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Show Some Personality (on Your Resume)

Smart marketers know that our brains are wired to ignore the mundane and expected. They also know that if you want to stand out in a mass of mediocrity, you need to make an emotional connection with your audience. What’s that got to do with your resume (and LinkedIn profile)? Everything.

Show Some Personality (on Your Resume)

Seth Godin

Who doesn’t love Seth Godin? His straight talk, insights, and marketing mantras have had our heads nodding in agreement for years, with morsels like:

  • Ordinary is boring.
  • We tune out what we see repeatedly.
  • Smart marketers promote their products differently.
  • Give your content a spin or a hook to get others to pay attention.
  • Delivering the same info in the same boring way as everyone else will fail to get you noticed.

In a time when more than two days’ worth of content is uploaded every minute:

Kevin Allocca, YouTube Head of Culture & Trends

Smart marketer and author Carmine Gallo talks a lot about novelty in his (awesome) book Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. The technical definition of novelty is “the quality of being new, original, or unusual.” Gallo provides tons of data and stories that support the premise that novelty is the single most effective way to capture attention.

Neuroscientists agree that the brain does not attach to boring things. Increase novelty, and you increase dopamine levels. Increase dopamine levels, and you make an experience or information more memorable.

Maya Angelou

So what’s that got to do with your resume (and LinkedIn profile)? Everything.

Your resume and LinkedIn profile are your career marketing materials, so why shouldn’t you apply marketing principles? And since science tells us that info loses its punch when delivered the same way over and over again, why would you want to present your career in a way that mirrors the masses and strips the you from your work?

As a smart marketer of my clients’ careers for the past 10+ years, I’ve translated Gallo’s application of novelty (what the brain loves and simply cannot ignore) to career storytelling with personality and authenticity because while it may sound strange to consider yourself a product, you are the product you’re marketing in your resume and on your profile.

Carmine Gallo

How do I know that my approach to career marketing works? Here’s my story.

Back in 2011, I submitted content I wrote for a client’s LinkedIn profile to an international career writing and coaching organization contest. At the time, I didn’t think I had a prayer in the world to win over this group of judges with a storytelling profile packed with personality, but since I knew the profile had already landed my entrepreneur client exactly the type of opportunity he was looking for (and fast) I submitted it for the contest anyway.

An impeccably written, yet dare I say a wee bit stiff, executive profile won 1st place. But my entry, which opened with something like, “I’ve felt the thrill of marketing and building business since operating my 1st lemonade stand” and included catchy competencies like “hefty revenues” and “mind-blowing business plans,” snagged 2nd place and put me on the map in an industry where I had been a total nobody.

Dan & Chip Heath, authors of "Made to Stick"

After influencing killer results for many more clients by adding personality to their profiles, I was thrilled to be invited to co-deliver “Writing Powerful LinkedIn Profiles with Personality” training to other professional writers. But that wasn’t all I was up to. While leading the personality charge on the LinkedIn side, I’d also started infusing more and more personality and taking a storyteller’s approach to clients’ resumes, cover letters, and e-notes (essentially cover letter-type content condensed down to an email format perfect for today’s busy world). And wouldn’t you know it? The results have been phenomenal.

It turned out that the talent sourcers and hiring powers that be were just as bored reading the same old, stuffy, uninteresting, monotonous, spiritless resume crap as I was writing it. Time and time again, my clients were relaying that the response to their personality-infused career marketing materials was better than they’d hoped for. And it wouldn’t have happened (over and over again) if these brave career changers and advancers hadn’t had the courage to stand out and be different in a sea of mundane mediocrity.

Carmine Gallo

Just last month, I shared some of the secrets of my resume personality special sauce to an audience of fellow writers and coaches at the Career Thought Leaders annual conference in Denver. I was a little (lot) nervous, because there I was, standing up in front of writers I’d learned from and admired for years, about to shred a slew of conventional resume rules while advocating an infusion of the unexpected to break up the typical, traditional resume humdrum we’ve blinded readers with over the years.

I won’t lie. Some of the old school writers grimaced, shifted in their chairs, and shook their heads as I told my tales of throwing traditionally tried-and-true resume rules right out the window. But they couldn’t deny the results.

“Diego” went from months of unemployment to pulling off a complete career change, landing his dream job in just 5 weeks. How’d we do that? By packaging his career differently using a 1-page networking resume that emphasized his value as it related to the work he was seeking. That, combined with subtle sprinkles of humor and positioning his palatable passion for the work he loves front and center, turned out to be the perfect recipe to cultivate “Diego’s” career coup.

Dr. Melissa Cardon

“Brian,” on the other hand, was all about the dollar signs (his words, not mine). This guy was an executive medical device and software sales rock star with 6 changes in company/product ownership and 6 positions/promotions over his 14 years in the industry. He wasn’t gonna leave his good thing until he found an even better thing (one that made him more $ AND didn’t require him to relocate his family).

“Brian” started his sweet new 6-figure gig after < 6 months of selectively sending out his new resume, a resume whose tone and design reflected his “time is $” attitude; demonstrated personality through storytelling; presented stats in a novel way; and contained a mix of conventional and playful language, all within in a tight, sleek, emotionally appealing 2-page package.

Carmine Gallo

And then there was “Trevor,” a young and fun sales super star with just 5 years on the job. He loved the tech arena, but he couldn’t shake wanting a role with more leadership responsibility. He snagged just such a role, one that also helped him relocate back to his home town, in < 8 weeks. How’d we do that? By breaking resume rules, big time.

His document was light on the visual bling, but heavy on the grammatical and verbal novelty, including alliteration, humor, contractions, conversational injections, and a calculated use of the 1st person. “Trevor’s” courage in showing his personality and being authentic paid off in a big way, as he’s now at another great-fit company doing even more of what he loves.

Carmine Gallo

I totally get why some of the old school writers at the conference avoided eye contact with me after my presentation. It showed me that they may be just as reluctant to take the risk to stand out as you are (or were, ‘til now!).

Still, I was overwhelmed by the applause, gushing thanks, and even hugs from those who were sensing or experiencing the same craving for something new that I was seeing emerge from the market. Better yet have been the responses I’ve received after the conference. Writers are overflowing with excitement about the stellar feedback they’ve been getting after applying some of what I shared to their clients’ marketing materials. We’re talkin’ some seriously smile-worthy stuff here.

So, to recap some of the special sauce ingredients you can use to add personality to your resume (and LinkedIn profile):

Ways to add personality to your resume.

Are you ready to take a novel approach to your career marketing?

If not, what are you afraid of? Getting unstuck? Doing more of what you love? Standing out in the crowd? Having fun with your career? Attracting likeminded professionals and opportunities? Working within an environment and culture that make you want to jump out of bed in the morning? Think about it.

Neil Pastiche’s, TEDx presenter on "The 3 A's of Awesome"

While you’re contemplating change, head over to sample city to see PDFs of the full document sets from the above success stories, including networking and/or applicant tracking system (ATS)-friendly resumes, cover letters (or e-notes), and LinkedIn profiles.

PS – Though the photo above (courtesy of Gratisography) reminds us that it’s definitely possible to color too far outside the lines, hopefully that concern won’t stop you from taking some calculated risks to manifest your Shangri-La career.

Seth Godin


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