Barbara Safani 5 Comments

cookie cutter

  • As a member of a new community of resume writers and career coaches called the Career Collective, this post is one of many responses to the question, “Are you a cookie cutter job seeker?” I encourage you to visit other members’ responses, linked at the end of my reply! Please follow our hashtag on Twitter: #careercollective.

Frequently I meet job seekers who think that there is a strict format for resumes and refer to the resume format they used when they graduated from college or find something on Google templates to use as their guide. Some job seekers are fearful of changing up any of the content or adding any type of stylistic design elements to their resume for fear that their resumes will look different from others. Huh?

Strong brands have a value proposition, look, and feel that separates them from the pack. Apple didn’t become successful because it was just like a PC and Starbucks didn’t become the powerhouse it is because they are just another coffee shop. Strong brands allow people to experience an important emotion and the packaging of the brand is all part of that emotional connection.

A resume is a marketing tool designed to get the job seeker interviews. Every facet of the document needs to exude your promise to deliver, your passion, and your differentiating features. And this can never be achieved with a template resume or one that was created based on the way resumes were written many years ago when you graduated.

Develop content and design based on that unique value. Write about your compelling stories of success and validate that success by showing the impact your actions had on the organizations you supported. Doing so will help build trust between you and your reader and solidify the emotional connection to your brand. Use design features such as bold, shading, graphs, charts, and even color if these elements better communicate your key selling points. Don’t be afraid to do things differently if doing so will help you get your message across.

Here’s what my colleagues have to say about this topic.

Keppie Careers – Conscious awareness and your job hunt

The Emerging Professional: On the “Cookie Cutter” Approach to Job Search: Do You Need a Recipe?

Sterling Career Concepts: Job seekers: Break out of the mold!

Dawn Bugni The Write Solution: Dawn’s Blog Is your job search “cookie-cutter” or “hand-dropped”?

Rosa Vargas, Creating Prints Resume-Writing Blog: Being a Cookie-Cutter Job Seeker is a Misfortune

Heather Mundell, life@work: How Not to Be a Cookie Cutter Job Seeker

Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, Career Trend Blog: Eating Bananas Doesn’t Make You an Ape,

Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Careers: How Can a Job Seeker Stand Out?
Quintessential Resumes and Cover Letters Tips Blog:Avoiding Being a Cookie-Cutter Job-seeker In Your Resume and Throughout Your Job Search:
Heather R. Huhman, Break the Mold: Don’t Be a Cookie Cutter

Rosalind Joffe, Forget the cookies! Start with vision

Hannah Morgan, Career Sherpa  Are You a Cookie Cutter Job Seeker?


  1. Barbara – I have had clients ask me “tone down” their presentations a bit. (Huh???) Once I explain, if they don’t shout their wonderfulness from the mountain tops, no one else will they understand the importance of standing out from the crowd (in a good way) during a search and their confidence soars. Excellent information. Thanks for the reminder: special sells.

  2. Dawn,

    I think there are a lot of job seekers out there who feel that way. Wendy Gelberg gave a great presentation called Resume Clients Who Hate Self Promotion at the NRWA conference. She has some great questions she recommends asking people who don’t like to brag. You can read it on my Happy About My Resume blog. Thanks for reading.

  3. Barbara,

    Great post – it is amazing how people depend so strongly on their resume as their primary tool in their job search.

    I look forward to exploring future career collective topics with you!

    Best wishes,

  4. It still surprises me when people believe they should use a template from Word or another program for their resume. I love your analogy that “Apple didn’t become Apple” by being the same as everyone else. It is difficult for many people to think about “marketing” themselves. Surprisingly, I’ve found that even marketing pros sometimes have a tough time when the product is themselves!

    Thanks so much for participating in the Career Collective. I’m looking forward to your future posts!

  5. Barbara,

    Spot on post! Had I not written about creating a differentiating job search, I would have written about this topic (job seekers wanting to keep it safe with their resume). I am glad I did not write it though because you did a much better job! 🙂

    You are absolutely correct! I can’t tell you how often job seekers have asked me to add an Objective to a resume and use generic adjectives like team-oriented. Is seems they go online and find a generic resume that looks safe or compare to a friend’s resume and they become afraid to stand out. Well, a little coaching helps but thank you for bringing up such a needed point and conveying it so well.

    Job seekers, listen to Barbara — she knows!

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