Job Seekers: Lost in the Shuffle?

Lost in the ShuffleMy concern was always for the nobody, the man who is lost in the shuffle, the man who is so common, so ordinary, that his presence is not even noticed.” (Henry Miller \ Sexus, 1949)

This week I came across this quote from the iconic, 20th century avant-garde author in ‘Literary Brooklyn’, a book about famous authors who lived in my hometown. What I found especially interesting is one of the few real-world jobs Henry Miller held during his life was in the human resources department of Western Union as a high volume recruiter / hiring manager in the 1920’s.

Upon reading this quote it struck me, like a bolt of lightening, how much it parallels my first impression about job seekers throughout my professional career after viewing their resumes for the first time. Whether emailed for a free resume critique or for me to edit or write; sent to me when as a recruiter with the intention of impressing me with how viable a candidate they were for positions with my clients; or submitted to me when I was in corporate HR or a business owner and ultimate decision maker.

I can state with absolute certainty that at least 75% of the thousands of resumes I’ve read went unnoticed. I am also convinced that others who review and write resumes for a living will concur that this figure holds true for them as well.

I readily admit that most of the job seekers whose resumes I read can not be classified as being a ‘nobody’. In truth many, if not the majority have something to offer; and in many cases they might bring great value to a job. However for a plethora of reasons their resumes inevitably get lost in the ultracompetitive shuffle because, as Henry Miller so eloquently put it, “they were so common, so ordinary, that [their] presence is hardly noticed.

Whether it’s a computer or human eye judging your resume it must make an immediate and indelible impression on the reader to get you into the pool of candidates called in for a face-to-face interview.

Resume writing today is akin to marketing a luxury product. You need to get a perspective buyer’s attention from the get-go and intrigue them to find out more. You must identify the needs and benefits they seek and how you offer a solution. You need to be brief, but not too brief, and eye catching in getting your message across. Finally, you must come to the realization, like anyone in marketing will tell you, that the same product is not marketed the same way to all audiences. You need to treat perspective employers as being unique with special needs if you expect them to reciprocate and consider you as an individual with something special to offer.

My first and strongest suggestions to you are to avoid using common, overused resume templates or trying to imitate someone else’s resume in your field.

Next, avoid appearing ordinary at all costs (editorially or financially) and dare to be bold and defy convention if you want your presence to be noticed. This is not easy to do but it is essential to your success.

Remember, your primary goal is to get noticed and get people to view you not so much for what you have been in the past, but for the valuable employee you will become for them in the future.

What was true in Henry Miller’s astute perception of people in his day holds true in our times as well. It’s always in your hands whether decision makers rate you as a significant nobody, invisible in a crowd, or if they recognize you as a top-flight candidate whose resume stands out based on its and your merits.


Perry Newman, CPC CSMS is a nationally recognized executive resume writer, career coach, AIPC certified recruiter and SMMU certified social media strategist known for his ability to help his clients get results. You can view his sample resumes at, and email him your resume at for FREE resume critique.

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