Telling your career story more successfully: John Singer on how to share your “resume DNA”

John Singer, career coach and president/owner of Professional Development Strategies.

Have you ever felt frustrated in your quest to tell the story of your career? Have you ever dived into a job application with great confidence in your abilities and experience, only to sag and feel like a mass-produced employee by the time it comes to be interviewed by a prospective employer?

This month, Sun Devil alumni have a chance to learn strategies to more successfully answer the dreaded “tell me about yourself” interview question, and to write a cover letter that brings out their unique blend of skills, experiences and expertise in a way that makes hiring managers say “yes” to an interview.

John Singer will conduct two online webinars with ASU Alumni Career Services this month on Feb. 8 and 22.  He is a certified professional resume writer, a dedicated career coach and advisor, and president/owner of Professional Development Strategies. He’s also the author of the book “Resume DNA: Succeeding In Spite Of Yourself,” a practical blueprint for navigating your way through a complicated, competitive job market. Earlier in his career, he was an episodic television writer and member of the Writers Guild of America, as well as a radio station owner/operator and an on-air personality.

We chatted with him recently to learn more about skills he teaches to job-seekers related to promoting their experience and writing cover letters in ways that highlight their individual strengths.

ASU Alumni Association: The first of your upcoming webinars for ASU Alumni Career Services (on Feb. 8) will discuss how to produce a professional “commercial” that answers the interview question “Tell me about yourself.” Why is this important and how does it impact the rest of the interview process?

John Singer: The Tell Me About Yourself or TMAY question is the first question in any interview. It’s the first chance that an applicant has an opportunity to brand themselves, deliver skill sets, address “pain points” the company may have, and show how they can resolve the problem.  The TMAY statement should be less than 60 seconds – this allows the applicant to take control of the interview in the first minute, and create an agenda of key points they can refer back to throughout the interview.

How does one build a professional commercial? What are the building blocks, and how is the commercial presented?

The webinar on Feb. 8 will cover the individual steps in detail, but the short answer to this question is to prepare four bullets that you will cover in less than one minute:

  • Opening (branding statement)
  • What you do

  • How you do it

  • Power close

Why did you decide to write your recent book, “Resume DNA: Succeeding in Spite of Yourself”?

I have worked with thousands of professionals over the years, teaching them how to conduct a successful job search and I wanted to bring these same principles to a wider audience. Key areas that are covered in the book include:

  • Identifying the qualities that distinguish you from your competition
  • Writing cover letters and resumes that demonstrate why you’re a good fit
  • Delivering an opening statement that enables you to control the interview
  • Working your network and pilot a proactive search in the “unpublished” job market

The book reminds the reader of what they have already accomplished and teaches them how to leverage those accomplishments as they make their way up the career ladder. 

What are some of the most common mistakes people make when writing their resumes, and how can they be corrected?

In my first ASU webinar on Jan. 11, I discussed modern resume writing, where I pointed out that the most common mistake in a resume is the omission of functionalinformation. Functional Information is simply noting your achievements in a condensed format: Situation/Action/Result, or SAR for short. Your unique accomplishments (short stories of achievements where you made a difference) allow you to stand out over your competition. No other applicant shares your unique blend of education, skill sets and accomplishments! By providing functional information throughout the resume, you are able to leave your “professional fingerprint” throughout the document, and this is what I call your “Resume DNA.”

Your company provides outplacement services for organizations undergoing downsizing. What are three things any professional can do to be better prepared for an unexpected job transition?

  1.  Maintain a current, professionally written resume.
  2. Keep an ongoing journal of achievements and results (which you can remember by thinking of the acronym JAR) to remind the employer of your of your contributions to the company and communicate these accomplishments in interviews with future employers.
  3. Establish and maintain a professional network to uncover opportunities in the unpublished job market.

Later in February, you’re going to present a webinar on how to write what you call a “conversational cover letter.” What is that, and why is it important?

A Conversational Cover Letter (CCL) is a cover letter directed to a hiring manager or HR director (research the name and title of the appropriate decision maker) that allows you to show how you are the perfect fit for the position. The applicant addresses the key requirements that were revealed in the job posting and writes a “conversational” letter in a narrative voice showing the fit and including areas of experience and expertise that their resume may not have covered.

We often hear the importance of follow-up in the job search process, but it’s often unclear the best ways to do so. What are your suggestions for ways to follow up on applications that will lead to an interview?

We call this “professional persistence.” Having written a CCL and sending it through the U.S. Postal Service, the applicant can call to see if the materials were received and where the company stands in the interviewing process. The applicant should also follow the company on LinkedIn and try to connect with key managers. There are various ways to apply your phone technique on follow-up calls. This will be addressed in greater depth in the Feb. 22 webinar.


Sign up for John Singer’s webinars with ASU Alumni Career services today!


~ Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association