Why are you afraid to say who you are?

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Have you noticed that the vast majority of job applicant résumés say nothing about the person?

They say a lot about professional aspects of the individual. Career experience is carefully outlined with names of companies, positions held and periods served. Many – too many, if you ask me – skills are detailed. Achievements are extolled in bold or italics for emphasis. And of course, they state educational qualifications. But there is little, if any, information about the person.

A package of skills

I have often wondered why people present themselves as a package of qualifications but leave out their human qualities. I have found this largely true whether the person is seeking an entry-level job, mid-level position, or a senior opening.

Perhaps applicants labour under the false premise that employers look only for a bundle of skills. The truth is employers look for distinctive qualities in individuals they wish to hire. Yes, those qualities are about functional, managerial, and leadership capabilities, but they also include important aspects of personality.

Most curriculum vitae look the same because they are confined to describing professional accomplishments. They do not reveal interests, personality traits, beliefs and values that define the person and highlight his or her uniqueness.  

Windows to character 

Interests are remarkable windows to a person’s character. A large multi-national company in India once hired a young man for his hobby in collecting old coins. He pursued his passion with such dedication that he had not only amassed a great collection, he had acquired remarkable knowledge of the political and socio-economic history of coins. The Company saw it as an indication of perseverance, and inquisitive nature.

Education (I don’t mean degrees) and early social environment play a big role in shaping one’s personality. They make people who they are and set them apart from others. Yet, there is scarcely a hint of these vital clues in the candidate’s résumé. It is almost as if one is shy to reveal oneself. Why?

Discover the stranger in you

I suspect many people do not really know who they are. They believe they are so burdened with office work, home and social responsibilities that they simply do not have the luxury of time. The insatiable demands of WhatsApp and Facebook take their toll as well.

Thinking about oneself does not really require a lot of time. It does need orienting the mind to think about what we do, why, and learn from the enquiry. Learning about oneself is a constant process. Fortunately, it can be done anywhere, anytime. But it does mean one has to devote oneself to it from time to time.

What employers want!

It is true employers look for skills that can be leveraged quickly in jobs they are trying to fill. But they also look for qualities such as the ability to think, empathy, social and environment responsibility, morality, grit, truthfulness, and other principles one leads one life by. They tell an employer how well the person may fit the organisation culture and demands of the job.

A young man once wrote he had determination. He narrated how he had regained his place in the college football team, in three weeks, with rigorous practice and training after an illness had reduced him to a bag of bones. He was hired for grit.

Employers attempt to assess the traits and qualities of a candidate through interviews. It is not a good method (see my post 'What, no interviews?)'. They can but rarely use other methods that are more effective. Many leading universities and colleges, especially in the West, ask prospective students to write an essay on global, social, human, or personal issues. Essays tell them something about a candidate’s personal qualities, opinions and beliefs. Business organisations can adapt the practice to their context. Psychometric tests can also help fathom the unknowns of a prospective employee.

Reveal yourself

In a market where competition for jobs is intense, and your CV looks much like others’, doesn’t it make sense to say who you are? And present a true, compelling picture and stand out?


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