Imagine if I were applying for a position and the following was on my resume:

"I'm a highly motivated individual with a proven track record of building companies. I'm an independent thinker who's not afraid to make decisions, but I'm also a team player who encourages the contributions of others. In my current position, I've overseen double-digit growth, year over year for nearly two decades."

Would I want to hire myself after reading that? Hell no!

Talk about an industry in need of disruption! The resume industry could use a serious shake-up. Who's out there counseling people to "sell themselves" this way? It's horrible.

Apparently I'm not the only employer with this opinion. Rachel Feintzeig reported recently in The Wall Street Journal that a few companies have now decided that they won't even ask for resumes anymore, in a valiant effort to encourage diversity and not be swayed by an exalted alma mater or a Fortune Top 10 past. I'm not quite ready to ditch them, although the idea is tempting. If only we could hire based on blind auditions like many orchestras--or that TV show The Voice.

When we post an opening for a position at Big Ass Fans, we're inundated with reams of the same vainglorious rubbish: lists of bulleted accomplishments loaded with active verbs--'cultivated,' 'increased,' 'developed'--and lots of "I'm great, your company's great, it's time we got together" messages.

Oh yeah? Excuse me while I stifle a yawn.

When our company was getting off the ground, the challenge, as with most startups, was finding talented people who were willing to take a chance and work for us. Now it's 15 years later, and we're constantly hiring for all kinds of positions, from manufacturing to Chief Operating Officer. I see hundreds of resumes--and I'm forced to "read" many of them. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the flood, just what washes in.

Unfortunately, people feel they have no other option than to use the same tiresome formats: I'm this, I'm that, I'm really talented. Of course you're going to say good things about yourself. The question is, why should I believe you? Resume coaches may claim they're always refining their models, but I can't see a difference.

If I were applying for a position with our company, what advice would I give myself?

Write a compelling cover letter, first of all. People too often overlook that step or put very little effort into it. Tell me an interesting story about something you've done that sets you apart and shows initiative. I don't care, really, that sales increased 30 percent under your watch. But I might be interested in a challenge you faced head-on that taught you something, even if it was just repairing the transmission on your Triumph TR3. Make a case for why you, above any other candidate, should be hired--the special skills, abilities and knowledge you bring to the mix.

Who knows? You just might get called in for an interview.

Published on: Jan 29, 2016
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