I’m a huge fan of The X-Factor – the global music-talent competition – where four judges audition contestants and search for a mysterious “star” quality called “The X-Factor.” It transcends talent, looks, and personality. I’ve heard the judges say, “I don’t know what it is, but you’ve got it – you’ve got star power, the X-Factor!”
Do resumes have a secret X-Factor that can fling doors wide open?
During the past six years, I’ve browsed at least 2200 resumes. Last summer I audited all 2200 and discovered the following pattern, which reminded me of my favorite TV show:
- About 80% of my samples are rated “average” – not horrible but not great – too weak to stop me in my tracks and force me to follow-up with a call. These will land in the “maybe” pile.
- Another 15% are awful – sometimes hilariously bad – these go straight to the trash can.
- But 5% of these resumes will easily pass a hiring manager’s “six-second scan.” How do they do it? That got me thinking, “Do certain resumes possess an unbeatable X-Factor?”
Your Resume Has a 4-Part X-Factor
I cherry-picked 100 of my very best samples from the “slush pile” of 2200 resumes. I tried to pinpoint the X-Factor, the single quality that every winner had in common. Although I could not pinpoint a lone, single factor, I do guarantee that your resume will win the interview if it can pass the following four tests:
THE 4-LEGGED BREAKDOWN
1. EASY TO READ: The layout – especially section headings – must be well organized and easy to follow. Text must be simple, coherent, and not crowded like the small print on a phone bill. Here is an awful example from a CEO with a Ph.D in physics:
2. THE ALMIGHTY POWER OF “ONE”: Focus your resume on ONE target, one idea, one theme. A resume with multiple, conflicting ideas always fails – for example, an IT program manager who concurrently starts up a software company. Too many conflicting ideas on the resume – no “power of one” – so it fails the X-Factor.
3. SPOTLIGHT ON CUSTOMERS: A winning resume focuses the spotlight on results for clients, investors, and employers. When you hog the spotlight for yourself, you kill the X-Factor. Instead, show complete success stories that focus on your employers – this is unbeatable resume material.
4. “EMOTION”: Like a good advertisement, every unbeatable resume triggers an appropriate emotion in the reader. As the judges say, “I can’t describe it, but I can feel it – you’ve got the X-Factor!” – emotion, electricity, energy, sparks. This quality is difficult to describe and potentially fatal – that is probably why hardly anybody talks about it.
How to inject some positive energy and passion into your resume – without creating a monster!
Have you seen all or part of Frankenstein, an all-time classic movie from 1931? Dr. Frankenstein stole some dead body parts from the graveyard. Then he created a living man in his laboratory by channeling lightning into the dead flesh. What could possibly go wrong?
Your resume starts out like Frankenstein – just a collection of dead body parts – until you add an emotional spark. This 2-minute video shows how to inject some positive energy and passion into your resume – without creating a monster!
Here’s an Alternate Way To Bring Your Resume To Life
Just use the word “I” to introduce an energetic and passionate story that shows how you help employers and clients solve their worst problems. Here’s an example:
Do Deploy the Controversial “I” Word: It’s Like Injecting Your Resume With X-Factor Steroids
According to a conventional resume rule, you should never use pronouns, especially the pronoun “I.” But that rule will not last for long, because “I” is already recommended for your LinkedIn profile (and the LinkedIn profile is a harbinger of personal branding for your resume).
As a resume writer, I have no qualms about using any reasonable tactic – like the ones shown in the video – to inject some personality into a resume. But some of my own clients feel squeamish about taking calculated risks. In the early stages they say they want to stand out – they want better interviews – but later in the process, some of them retreat. It’s a very personal tradeoff. When clients tell me, “I’m not comfortable,” I tell them,”your only option is to stay stuck in your comfort zone – what’s more important to you?”
YOUR NEXT STEP – STICK YOUR NECK OUT
A job search is like an audition for “The X-Factor” TV show. Some candidates will get interviews and win the job because they applied all four elements of that mysterious X-Factor – including the uncomfortable emotion / passion aspects. Based on my own research, only 5% of your competitors are stirring up emotions that resonate with hiring managers.
But now that you’ve read this piece, you know more than 95% of your competitors. Now that you know what to do, just stimulate the right emotion in the reader. Without going overboard, inject some positive energy and passion into your resume – without creating a monster!
I wish you the very best of good luck in your search.