The Sweatpants of Career Advice

exercise-312044__340Many years ago, I got a call from A&E’s Biography magazine. I’d applied for an entry-level editorial job, so upon answering the phone, I was excited. “Yes, this is Vadim!”

“OK, I just wanted to check. Thank you,” said the caller.

“Oh, OK,” I replied.

She continued: “I was curious if you were a real person. Your resume was”—after a contrived pause—“interesting.”

“Interesting good or interesting bad?” I asked.

“Umm”—more silence to stir drama—”interesting bad.”

The conversation ended and I thought two things: (1) That call didn’t go as planned. (2) That worked out as planned.

A New Serif in Town

Let me explain: I’m thinking of this story because I’m once again looking for work. The other night, I spent hours researching fonts to use on my résumé. I discovered that Times New Roman is the sweatpants of fonts and conveys laziness (that’s me!), so I should instead choose a sans-serif typeface like Helvetica because it will show that I’m forward-thinking (hey, that’s me, too!). Except, I do love a good serif! But would picking one highlight my stupidity? Don’t I know that all those little hooks appended to letters can cause electronic scanners to misread a résumé? Maybe I should listen to my friend who suggests Futura because it’s gorgeous (totally me!). But crap, Microsoft Word doesn’t include that font, but there’s another one I like, but it’s too big, while another is too small, and yet another is—

Who am I? Goldilocks? And is it really 3:30 am? What the hell am I doing?

I knew exactly what I was doing. I was experiencing what every job-seeker feels at some point—insecurity. What if my résumé (which you may view here) turns off a lot of employers? It’s already a bit quirky, at least by HR standards. What if no one will hire the weirdo who also decided to dress his résumé in sweatpants? 

A Repellent Résumé

Then I stopped freaking out. I don’t believe, as Karl Lagerfeld insists, that wearing sweatpants is a “sign of defeat” and that “you lost control of your life.” I love a good elastic waistband. I’ve also never been that person to neuter myself for no good reason.

More importantly, I actually want my résumé to repel a lot of employers—because I don’t want to work for a lot of employers.

Unfortunately, everybody from outplacement firms and career counselors to colleagues, friends, and family dupe job candidates into sterilizing themselves to appeal to as many businesses as possible. Write this, not that; do it this way, not that way. Some of the recommendations are absolutely useful, but none are ultimately rules. Most are the sweatpants of career advice.

Interesting Great

A great résumé should deter more employers than it should attract. When crafted properly, it’s a fantastic tool for candidates to screen companies. In other words, you don’t need every organization on the Fortune 63,000 list to swipe right. Aside from applying to places at which you want to work, not because you’re desperate for work, it’s good to weed out employers with a résumé that presents your best self rather than your vanilla self.

So that’s what I’ll be doing—because in the end, “interesting bad” is still interesting. Hopefully, an employer will find me “interesting great.”

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