You are a product. Your resume and interview are your marketing. And a product has to differentiate itself to have a chance of being noticed and valued. It astonishes me to continually get the same generic resumes, the same attempt to prove diverse skills, and the same generic answers – that I must conclude are coming from the world of resume/interview advice. The prevailing theory seems to be “offend no one, never take your self out of contention.” Imagine that process recruiting for a sports team or a movie cast. Terrible. So I have my rules.

No one else will have my same rules, which leads us to Rule #1.

1. There is no such thing as the right resume, no right interview. Remember, this is not much more than a professional date. There are certainly a few things to do every time (no burping, no shorts), but every employer is different in nearly every other way. It’s easier to be yourself than to try to figure me out.

2. You can’t fake who are without being no one. When you try to be the person you think I like, I don’t like you. Because you seem insincere and full of…something. There is no need to fake who you are, or what your background is. You don’t know what I want.

3. This is a 2-way street. You’d better be interviewing me too. We’re in this together, so there is not a lot to be gained by being a sycophant in the interview. Make sure you want the job. More importantly, make sure you want the company. I should be sharing my company with you too.

4. Well-rounded is safe. And safe is dangerous. Name one well-rounded famous athlete. OK, there are two. Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. And neither could play hockey. But basically, no others. Even MJ couldn’t do it. Well-rounded means you are not awesome at anything. And I’m looking for awesome. At something.

5. You are weak. At something, probably many things. So “struggling” to find a weakness is lame. A weakness of being “too organized” is lame. When I see that pained expression where you try to find weaknesses but “can’t think of any,” I think: “weak.” Trot out your real weaknesses, they actually accentuate your strengths.

6. Leave me with a story to tell. I am going to leave our meeting with an impression of you. And, if you have done well, a story to tell others about why you’re the person for the job. So find a pointed, true narrative to weave in about yourself that touches the every part of the interview from beginning to end. No story = lost in the shuffle.

7. Thank me. Twice. When you get home, do 2 things. Send me an email thanks, and drop a real (handwritten!) thank you note in the mail. Even if you think you bombed, a handwritten note will put you back in contention. Class stands out.

Bonus for Entry-Level Job Seekers: If you are entry-level, I am looking for a bargain. The very nature of entry-level is: “I’m cheap, and I’m willing to prove myself.” You can’t be bringing experience, which means you need to bring something else. Ambition, a record of achievement, raw talent, personality, something. Something that makes me think you’re a bargain. Because cheap labor, absent some returned value, is not a bargain. Figure out what your something is.