Is Your Resume Distinctive?

Picture this: You are the job candidate, and you’ve just entered my office. I am the hiring manager. As you came in, you noticed other people sitting in reception waiting to see someone. Based on their dress, demeanor, and some anxious looks, you’ve deduced that they are potentially competitors…other job candidates. As it turns out, you are correct – and they are interviewing with me right after for the same job.

Hmmmm. What will you have to say that will distinguish yourself from your competitors? What are your distinctive “features” (thinking of yourself as a product you’re trying to sell) that will enable me, as the hiring manager (buyer), to pick you over them?

The reality is – you are unique! No one else in the world was created just like you! Psalm 139:13-14 says “For You God created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;” In addition to your DNA being unique, no one else in the world has your personal history!

So, how can you, as the job candidate, best express your personal “features” in a way that’s distinctively clear and concise to me, the hiring manager?

As we’ve covered in other blogs, this work should be done and expressed in your resume (Step #4 of our Crossroads Career process), so when you get to the interview, you’re positioned to expand upon those “selling features.”

As with many things in life, making the complex simple is an art form, usually with some trial and error. Here are some practical steps that will help:

Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to guid you as you begin this exercise.
Without judgment, start a page of bullet points with phrases that describe what you think your features are. Try to make them as specific and distinctive as possible, but with the main goal of getting words on a piece of paper. For example, for me, I was professionally certified as a CPA, and I have 25 years of HR experience. How many “retreaded” CPA’s do you know? 🙂
Once you have a 25-30 words / phrases, go through and highlight those that don’t seem that distinctive. For example, “good communicator” – hmmmm, anyone can actually say that.


For those highlighted words, reflect why you wrote those words down? For example, perhaps you wrote “good communicator” because you have 10 years of professional internal and external communications functional experience. OK, now that’s much more distinctive than “good communicator!” Good job!


With what you’ve now refined from general phrases into specific phrases, capture those on a clean piece of paper and start to share them with some trusted friends. Get their reactions. Perhaps ask them to circle the top 5 that they think best describes you. Additionally, they will probably have some different ideas, based on their lens, with how they view you. Be open to their suggestions – – actually, embrace their ideas, as they will probably more closely remember the lens of the hiring managers you’re trying to “sell.”


Now that you’ve gone through this exercise, what are those top 3 distinctions that help you “sell” what you do best to help the company with what they need most? Where could these best fit into your resume? I’d suggest they are much more powerful than an “Objectives” or “Summary” section content, or perhaps embedded within the results that you’re highlighting.

Remember, no one on the planet is equipped like you! BUT, you’ve got to be able to express your “features” in a way that helps the recruiter or hiring manager see you clearly as the best person to help them do what they need most. Blessings!

Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.

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