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Avoid templates when applying to jobs in UAE, try personality

A long time ago, in a land far away from the UAE, when I was a fresh graduate looking for my first real job, a friend of mine wrote his resume inside a pizza box. He then dressed as a pizza delivery guy, and headed to the head office of a regional pizza chain, where he handed his “resume box” to their head of HR and told them he was applying for the entry level marketing job they had advertised. He was hired on the spot.

See, my friend had done his homework. He knew that the corporate culture of that particular chain was one that appreciated big moves and creativity. Certainly it was a bit of a risk, especially for a job he really wanted, but it was a risk that paid off.

Templates aren’t professional, they’re lazy

I can’t say I was as lucky at the time. Unlike him, I was sending my nicely formatted resume out to any and every job I saw, and getting nothing back. I couldn’t understand why, as I had better grades than him, had done a more prestigious internship, and had more work experience. How was I getting passed over for interviews while the guy who wrote his resume in a greasy used pizza box with ball point pen was happily employed?

Well, as they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty, and looking back from my cushy office chair in Abu Dhabi, I know now that one of the biggest reasons I wasn’t getting interviews was because I wasn’t doing anything to set my resume apart from the rest.

I thought the nice template I was using was professional and classy. Problem is, the other 200 applicants using it thought the same thing. I know now that templates are neither professional nor classy. They are lazy. And I was lazy when I used them.

2% of applicants make it to the interview

According to Forbes magazine: “The average number of people who apply for any given job: 118.”

I’m no expert, but from my brief forays into collecting resumes here in the UAE, I’m willing to bet the number is more like 200+ applicants per job.

And according to

98% of job seekers are eliminated at the initial resume screening and only the “Top 2%” of candidates make it to the interview

A template isn’t going to get you into that 2%, because it won’t make you stand out during that initial screening. Templates are boring, they are generic, and they scream “I’m applying to every job I see and haven’t bothered to learn about you or your company!”

Many companies use talent-management software to screen resumes, weeding out up to 50% of applications before anyone ever looks at a resume or cover letter.

Your resume is your introduction to the company. From it they won’t just learn about your experience and education, they’ll develop a picture of who you are, and whether you’ll be a fit for their company and its unique corporate culture.

Find the right culture fit for employers is more important now than ever

Finding a “cultural fit” is incredibly important to employers, because employees who don’t feel they fit in, or who don’t mesh with their co-workers or meet company expectations, aren’t going to last very long.

“Culture fit is the glue that holds an organization together. That’s why it’s a key trait to look for when recruiting. The result of poor culture fit due to turnover can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).”

Fifty to sixty percent of a person’s salary is a lot of money to risk on someone who can’t be bothered to invest the time needed to write their own resume. And in the UAE a wrong fit can also mean wasted flights, residency visas, insurance plans, etc etc etc.

Drop the template, try personality

Now look, I’m not suggesting that you need to hand in greasy pizza boxes to every potential employer. For one thing, it’s going to seem really weird to any company that doesn’t specialize in pizza, secondly, my friend did that back in 2002 and most recruiters want emails now.

What I am suggesting is that before you just send off a dozen resumes to every entry level position you see on Linkedin, that you take the time to read about the position, the company, and think about what type of person they’re looking for.

Does the company pride itself in its kookiness and laid back attitude? Or are they professional, reserved and a little bit old school? Perhaps they’re a cutting edge tech company and want to see that you’re up to date on all the latest social media apps. All of these scenarios would require a slightly different resume with a different look and feel.

Find something that relates to the industry, or directly to what they are looking for in the position. Make sure you use bullet points for easy reading and DON’T list your hobbies, very rarely does swimming and playing football relate to a job you’re applying for.

And take the advice of Editor-in-Chief, Peter Harris, to heart:

…if you’re qualified for a job, and you’d really like to have it, then you should also put the time and effort into preparing an application that really gives you the best shot at actually landing the job. And that’s the most common mistake that we see job seekers make: mass applying to a myriad of jobs using one generic resume.

So dump the template. Take the time to make your resume stand out and, when in doubt, don’t be afraid to give them a pizza box.