Make the Shift From Résumé Templates to Branded Résumés

Employer reviewing candidate résumé

For most career and employment practitioners, it is a well-known fact that a résumé template will not compete effectively against a branded résumé in a competition for a prime opportunity. It may be no big revelation to you that résumé templates are rampant — in applications like Microsoft Word, and even in online résumé building tools and stand-alone applications. You can readily find examples online of templates having been used by certified writers. Templates can also be spotted in popular sample books and even in industry resources. However, if you use one of these formats instead of creating a fully branded résumé, are you giving your client the best chance for success?

Branding your client’s résumé is critical. If three candidates apply for the same position and each résumé is virtually identical in terms of addressing the employer’s stated requirements, then none of the three documents will stand out. Now, expand this scenario to cover hundreds of candidates applying for one advertised job posting. It is clear that if your client’s résumé is just like all the others, it is highly unlikely to be selected over other more interesting résumés.

Why Résumé Templates Don’t Compete Against Branded Documents

There are many reasons why templates can’t compete against customized, branded résumés. Here are just five:

  • Using a template, even as a guide, can stunt your creativity. If you only see things one way, it’s hard to “think outside of the box.”
  • The résumé writing industry progresses as quickly as technology does. The templates that you are using today are very likely outdated.
  • Templates don’t accommodate strategy. You can’t effectively address obstacles, deviations, and anomalies in your clients’ histories within the confines of a template.
  • Often template “wizards” that are part of résumé building applications require certain sections be filled in. This, of course, won’t work when your clients don’t have what the template demands.
  • It’s often difficult to reformat pre-designed templates, so once you have developed the content, you are stuck with the look and structure imposed by the template.

Are You Using Templates or Are You Creating Branded Résumés?

You can do a quick litmus test to determine if you are branding your clients’ résumés. Compare the last ten résumés that you created. If they are branded, each will have a distinctive value proposition, strategy, and design.

All is not lost if you are currently using templates in your practice. Many established organizations have successfully accomplished the shift from using templates to creating branded résumés.

We know that lifting directly from copyrighted material such as a résumé book is, of course, plagiarism. An ethical practitioner understands that the material is only to be used as a guideline to inspire creative thinking on the part of both the consultant and the client. Therefore, the goal is to learn from the resource and then encourage the construction of a powerful and unique document that represents the individuality of the client.

Not all résumés need to be imaginative, but every résumé needs to distinguish your client. The concern with copying from job postings and job descriptions intensifies when clients are targeting positions where key competencies require independent thought. For example, if a potential employer is looking for a filing clerk, the ability to complete tasks according to standard procedures might be the most important factor. If, on the other hand, the employer is looking for an office manager, then the ability to bring new ideas to streamline and improve processes is much more valuable. In this case, creativity and uniqueness trumps the ability to complete basic tasks.

The Strategy Behind Branding Your Clients’ Résumés

Many practitioners will create a binder or file of exceptional sample résumés from previous clients. As the collection grows, a formidable resource emerges. Practitioners then tap into their files to evoke compelling ideas and strategies. This system works well, if kept in check. Core ideas can be re-used effectively as long as the content from previous clients’ résumés is not being copied directly. If you are using such a system, client privacy is, of course, paramount. Whether you are using the file personally or are sharing it in the office, it is essential to adhere to a formal policy and system that addresses current privacy legislation.

As a general rule of thumb, the more senior the opportunity, the more important it is to help your client to stand apart from the rest of the candidates. If your client is looking for an entry-level position that requires the ability to complete assigned directives, it is likely that a task-oriented résumé will work. If your client is transitioning into a more progressive role, then a creative résumé will work. But in either case, a branded résumé will improve your client’s chance for success during the interview selection process.

There is nobody on earth like your client. He or she offers a unique blend of experience, skills, and accomplishments. Therefore, the résumé must be different from the others the employer will receive. To create a branded résumé for your client, you need to be strategic and think from a marketing perspective. Advertisers know that if they can create a compelling image in the consumer’s mind, they will quickly connect with their target market. In the same way, you need to create a distinctive value proposition that clearly and concisely connects with the target employer. Once you start thinking of your client as a marketable brand, you are ready to create a résumé that stands above the rest.

How much is it worth to you if your client’s résumé is the first résumé selected by the prospective employer? One way to enable your clients to stand out is to incorporate a design element that is different from anything else that you have seen. For example, a splash of colour will immediately make your client’s résumé stand out. If there were fifty résumés in a stack and only your client’s had colour, the recruiter might just skim through the pile and pull out that very document because it was different. Obviously, you don’t want your client’s résumé set aside because it is unattractive or busy, so create a beautiful and professional document that represents your client in an upscale way as someone who is worthy of preferred candidate status.

Take These Steps to Start Creating Branded Résumés

Here are some ways that you can distinguish your clients by creating branded résumés that surpass all others:

  1. Instead of relying on résumé templates, start with a blank page.
  2. Forget the “canned” statements and focus on concise, but creative, wording.
  3. Outline why the employer should hire your client instead of other qualified candidates.
  4. Show your client’s uniqueness by focusing on attributes that most candidates don’t offer.
  5. Impress the reader with the talents that often bring your client compliments.
  6. Instead of chronological or functional format, strategically position every section.
  7. Stay away from logging lists of responsibilities, tasks, and duties.
  8. Outline only your client’s most impressive accomplishments and show measurable results.
  9. Go beyond education and experience to include committees, publications, recommendations, and other areas that reinforce the unique value that your client brings.
  10. Incorporate a branded design element that reflects your client’s professional image and that will appeal to his or her target market.

When you rely on templates, you automatically stunt your clients’ ability to differentiate themselves. If you are merely re-typing what others use to describe themselves, then you are not describing their unique talents, qualifications, attributes, achievements, and value. Thoughtful branded résumés built from scratch will make your clients stand out. They will advertise them in ways that show potential employers their incomparable worth.

To learn more, register for our Advanced Résumé Development Certificate Course and work towards your Certified Résumé Strategist (CRS) credential!

Sharon Graham is founder and executive director of Career Professionals of Canada. Committed to setting the standard for excellence in the career development profession, Sharon has authored top-selling paperback publications and textbooks, and has established a range of certificationprofessional developmentcommunity development, and mentoring and award programs. As executive director of CPC, she provides foresight and leadership within the career development sector and ensures that the mandate of CPC is upheld with integrity.

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