The Most Popular Résumé in the World
Philippe Dubost turned himself into an Amazon product page that got a million page views
Steven Cherry: Hi, this is Steven Cherry for IEEE Spectrum’s “Techwise Conversations.”
Aspiring job applicants are advised to sell themselves, but few have ever taken that to heart in the way that Philippe Dubost did a couple of months ago.
He took his résumé and turned it into a website that looked exactly like an Amazon product page. Under “product details” he listed the languages he speaks (English, French, and Spanish), his aptitudes, such as his programming skills, and the three degrees he has, including his master’s in management from Toulouse Business School and an MBA from the University of Dayton here in the U.S.
Under “shipping” he wrote, “This item is available for shipping anywhere in the world.” And for “average customer review,” he gave himself five stars and linked to a detailed listing of his past employment positions, just like a résumé would. There were some personal details: The “product dimensions” was his height, 186 centimeters, and he listed his best marathon time, 3 hours, 22 minutes. One touch I particularly liked was: “Only one left in stock—order soon.”
It was more than an idle exercise in creativity; the work he sought was as a Web product manager, so he was proving that he could sell anything on the Web—including himself. The idea, in other words, was to get the world’s attention, and it did: millions of page views, tens of thousands of Facebook “likes,” a feature story on CNN.com, the Huffington Post, Time magazine, Slate, and all over the world, including Batangas Today, in the Philippines.
I thought we’d hear from the man himself—how he did it, how it’s working out, and what advice he has for the rest of us.
Philippe, welcome to the podcast.
Philippe Dubost: Yes, hi, Steven. Thanks for having me.
Steven Cherry: Your last full-time job was as an account manager until 2011. How did it end?
Philippe Dubost: Well, it ended well. Everything was going well there, but I had this growing desire to start a company of myself, so that’s why I decided to quit and start my startup actually.
Steven Cherry: Yeah, so tell us about that.
Philippe Dubost: Yes, so my startup is called Appartinfo. Essentially it’s like a TripAdvisor for apartments and neighborhoods, and it enables people to write and read reviews about neighborhoods and buildings. So let’s say people could see if the apartment they’re going to move into has a very loud neighbor or that kind of problem.
Steven Cherry: So what led you to seek full-time employment again?
Philippe Dubost: Well, I think that although it was great starting my company, I think I now really want to focus on the product. And maybe one thing that was a little bit frustrating with starting my company was we were only the two of us, me and my engineer/co-founder, so I had to take care of, of course, a bunch of things: PR, communications, a little bit of engineering, a lot of stuff, and product. And so I think it was frustrating not to be able to focus more on product, and looking backwards I think I could have done a better job if I had been focused on product. So that’s what I want to do.
Steven Cherry: So in the film Working Girl, Melanie Griffith’s character, Tess McGill, recalls the moment she got the idea for the big financial deal she spends the movie putting across. She was reading the gossip page, called Page Six, of a local newspaper when she remembered another story she had read recently, and together they suggested the deal to her. What was your Page Six moment?
Philippe Dubost: Well, it was last December. I took the decision that I wanted to start looking out for a new job, and, well, the idea of going back on job boards and sending résumés and just crossing fingers for somebody to call me back, I think all that idea was killing me. So I needed to do something different and, yeah, do something different. So at first I started playing around with messing around with LinkedIn a lot, connecting, finding, getting a foot into a few companies. And I was applying at various companies, including Amazon, and I think that’s how the idea came out because, well, then it sounded kind of natural to make a product out of a résumé, you know, a résumé out of a product instead. If you look at a product page on Amazon, it has a title, it has photos, description, so it seemed pretty natural.
Steven Cherry: So how has it worked out? It’s not enough to get the world’s attention. You need the right attention from the right people. Have you gotten that?
Philippe Dubost: That’s a very good question. I’ve received about more than a dozen e-mails from people around the world, about 150 e-mails from companies or entrepreneurs or individuals offering work opportunities or projects, but really regarding my field and my interest, I would say about 20 or 30 were really relevant and right into my target.
Steven Cherry: Well, the page itself is very detailed and very clever. You even created a logo that mimicked the Amazon one, right down to the little orange swoosh. What were the trickiest parts of putting the page together?
Philippe Dubost: The trickiest part…Aside of the graphics because as they read the graphics are not very hard, and I’m really not that good at graphic design. I think what took me the most time was the meaning and the content—trying to find a meaningful and playful text or content for every part of the page, you know, looking at, like, the packaging, removing the normal packaging text and putting that “ships from Paris with breathable packaging,” all that stuff.…Yeah, I gave it time.
Steven Cherry: Yeah, you did. The resemblance to an Amazon product page is uncanny. You even have a “frequently bought together” list of this item “Philippe Dubost Web product manager” and also “Asics GEL-cumulus 14 running shoes by Asics,” presumably your favorite running shoe, and airline tickets. It’s quite a level of detail.
Philippe Dubost: Yes [laughs], it was really fun to do actually, and I think, of course, I wanted to show my personality a bit, you know, with the hobbies and the running and the travel, because I think that besides qualifications and experiences, I think personality and a cultural fit with a company matters more and more.
Steven Cherry: So your product page was very clever, of course, but why do you think it suddenly caught on in the way that it did? Over a million page views and all that attention?
Philippe Dubost: Well, while it is a big surprise, and I really never expected or meant that, maybe a few things that played in my favor were, first, Amazon is a very powerful renowned brand. Everybody loves Amazon. There’s a survey that came out a few days ago that says it’s now the number-one trusted company in the U.S. Besides, it’s worldwide, so everybody in the world knows what an Amazon page looks like. So I think immediately it was familiar to everyone.
Then another thing, it might be a detail, but I think it had an impact too. The photo I put on the résumé, the main picture, is some, I’d say, random picture of me. I realize I’m not even well-shaved, you know. It’s just this random guy that looks a bit friendly, and I think that’s why people liked it. It’s not top-notch, over-the-top in a suit with a tie, or it’s not teenage guy either. I think it played to gain trust and friendship from people.
And then one last thing that’s trivial but it’s really key: I did the résumé in English. Had I done it in French, of course, it would have never had the same impact. So whether you want it or not, really do things in English. I mean, I’m talking to potential job seekers that would try to get attention. English is the language of business and definitely in IT.
Steven Cherry: You told CNN that the whole project made you realize how important personal branding is. How important is personal branding?
Philippe Dubost: Well, I think personal branding is, of course, getting more and more important, along with differentiation. When I think of my field, you know, Internet and all that kind of things, everybody nowadays can do many kinds of stuff. Everybody has a master’s degree, everybody has some experiences, so I think it’s really about showing different skills, showing something different to catch attention and to humanly connect with someone at a company that would think, “Oh this guy would fit in our team because he looks fun or because he likes running.” I don’t know…but I think since many qualifications are now the same for everyone, it’s really about something different.
Steven Cherry: You know, we have an upcoming show about how it turns out some studies have been done to show that casual writing, like a blog entry or a Facebook posting, is actually more memorable to people than more formal writing, like a novel. So maybe do you think those personal details such as the running shoes, the marathon time, the love of travel, make you more memorable and more interesting to people?
Philippe Dubost: These are fun things on this part of this résumé, but I would value more definitely what you mentioned, having a professional blog or something where you discuss current what the news are or what your take on the news are. Yeah, I’ve recommended friends to do that, and I would recommend really anyone to do that because I think that speaks a lot to a potential employer or potential client that would then see what you see, how you think, before getting in touch with you. So I think that’s very powerful, yeah.
Steven Cherry: You started your search on LinkedIn, as you mentioned. Was that ineffective, or did the product page just overwhelm the regular job-search process?
Philippe Dubost: Yes, that’s exactly that. It was effective. It was very powerful. I was trying to discuss with people, and it was going great and, yeah, but like you said, that hurricane just overwhelmed everything, so, yeah.
Steven Cherry: Besides social media, do you have any other thoughts about how a job seeker can market himself or herself?
Philippe Dubost: Well, one thing, I think I got it from actually the book from the LinkedIn founders, The Start-up of You, that I read and I really liked. One of the ideas, examples, that he gave was trying to meet with people in a company you like. So start, of course, networking again through LinkedIn or through a friend or something to get introduced, to maybe have a coffee or propose to have a lunch with them, and that would give you a foot in the door to talk to potential other people inside the company. And that would also, of course, give you a good insight of what the company was like, what the culture’s like. I think that’s a very powerful tool, and actually I had started doing that kind of thing.
Steven Cherry: Well, in a way that’s what you did, right? You wanted to get Amazon’s attention, and that made you think of an Amazon product page. Did you actually get Amazon’s attention, by the way? Did you talk with people there yet?
Philippe Dubost: I have no problem with Amazon, but at this point I’d rather not comment on that. I would not want that to interfere with my job search. So everything’s good, and Amazon has not sent me their lawyers, at least as some people suggested.
Steven Cherry: Well, Philippe, thanks for sharing your very own Working Girl story, and I wish you every success. You will have deserved it. And thank you for your advice today.
Philippe Dubost: My pleasure. Thank you, Steven.
Steven Cherry: We’ve been speaking with Philippe Dubost, an out-of-work Web project manager whose attempts to find the right job earned him the attention of millions.
For IEEE Spectrum’s “Techwise Conversations,” I’m Steven Cherry.
This interview was recorded 20 February 2013.
Segment producer: Barbara Finkelstein; audio engineer: Francesco Ferorelli
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