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Karin And David’s Leadership Articles

Differentiate your resume with relevance.

We’re writing today with compassion for any of you who are looking for work. If it’s been a minute, the frustration is probably mounting. You might even begin questioning yourself, and the value you bring.

Repeated rejection can discourage even the most resilient person.

With that said, we want to give you the best chance to ensure your resume is given a fair chance.

You see, we just posted and hired for two new positions at Let’s Grow Leaders. And, what we saw during this process surprised us—and we realized that there are some insights here to help your resume stand out.

For one of these roles, we posted an opening on two different job boards. In the postings, we asked applicants to send their resume and include their answer to one question:

“Who is a leader you respect and why do you respect that person?”

Within ten days, we received 250 applications.

Three Simple Ways to Differentiate Your Resume

Now, if you’re looking for your next position, that might feel overwhelming. You might be wondering how you can possibly stand out from those 250 applicants.

It’s easier than you might think. There are four straightforward ways you can differentiate your resume. They aren’t difficult and they don’t take too much time.

1. Respond accurately and completely.

Let’s start with the most obvious opportunity. In our post, we asked that specific question about a leader you respect.

Of those 250+ applicants, how many do you think answered that one simple question?


Only four—that’s it. Out of 250+ applications, we received four qualified applicants. (The job involved attention to detail and responsiveness so seeing if they followed directions is a very relevant qualification.)

The first step to submit a relevant application is to read carefully, understand, and respond to the posting.

There were hundreds of people just clicking a button, saying, “Yeah, that might be a possibility.”

You can differentiate yourself right away just by responding accurately. Over the years, we’ve seen literally thousands of applications. The number of people who complete the process fully and accurately is shockingly small.

2. Respond rapidly.

We corresponded with those four applicants. Two of them immediately distinguished themselves with their level of responsiveness. One person didn’t respond at all. One person took up to two days to respond. In contrast, the other two replied within four hours.

Now, we recognize that you’re managing a life that might be messy and hard to plan. Even so, your level of responsiveness will set you apart from other candidates. It conveys your professionalism and that you take your work seriously.

3. Respond with research.

You have access to more information about prospective employers at your fingertips than at any time in history.

For many organizations, a quick look at their website, their leaders’ LinkedIn profiles, or a web search will help you learn about their work, their mission, their history, their recent celebrations or achievements, and more.

In your cover letter or follow-up correspondence, show your work. Talk about what they do and why you’d like to be a part of it. You can reference a recent success and why it’s motivating. There are countless opportunities to tailor your comments meaningfully.

Spend ten or fifteen minutes to understand the organization and you will further distinguish your resume and interview from all the others.

Often, you can find the hiring manager online and write them directly, noting your submission through the platform they used, and personalizing your message with relevant research.

If this research sounds like a lot of work, we invite you to consider that, in our experience, less than 1% of candidates do this. You’ve instantly distinguished yourself as someone who’s serious about being a part of the team.

4. Respond to your interview with questions.

There are plenty of guides to interviewing effectively, but the one skill we want to emphasize is to ask good questions.

If you have an opportunity to ask your interviewer questions, be prepared with thoughtful questions. Asking good questions demonstrates that you’ve done your research, you’re seriously interested in the role, you understand the opportunities or challenges, and that you belong in a successful organization.

Examples of powerful questions we’ve been asked when interviewing candidates include:

  • “What’s your vision for the company in the next five years?”
  • “I saw in that Business Journal article that you had a record year last year. How are you building on that? How do you hope this position will contribute to that success?”
  • “You obviously have a clear strategy to _____ and it’s working. I’m curious how you got there?”
  • “Looking at your marketing presence online, it looks like you’re targeting this demographic. Have you considered finding more of those people on this platform?”
  • “In your LinkedIn profile, I notice you have a lot of experience doing _______.  I’d love to learn more from you about that. What’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learned along the way?”
  • “How has this challenging time impacted your business? What are you doing differently?”

Hiring managers can spot someone going through the motions in an application in a hot minute. Taking time to go a level deeper will give you an immediate competitive advantage in the hiring process.

Your Turn

We’d love to hear from you. Based on your experience of either receiving or reviewing resumes, what helps to differentiate the ones that get taken seriously?

You Might Also Like:

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How to Avoid Pigeon Holing Yourself For Greater Career Success

Resume Remedy: 5 Questions Your Resume Must Answer

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Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

Be More Daring


Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

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