It’s happening again this season: the pool of candidates is being narrowed, and the judges are listening intently to find out what differentiates them from each other.

Of course, I’m referring to American Idol (not your job search!)–but what does this nerve-wracking contest have to do with YOUR resume?

That’s an easy answer for anyone who has studied resumes. Like Idol hopefuls that are soundly criticized for not finding their own style, too many executives play it safe with their resumes, ignore the reaction they’re producing, and then wonder why they’re quickly eliminated from consideration.

Read on for some signs that your resume may have experienced Idol-contestant affliction, and some targeted steps you can take to address it:

Refrain from copying others’ style.

It happens all the time – your friend has the same job, and you swipe a few sentences from his resume. While this is technically plagiarism, there’s worse news for anyone who does this: your friend’s resume ISN’T about you.

Keep in mind that an executive resume is really a marketing document, and YOU are the product.

Just like a singing contestant who tries to copy Whitney Houston (ouch!), finding out what sets YOU apart is a crucial step in the resume process–and one that should be done before you write a single word.

Gauge your audience reaction and learn from it.

The most unsuitable candidates for any kind of job (singing included!) are those who ignore the response they’re receiving. Similar to those who fail to see the confused looks on their Idol audience during a performance, taking the same tone and actions with your resume will continue to get the same results.

If you’re not getting the response you want in your job search, then it’s time to take a different strategy with the style of your resume (again, without copying content). Look at executive resume samples from reputable websites or books to get a feel for the flair you could inject into your document.

Some executives seek out help from colleagues or professionals when they find that their desired audience (the hiring manager, of course) is passing them over for roles that they should have landed.

Solicit constructive criticism to get the best feedback.

Putting yourself out there for judgment is much like the experience of having Simon Cowell’s brusque once-over. However, constructive feedback is the best type of information you can get IF you want to improve your situation.

If possible, I recommend showing your resume to others who are familiar with your leadership style and attributes. This may elicit some negative comments, of course, but hopefully your colleagues or friends can shed some light on what you’ve missed about yourself.

Take this type of advice to heart, and incorporate constructive information about your work contributions and reputation throughout your executive resume. After doing so, you’ll find that it represents your value much more clearly.

In summary, put that competitive mindset to work, not only the next time you tune into Idol, but also when you get ready to send your resume to an employer.

You just might spot some areas where you, too, can stand out as a winner among intense competition.

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