So you’ve thought long and hard about it, done your research, talked to your family, and you’ve decided to run for local office. You have tons of experience, after all — served on plenty of important boards, been a longtime member of local groups, amassed an office full of awards, and had a long career in the private sector marked with more milestones than you can remember. Once the voters see all of that impressive stuff on a campaign flier, they’re sure to vote you into office in a landslide. Right?
Wrong. Sorry to be the one to have to break this to you, but in a political campaign, no one gives a crap about your resume. Well, no one besides you, that is.
Whenever I teach a campaign class to first-time candidates, this is inevitably the part where I start getting disappointed, skeptical looks from people in the audience. It’s tough advice to take, I admit it. You’re proud of your resume . . . and you should be. You’ve worked hard to gain such great experience and accolades. You’re one heck of a talented person, and you have a well-documented track record to prove it.
But here’s the problem: you’re not interviewing for a job, you’re running in a local election. And while the voters may ultimately “hire” you for the office, the tactics that get you hired in the private sector simply don’t work in a political campaign.
When an employer is considering you for a job, they take a long, hard look at all of the information on your resume to ensure that you are the right candidate for the position. They review your experience, your education, your accolades, and your references. They bring you in for one, two or even three in-person job interviews.
Not so in a political campaign. When you hand a campaign flier to a voter, you may hope that they’ll carefully look at all of your experience and credentials. But the disappointing truth is that most voters only glance at your campaign materials for a few seconds before throwing it in the garbage. The more you write, the less they read.
I’ll repeat that point again, because it’s important: the more you write, the less they read. Your campaign literature — and your newspaper ads and your online content and everything else — is only going to be looked at for a few brief seconds before it’s completely discarded by the voters.
You shouldn’t blame them for this; most voters are leading busy lives, and they don’t have the time or the inclination to sit and read reams of information about you. And frankly, they shouldn’t have to. Your job as a candidate is to boil down your experiences into a few brief, easily understood story points that voters can quickly skim over to get a feel for who you are as a person.
Instead of sharing a long, boring resume with voters, share your story with them. Identify a few simple, key themes that tell your story to your audience, and repeat those points to them over and over. Are you a proud family person? Then make your dedication to your family one of those story points. Are you a lifelong resident of your community and graduate of the local high school? Tell that story, too. Is there a unique hobby or experience you have that will make you particularly effective in the office you’re seeking? Perfect.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with including a few unique, impressive parts of your resume in the story you tell to the voters. If you’re proud of your accomplishments as a business owner, then make that one of your story points. If you served in the military or help out with a charitable organization, include that in your story as well. Just make sure that your story points are easy for voters to quickly comprehend, and that they provide a good representation of who you are as a person.
Don’t tell the voters about your experience . . . tell them about your experiences. Tell them about the unique adventures in your life that have made you trustworthy, effective and someone who they can relate to.
Because in the end, voters care most about who you are as a person, not what’s on your resume. They want to feel like they know you personally, and want to know what you’re all about at your core. They want to trust you. Simply sharing your resume won’t give them that familiarity, but telling them a unique, engaging story about your life will.