Reengagement 180 Podcast #11 – The One and Only Question Your Résumé MUST Answer

If you’re like most of my clients – and most people – your résumé is a comprehensive list of the jobs you’ve had, the responsibilities you’ve undertaken, and the projects or assignments you’ve completed. That’s all great—and mostly useless for landing a new job. Stay with me and I’ll share with you the one and only question your résumé MUST answer.


In prior podcasts, I’ve discussed the “replaceable machine parts” model of hiring—a manager creates a functional specification for the necessary replacement part (that’s called a job description) with a list of specific requirements thought to be important for success (although why 10 years of experience is meaningfully different than say, 9 years or 8 years, is beyond me). While this approach may have worked in the “Scalable Efficiency” operating model of organizations that characterized the 20th century, it certainly isn’t appropriate or useful for the 21st-century, “Scalable Capability” model of organizations that we see today. In an organization that thrives based on its members’ relationships and knowledge networks, no one can be considered easily replaceable based primarily on a job specification. Every person leaving or entering the organization – regardless of level or role – changes those relationships and reshapes those networks. Every new hire transforms the organization, and often in unexpected ways. That’s why the key question for hiring managers is not, “who is the best qualified and most experienced candidate?” but rather, “who among these candidates will help transform my organization in the way we need?”

When we examine the qualifications and experiences of a potential new hire, what becomes interesting in this context is not so much, “what have you done?” Instead, a hiring manager wants to understand, “what effects did you have? Whatever you did in your past roles, to whom did it matter, and why was it important to them?” These crucial considerations provide the key to crafting a contemporary résumé that will lead to hiring success.

The starting point of your résumé must be an explicit understanding and enumeration of who you are. What are your Signature Strengths? What are your Core Values? What is your Mindful Intention for your own career trajectory that makes work meaningful for you? Each experiential element of your résumé, be it your past job-role accomplishments, educational milestones, awards and recognitions, or simply the tacked-on fun fact that you hope will catch someone’s attention (and by the way, did you know that I’m not only a coach, but also a salsa instructor and the co-host of a summertime, weekly, outdoor dance party in Toronto?)—each one of these must be framed in such a way so as to illustrate some aspect of who you are, and particularly who you are at your best.

From there, focus on answering the “so what?” question for these elements. To whom did it matter that you brought the project in on time and under budget? What happened as a consequence of saving the company X million dollars, or achieving the top sales award for three years running? When you successfully led your team to ever greater heights of productivity, who cared and what were the effects on the team members? What were they able to achieve as a result?

In essence, your résumé must answer one and only one question: Who am I, why do I matter, and who cares? Okay, so it’s a compound question with three components, and the answer is necessarily complex. But answer that question strategically in the context of your target organization’s business trajectory, and you’re hired!

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Reengagement 180 Podcast #12 – Are You a Leader? Or Merely a Manager? (Hint: It’s all in the ‘ation)