Lessons from TV: Showing versus telling on America’s Next Top Model

If you didn’t see it, Angelea almost went home last night on America’s Next Top Model. (Right, like you don’t have any guilty TV pleasures.)

She didn’t take a bad picture or even write a terrible song (the models were singer/songwriters last night). She almost went home because she was telling one thing but showing another. (To get all technical, her brand wasn’t aligned.)

Watch her video. She’s singing about being a tough girl who gets up when she’s been kicked down. The words are feisty, punky, even a little angry. Despite Angelea’s best attempts at fist pumping and head swinging, the judges said things like:

  • “It never registered”
  • “It was a little flat”
  • “You were blank”
  • “You need to sell everything”
Tyra even showed her that she needed to get her angry-pretty face on and really put some force in her air punches. Basically, she needed to align her words with her actions. She needed to SHOW and tell.


Apply it to your job search

Let’s clear up one thing first — I am NOT advising you to begin forcefully air punching during interviews. With that out of the way, how can you avoid falling flat like Angelea?

Angelea was trying to convince the judges that she was tough and feisty. You, on the other hand, are trying to convince an employer that you’re the best person for the job. To break it down, you need the employer to know that 1) you have the skills and 2) you have the passion.

SHOW you have the skills

1. In your resume. That little skills section isn’t enough. You need to show how you’ve used those skills. That’s why your experience descriptions should contain lots of accomplishments.

2. In the interview. If you find yourself speaking in generalizations like, “I really enjoy working with people,” you need to get acquainted with the Situation-Action-Response interviewing strategy. It forces you to turn your experience into illustrative stories.

3. In a portfolio? Nope, they’re not just for artists. Even if you’ve revamped your resume, a portfolio can help employers see the accomplishments you’ve mentioned. For example, if you talk about writing a 20-page research paper, put it in a portfolio.

SHOW you have the passion

Remember how the judges called Angelea ‘blank’? That’s the absence of passion. Other synonyms are blah, boring and safe.

Here’s the thing — sometimes, when you’re trying really hard to be professional, you can come across as blank. This is especially true for new job seekers. You’re worrying about being labeled immature or unprofessional, so you stick with uber-formal language or play it very tight laced in interviews.

Being excited doesn’t make you unprofessional, and employers want to know that their job and company make you light up. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this cover letter written by a hiring manager sick of receiving the same “professional” sounding letter.

It’s a tough line to walk, but let your excitement and passion come through in your cover letter and interview. Smile. Smize, even.


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