people hear you! If you are not connected to your own message and you are not what it says on the tin, then you’re in trouble.

What can go wrong?

No self insight. The CV has been prepared with professional help but with insufficient time on core “discovery” work and follow-up. You have to do basic discovery work and spend some time reflecting on your achievements and skills. If candidates don’t really know themselves, how can they expect other people, who don’t know them at all, glean any understanding of them.

Poor delivery. The message might look good on paper but it has not been converted into a compelling verbal narrative. Not enough practise! Laziness, ignorance or arrogance – or a combination of all three

Poor first impression. Body language, general appearance and demeanour are incorrect or inappropriate.

Insufficient preparation. No research is carried out on the companies and individuals involved in the process. Most companies make it easy for you to learn about them on their website and LinkedIn. Remember Google? Even if it’s not an interview, but just a networking session or an informal chat, make sure that you know who will be involved in the process and practise your elevator speech.

Inferior content. Be concise, precise and relevant in your delivery with crisp presentation to avoid detailed questioning, because your point is fuzzy. See point on preparation, research and practise. Understanding your core mission statement and practising the delivery of your message , over and over again if necessary, is key here. Don’t expect it to be alright on the day. Even confident people get nervous and forget things. Be direct and professional in terms of language and topics covered. Interviewers don’t want to know about your kids sports games – unless you are asked.

Fuzzy. Be honest and don’t exaggerate or evade. Skilled interviewers can detect spin or lies instantly and will pick at it until the truth is out. You want to avoid the ” Let’s go back to…” unless it’s a major achievement and even then you should have sold that thoroughly. Fuzziness creates doubts. If there are real doubts – you will be cut.

Negativity. Be positive – don’t run your ex company or colleagues down. It’s a small world and you never know who knows whom. If you do that about one company you could well do it for the hiring manager and organisation.

Anyone who thinks because they have one strong document they can short-circuit running the hard yards can be in for a serious wake up call. You have to be who you say you are on the tin!

Just make sure you are your own brand and not a white label!


Need help creating a compelling career narrative, get in touch NOW! 

6 thoughts on “Living in the shadow of your own resume

  1. Jacqui Poindexter, Executive Resume Writer

    What an important and resonating post, Dorothy!

    I really like how you said: “If you are not connected to your own message, and you are not what it says on the tin, then you’re in trouble.” I couldn’t agree with you MORE!

    When uneducated resume prospects approach me to (clearing my throat) ‘polish their resume,’ I work hard to articulate the value of an introspective resume process that requires deliberate thought and taking sufficient time to unearth their unique value stories. It’s an exhaustive, almost guttural process that, at the end of the several week period, leaves behind a trail of sound bites and other talk points that the candidate leverages throughout the process.

    In other words, as your article points, out, the process provides ‘self insight’ via discovery work and reflection on achievements and skills. I totally agree that candidates must know themselves if they expect other people who don’t know them at at all to ‘glean any understanding of them.’

    Dorothy, I’m bookmarking your post to further underscore the critical importance of this resume and career introspection process that I already VALUE so highly and aspire to provide to my clients every day!


    1. Dorothy Dalton

      Jacqui – thanks so much for your kind words and comments. Gaining self insight for the purpose of creating a strong CV can be a tough process for many. Your clients are lucky to have someone as tenacious and thorough as yourself to work with.

  2. Jeanne Male

    Hi Dorothy,

    Thanks for giving a name to this uneasy interview scenario that I have felt when interviewing candidates. I also appreciate that you started the “what can go wrong” list with a lack of self-awareness. I’m planning to post this to the LinkedIn JobLife Architects group today.

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