Ketchup and your resume: more in common than you think

Heinz ketchup packets on the go are a true American tradition.  Since 1968, we have wrestled long and hard with those little buggers, hoping we get that “right amount” of ketchup on our hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and fries. If successful, we enjoy the perfect condiment on the go.  If not, we suffer the consequences: stains on clothes, in our cars and wherever else the stuff accidently squirts.

Fear no more!  In the Wall Street Journal, “Old Ketchup Packets Head for Trash” on September 19, 2011, we learn that the H.J. Heinz has built a new “Dip and Squeeze” packet.  As the article highlights, this new packet has one side for dipping and the other side for squeezing.  More ketchup, less mess!

In creating the new, easier to use packet, the head of Heinz’s packaging group actually bought a used mini-van and toured fast food restaurants testing out the package.  Additionally, Heinz workers watched customers through one way mirrors to better understand their behavior. This process took 3 years to perfect and the result is a better solution to a typical problem.

As a job seeker creating a resume and cover letter to gain that interview, you can learn a great deal from H.J. Heinz.  No, no, you don’t need to take 3 years to respond to a job offer. But, like H.J. Heinz, you do need a strategy.

How often do we read in the press about unsuccessful job seekers sending out hundreds of resumes without success?  This only reinforces how job seekers don’t understand their customers (i.e. potential employers) and don’t properly respond to their specific needs. As a job seeker, quantity does not correlate to landing the interview and the eventual job.

By observing your potential customers, you will learn a great deal about their behavior and their needs. Take the H.J. Heinz approach in developing your resumes and cover letters:

  • Targeting – Focus on employers and roles that you actually want.
  • Research – Use informational interviews as a means to do “focus groups.” on what the employers need. What specific skills are the organizations looking for? What does the organization “value”? What types of people succeed in the organization?
  • Respond with Care – Create documents that use the language of your potential employer that highlight your skills according to the specifications.
  • Customer Validation – Have your documents reviewed by someone in the organization to ensure you are on the right track.

  • By focusing your energy on your customer’s needs, your resume and cover letter will be noticed by the people who matter. Like ketchup through the “Dip and Squeeze” packets, so too will your job search flow better!


    About Jason Levin

    Jason Levin founded Ready, Set, Launch, LLC, www.readysetlaunch.net, after a 15-year career in brand management at Unilever, consulting at Accenture and employer branding at Vault.com.  Career and outplacement coaching is his passion. He works with clients who are late in their careers, in mid-career transition, reentering the workforce or just graduating from undergraduate or graduate school.  He helps his clients land that next job, get a promotion, make a career change or transition into retirement. Jason has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Money, Fortune, and MarketWatch on career related articles. Jason received his MBA from Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business in 2006.


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