Contender OR Pretender in Your Job Search

C&RJob seekers must impress recruiters, perspective employers, individuals they’re networking with, and sometimes even their bosses; some succeed and are viewed as Contenders while others are summarily dismissed as mere Pretenders.

At the Planning Stage

Pretenders fail to have a clear picture of who they are and the jobs they should be seeking. They don’t make the time to understand what they excel at, where they are just average or slightly above average, and their weaknesses. They fail to understand what cultures they will thrive in and what cultures will eat them alive. They conduct their job search based on the title of a position rather than the job’s requirements, and many are obsessed with recapturing their past and fail to perceive their place in the future. In my mind the most egregious error Pretenders make is trying to conduct a job search driven by instinct and flawed or outdated information.

Contenders know where they are going in the workplace and what jobs and companies are a good fit for them at each stage in their career. They did their homework and defined exactly what they have to offer and the value they can bring to a new position. Most important Contenders have a game plan to showcase their candidacy and execute it flawlessly.

The Resume

Pretender’s Resumes are long on key words and describing mundane responsibilities, use the wrong approach in their visual presentation, and fall way short of the mark in telling a compelling story. They usually end up in either the reject pile or the “Usual Suspects” pile full of Resumes that say “Choose me I’m as qualified as the next Resume you’ll read.”

Contender’s Resumes focus on what the employer wants to buy instead of on what the job seeker has to offer and on accomplishments over listing generic key words. They tell a compelling story that has the right beginning to establish a personal brand, a focused middle that broadens and sells the brand, and an ending that ties it all together. Contenders choose a Resume format and style that interests the reader’s eye and guides them to what they are looking for; it says “I am someone you need to meet.”

LinkedIn / Social Media

Pretenders often have a contending Resume but negate it with a LinkedIn page and social media presence that is off the mark. Pretenders place the wrong photo on LinkedIn, fail to show a professional side of their personality and fail to enhance their image with Recommendations and Endorsements that can validate their Resume. Pretenders also fail to monitor their image on other social media coming across as unprofessional in words and actions on sites like Twitter, Facebook etc.

Contenders are as conscious about their public image as NY Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter is about his image on and off the baseball diamond. Contenders pay careful attention to what they say and what is said about them on the web. Most important they know how to cultivate a best-in-class persona and how to validate it on LinkedIn.

The Interview

Pretenders blow themselves out of the water during a job interview in many ways. Some talk too much and some are way too silent and answer questions with Yes and No or very perfunctory answers. For me the #1 reason interviewees come across as a Pretender is a lack of preparation and #2 is they fail to seek out the right advice.

Contenders have something in common in an interview, they come prepared to succeed. They’ve done their research and anticipate questions the interviewer might ask and how to respond. They examine their past and prepare answers to questions based on their prior accomplishments and rarely ad lib or offer conjecture on what they might do.

The bottom line to me is Pretenders tend to be wishful thinkers who are unwilling to go the extra mile, spend the extra dollar, admit someone knows more than they do, and they often live in the past and resist change.

On the other hand, former American Idol judge Randy Jackson knew what makes a person a Contender; They’re in it to win it.” Contenders seek out, listen to and act on sound professional advice and they execute their game plan to the best of their ability.

Another difference is Contenders maintain a positive attitude at all times no matter what occurs while Pretenders look for excuses when things don’t turn out as expected. When they fall short, Contenders pick themselves up and go back to work as if nothing happened whereas Pretenders lose steam and allow setbacks to derail their momentum and sap their confidence.

As always I would be happy to critique U.S. resume at no cost when emailed to

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