MONDAY BYTES — September 15, 2014
Here’s a helpful tool for evaluating the effectiveness of résumés, cover letters, and other marketing materials: it’s what I call the “So What?” test (which is akin to the Who Cares? test). It’s to test whether or not what you are communicating will matter to the reader. Put yourself in their shoes.
If the employer has a stack of 150 resumes and cover letters to weed through, they are desperately trying to find who in the pile is a great fit for the job and to do this they need to understand what separates one candidate form the next.
In the case of applying for a teaching position, the So What? test question might be applied by asking: Do your materials make you sound like all the other candidates?
For example, do the bullets under your teaching positions listed on your résumé simply tell us:
the age range of your students and that they are beginners to intermediate or advanced levels
and that you focus on things like:
basic musicianship, good tone production, solid technique, and interpretation
and that you:
tailor lessons to individual student needs and interests
If so, the only thing you’re telling the employer is that you are a “generic teacher” because everyteacher does these things (or says they do it).
The challenge is to convey what’s distinctive about you and your teaching.
For this, it can be very helpful to think back to any of your specific students who faced particular challenges. What creative solutions did you use to help them overcome the problem?
What tactics, strategies, and approaches did you use? That’s what to work into your bullets.
Each point you cover, each phrase and sentence should add real value by communicating what is distinctive about the work you do. Each line should be worth the real estate it’s taking up on the page.
If you find your résumé, teaching philosophy statement, and/or bio read as generic or that they lack impact, you need to dig deeper!
Challenge for the week: Take a close look at any piece of your marketing materials (grant application, bio, LinkedIn profile, cover letter, etc.) and try asking “So What?”