By Rosa E. Vargas. As a member of a new community of resume writers and career coaches called the Career Collective, this post is one of many responses to the question, “Are you a cookie cutter job seeker?” I encourage you to visit other members’ responses, see links at end of this post. Please follow our hashtag on Twitter: #careercollective.


The Meeting

It was Friday and the end of a very hectic workweek! A career as an assistant buyer during a tough economy is no piece of cake. This particular Friday Susan had to attend a meeting at 4:30 PM with Rebecca, the senior buyer (also, the boss). It quickly became 3:45 PM and Susan began to walk past seven offices to take the elevator to the 32nd floor and meet in Rebecca’s office. As Susan walked toward the elevator, she thought of weekend plans with her little girls. I should pick up mom first on the way to Antonio’s tomorrow…The girls would love to have dinner with their grandma… “Have a great weekend, Susan.” Susan looked back at Thomas (one of the procurement clerks). “Good weekend, Thomas. See you on Monday.” Susan waved as she returned the sentiment. Susan really enjoyed her work environment; she knew everyone in the department (all 35+) by first name.

Susan pressed the elevator button and looked down at her black pumps and thought, the girls could really use new school shoes… We should go shopping before dinner…It’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow… “Hi Susan, come right in.” Rebecca’s voice pulled Susan out of her incessant mental planning. Susan had unmindfully made her way to the meeting.

When Susan walked into the office, she noticed Maggie from HR was there. Susan became nervous and could not conceal it as she anxiously said hello to both women and awkwardly sat in a chair. “Susan, how was your afternoon?” Rebecca’s tone was friendlier than usual. “Great!” Susan forced a smile. Rebecca looked at Maggie from HR, then back at Susan, and took a deep breath before saying, “Susan, I am sorry. This is not easy for me to say to you because you are a highly esteemed colleague…” Susan could not believe what she was hearing. Rebecca continued to apologize for what she had not yet said, but Susan could only think, Oh no! Not me. I thought I was safe. What about my girls?

Poor Susan. I don’t have to tell you the rest of that story. What I will convey is that many job seekers in a similar situation, panic. While finding yourself without a job is frightful, the last thing you should do is allow panic to launch you into a desperate job search campaign. Hastily creating a resume, beginning a non-targeted job search, and then sitting back and expecting the phone to ring is what cookie-cutter job seekers do-– but not you!  While developing a unique, pragmatic, and targeted job search campaign is a lot more labor intensive, it will reveal the hidden job market and help you outdistance other job seekers so you find employment in a tough job market.

The Plan

Luckily, Susan is a fictitious character. Had she been a living and breathing job seeker, she could have applied her skills as an assistant buyer to kick off a differentiating job search, like so:

Procurement: Where is your employer? Instead of only posting your resume to online career sites, make a list of all the companies that can benefit from your experience and acquire a way to contact them directly!

Understand the Target Market by Region:What does your prospective employer want from you? What results would be ideal for them? Are their needs different based on the region you may find them in? Are you willing to relocate? If so, where to? Study who your ideal employer is and learn their specific needs.

Interact with Contacts:Translation into job search terms — network, network, and, yes, network! Interact online via social media sites and offline through professional associations and at industry-relevant events.


Pre-Market and Competition Analysis: What’s the average salary for the positions you are seeking? What does your competition offer that you cannot? What will you have to leverage in order to win an interview over other qualified candidates?

Communicate Value: Once you have researched, compiled information, and analyzed, you can create a targeted resume (and other marketing tools) that captures the attention of employers. You will also be better prepared to develop a 30 to 60 second pitch, quickly summarizing your qualifications.

You decide. Are you a cookie-cutter job seeker?

The following are links to other blog post by Professional Resume Writers and Career Coaches who have formed an alliance “Career Collective” to inform and help job seekers via blog post. I am proud to be part of this group and look forward to tackling future topics. Please link below to additional “Cookie-Cutter” blog posts from Career Collective members:

Megan Fitzgerald,
 Career By Choice’s Expat Success Tips: Ongoing Career management is No Longer Optional for the Expat in Today’s New World of Work

Gayle Howard,
Top Margin:  Sabotaging Your Prospects: Cookie-cutter Style

J.T. O’Donnell
, CAREEREALISM: Cookie Cutters are for Baking…Not Job Searching!

Chandlee Bryan, The Emerging Professional: On the “Cookie Cutter” Approach to Job Search: Do You Need a Recipe?

Laurie Berenson
, Sterling Career Concepts:  Job seekers: Break out of the mold!

Dawn Bugni,
The Write Solution: Dawn’s Blog: Is your job search “cookie-cutter” or “hand-dropped”?

Heather Mundell, life@work: How Not to Be a Cookie Cutter Job Seeker

Sweet Careers, Passive Job Seeker=Cookie Cutter Job Seeker

Barbara Safani, Career Solvers Blog:Cookie Cutter Resumes Can Leave a Bad Taste in the Hiring Manager’s Mouth

Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Careers: How Can a Job Seeker Stand Out?

Kat Hansen, Quintessential Resumes and Cover Letters Tips Blog: Avoid Being a Cookie-Cutter Job seeker in Your Resume and Throughout Your Job Search

Heather R. Huhman, Break the Mold: Don’t Be a Cookie Cutter

Rosalind Joffe, Forget the cookies! Start with vision

Career Sherpa, Hannah Morgan: Are Your A Cookie Cutter Job Seeker? 

Rosa Elizabeth Vargas
Master Resume Writer




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9 Responses to Being a Cookie-Cutter Job Seeker is a Misfortune

  1. Gayle Howard says:

    Terrific Post Rosa with good solid info! Great job!

  2. Dawn Bugni says:

    Rosa – You’re a great story teller! And you’ve done a marvelous job laying out an effective strategy for a successful search.

  3. Great Post Rosa – great story too!
    Looking forward exploring more career collective topics with you in the future.
    My best,

  4. Rosa, I was reaching for the box of tissues, such a real story! Your outlined steps also are so targeted!
    It has been a great opportunity to read your work, I look forward to collaborating through Career Collective!

  5. Chandlee says:

    What a unique approach to talking about the job search, great perspective.
    Love how you take the procurement approach here. One of my current clients is a sourcing consultant; she’s going to love this!
    I look forward to getting to know your work!

  6. Rosa,
    I would also tell Susan (and others) to limit their time on the job boards. You offer great suggestions for sourcing leads in the hidden market. Susan is in good hands with you!

  7. job search says:

    The beginning of your story is really horrifying! But as for the piece of advice it seems to be helpful but suppose none of us would like to put into practice.

  8. Hello,
    Thanks for your comment. Yes. It is absolutely horrifying. Unfortunately it is also the reality for too many people right now.
    My intention was to help those who are employed understand what others are going through and why perhaps they would launch a hastily planned job search. This I hope helped others not by promoting fear, but if they do find themselves in this situation they can remember that others are going through this also and perhaps they can take some time to strategize amidst the storm.

  9. ganeshdas says:

    Hey really nice post. Thanks a lot for good resume writing tips. Thanks for writing this excellent resume. That’s really interesting Thanks very much for the advice.

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