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The Deep Well of What

2 September 2019

When writing your next job application be careful you don’t fall down the Deep Well of What.

You can get lost down this Well.  Lost trying to tell employers all the things you have done. “This is what I have done…  This is also what I have done…  And I have also done this….  And this…”

Employers care and want to know what you have done, but that is what your résumé is for.

Your résumé is a ‘what’ document, but your job application is a ‘how’ document.

Here is a piece of writing from someone who fell down the Deep Well of What:

I am highly experienced at arranging public consultations.  I have set up consultations with groups as small as three people and up to two hundred.  I have run consultations on highly controversial topics such as increasing fees, and with groups as diverse as conservation groups and medical practitioners. I have conducted consultations that needed to be arranged with very little lead time and consultations that have been months in planning.  I have arranged consultation in small country halls and in major conference venues.  My experience in arranging public consultation is extensive.

While it is obvious from this piece of writing that the applicant has lots of experience running consultations there is nothing here that differentiates the person from others with just as much experience.  There is nothing her to let the employer know how well these consultations have been run.  There is no indication into the thinking, planning, and wisdom that this person brings to running consultations.  The person may have been terrible at doing them.

Many readers of this blog are from the public sector where there is an increasing trend towards a shorter form of application. There simply isn’t the space any more to get lost down the Deep Well of What.

The above information would be better presented in the résumé under a skills section:

Extensive consultation experience:

40 plus public consultations
Diverse groups of up to 200 people
Controversial and highly emotive topics
Both highly planned and spontaneous situations
In small and large, urban and rural settings

The applicant then, in their job application, has space to tell a story about 'how' they arranged a particularly successful consultation.  “Typical of my approach to public consultation is this example…”

The employer wants to know what you have done, but they are most interested in how you do what you do.  Come up from that deep, dank, dark Well of What and shine the light on how fabulous you really are.

As always wishing you a flourishing career.


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