Résumé Failures and Faux Pas

Good Morning, Readers!

Ever wonder if your résumé is up to the tough challenges of the current job market? With a large amount of top talent, like you, on the hunt for a new career, people are beginning to get a little creative with their résumés and cover letters to spark excitement.

While some spunk may grab the attention of the hiring manager, others are a downright no-go. Today, I couldn’t resist sharing a very interesting and rather baffling CareerBuilder survey I found called “Common and Not-So-Common Resume Mistakes That Can Cost You the Job.” Here are the unforgiveable blunders they discovered:iStock_000018568936Large

  • Résumé was submitted from a person the company just fired
  • Résumé’s “Skills” section was spelled “Skelze”
  • Résumé listed the candidate’s objective as “To work for someone who is not an alcoholic with three DUIs like my current employer”
  • Résumé included language typically seen in text messages (e.g., no capitalization and use of shortcuts like “u”)
  • Résumé consisted of one (run-on) sentence: “Hire me, I’m awesome”
  • Résumé listed the candidate’s online video gaming experience leading warrior “clans,” suggesting this passed for leadership experience
  • Résumé included pictures of the candidate from baby photos to adulthood
  • Résumé was written in Klingon language from Star Trek
  • Résumé was a music video
  • Résumé didn’t include the candidate’s name
  • On the job application, where it asks for your job title with a previous employer, the applicant wrote “Mr.”
  • Résumé included time spent in jail for assaulting a former boss

Do your résumés have any of these formidable faux pas? If so, time to do a serious round of editing to get it up to snuff! Take a look at my post, Reasons for No Résumé Responses, for more helpful hints.

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Job Seeking Spare Time

A reader writes:

Hi Anita,

I have been unemployed for 2 months and try as I may, I still am having trouble finding employment. I am starting to get extremely bored and the excess hours of the day are beginning to get to me. With the large amount of free time on my hands, what can I do to during the day that will have a positive impact on my job search and my day-to-day life?

Dear, Stuck With Too Much Spare Time,

Job HuntingBeing unemployed and having nothing to do are not as much fun as many people make it out to be. I bet for the first week or two, it feels like a nice vacation full of sleeping in, leisurely breakfasts, watching television all day, and kicking up your feet. But after a short while, those things you wished you could do while you were working are becoming unbearable and boring. If you are starting to feel down about yourself or feeling like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, I ask you to turn that frown upside down. It is time to start being proactive and getting your life back on track.

The first thing you need to do is set a schedule out for yourself. No more sleeping in until noon and watching television until the wee hours of the morning. Most people who are employed are up and out the door in time to be at work by 8 a.m. Now that you do not have a job, what do you think your full-time position is? You guessed it, JOB HUNTING! Immediately, go see my friends at Select Staffing and fill out an application. Chances are they will be able to enter you in their database and offer you advice on how to proceed with your search. You must dedicate at least 6 hours a day to searching for a job. That doesn’t mean just scouring the Internet; get out there and sell yourself. For tips and tricks on becoming a very successful networker, check out my post Networking Know-How.

Try to find a class in your area that will build your résumé and your skills. If you work in a warehouse, look into getting your certification in forklift driving. If you are in administrative or executive support, brush up your grammar and proofreading skills. Do something that will benefit you in the long run and help keep your brain from turning to mush.

Build your résumé while doing something good for others. Locate a charity whose cause is near and dear to your heart and start volunteering. This will give you satisfaction and look great to potential employers. Here you can gain Community Serviceprofessional and life skills, meet people that could help introduce you to new job openings, and also earn a great recommendation from your supervisor that can only shed a better light on your unemployment. I once volunteered at a local charity and after a few months of dedicated service, I was offered a paid position in their Career Center.

Surround yourself with positive EMPLOYED people. This is a very important piece of advice to follow. Typically, people who are unemployed will not be happy with their situations and will inevitably bring you down. They will be more likely to engage you in activities that do not mesh well with job hunting activities. People with jobs will be able to share advice and connect with other professionals, possibly resulting in your next job lead.

Cut out the junk food and take some time to get your body moving. Exercise is a great way to spend an hour of your day. Getting your blood pumping will increase your energy level and spread those happy endorphins through your body. It is proven to relieve stress and ward off depression. Healthy foods will give you more energy and make you feel much better, both physically and mentally. Remember if you put good in, you will get good out.

As tempting as it maybe, try to avoid reading the bad news about the job market and the economy; it will only bring you down. Switch over to reading uplifting books and inspiring stories to keep you in a chipper mood. Go by yourself to see movies that bring a smile to your face. It actually gives you a greater sense of independence. I definitely suggest you give it a try.

Set GoalsSet daily and weekly goals for yourself. These do not need to be huge or intricate. Day one can be as simple as waking up at 8 a.m. and apply to 3 viable jobs. If you do that every day for a week, you have 15 job applications and résumés out in the world. Now that is an accomplishment! As you achieve more, you will begin to feel better and more confident in your abilities. Just remember you won’t get anywhere without putting one foot in front of the other.

Now that I have given a few tips, I want to hear from my readers what they find to be the most important advice for keeping your sanity while seeking employment. What things did you do while you were searching for a job?

Take care until next time,

Anita

Validation for Veterans

A reader writes:

Good Morning, Anita,

Recently, I returned home from a deployment to Afghanistan. Since coming home and taking a much-needed break, I feel that I am ready to join the civilian workforce and begin supporting my family again. Like many other veterans, I am running into some difficulty finding gainful employment and paying the bills. What advice can you give to me and other veterans looking for employment and experiencing the hardships of transition? Thank you!

Dear, Valued Veteran:

First and foremost, thank you for your service to our country and for the sacrifices you have made in the name of freedom. I can speak for many reading this blog that we greatly appreciate your efforts and dedication to the United States of America.

Unfortunately, as you mentioned, transitioning into the civilian workforce and regular life after serving in the armed forces can be difficult. Not only do you face the same challenges as those currently unemployed, but you must also Army_Bootsacclimate to new surroundings and hone your military training to fit open employment opportunities.

To get the ball rolling, make sure that you register with Veteran Affairs (VA) as soon as possible after you are discharged. You should qualify for medical and dental insurance. These benefits will diminish your financial burden significantly if unexpected medical emergencies arise. Co-pays for preventative medicine and routine exams are relatively low for this program and maybe expunged if you are unable to afford them.

Next, I suggest that you take some time to sit down and write a strong and compelling résumé and cover letter describing your skills, experiences, and work ethic. These items are job hunting gold and are necessary in landing your next career. For tips and advice on how to create and perfect these documents, take a quick look my posts How to Tailor Your Résumé and Covering the Cover Letter. If you feel like you need additional help, you can look into services such as CareerPerfect  to write your résumé and cover letter for a nominal fee. The VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Program also has services that can help.

Some strong qualities and experience to highlight are:

  • Military efficiency
  • Overseas experience
  • Problem solving skills
  • Flexibility and decision-making abilities under pressure
  • Leadership roles
  • Other relevant experiences

Also, take your military occupation code (MOS), area of concentration (AOC), Air Force specialty code (AFSC), or Navy Soldier_Saluteenlisted classification (NEC) and enter them into a skills translator, like those found at www.vetsuccess.gov/military_skills_translators, to turn them into commonly desired skills in the private sector.

Now that you have a strong and noteworthy résumé and cover letter, head on over to my friends at Select Staffing for employment assistance. Visit their website (www.selectstaffing.com), fill out the online application, and call your local office to schedule an appointment with a recruiter. Select Staffing is actively seeking skilled, dedicated, and versatile veterans for a wide variety of positions. They highly value the characteristics, commitment, and skills possessed by servicemen and women and are determined to do their part to help.

I know that they are currently recruiting for the following positions:

  • General Professional
  • Security Services
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Legal Assistant/Paralegal
  • Accounting
  • Data Entry Operator
  • IT Auditors
  • Utility Workers
  • Project Managers
  • Business Intelligence Analysts
  • And much more!

If you are looking to sharpen your skills and become educated in your field of interest, sign up for the GI Bill. Once you have done so, get in contact with Veteran Affairs Education and apply for benefits online to help cover tuition, books, and living expenses while you are in school. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this benefit as you will strengthen your résumé and have better chances of landing a lucrative career.

I found a great webinar that I think would be great for all veterans to watch, titled “Job Search Tips: Webinar for Military Veterans Transition to Civilian Careers” by Lida Citroën. It is a bit longer than my typical videos but worth the time.

Readers, what advice do you have for our recently-returned Veterans?

Veterans, what have you found to be the most helpful with you return to the civilian workforce?

Reasons for No Résumé Responses

A reader writes…

Anita,

I am desperately seeking a job and I feel as though I am sending out résumés left and right with no response. I have experience in a variety of fields and have been stretching the boundaries just to find some type of employment. What am I doing wrong?

Hi, Craving Call-backs,

Thanks for the question. I have a feeling many of you out there are experiencing this problem in your job search. With the lagging economy, fewer employers are actively hiring large numbers of people and the competition for those jobs is much steeper.Keyboard Bite

I have come up with a list of 8 reasons why you may not be getting the “we must hire them” response. Check them out below.

1. Applying for a job you are not qualified for. Many of you are looking to find any job available and have tried applying to jobs for which you do not meet the minimum requirements. It seems like it is worth a shot, right? Wrong. Unbeknownst to the masses, job descriptions do serve a higher purpose than just putting some text out hoping to hook a few applicants. They clearly spell out the necessary skills, training, education, duties, and responsibilities of the job. If a company is looking for a person with 5-7 years’ experience in the automotive sales industry and you have 2 years of sales experience and love cars, odds are you won’t get the call-back. It’s better not to waste your time or theirs by submitting your résumé. See my advice on when to go for it and when to forgo it in my blog  Applying for a Job When Not 100% Qualified.

2. Generic cover letter and résumés. Employers are well aware of job seekers that work on autopilot, distributing the same résumé whenever they feel even the slightest pulse. Before you send out a résumé or cover letter, take the time to tailor it to the job you are applying for. For a full list of tips on how to do this visit my post How to Tailor Your Résumé. As for cover letters, do your research and include the hiring manager’s name, company name, and business address, even when it is an email. If you need more pointers, see my other post called Covering the Cover Letter. Remember, it is the little things that get you noticed.

3. Generic job title. As we have seen in the previous section, generic is not the way to go. It can come off as lazy or disinterested. If the job description says they are looking for the Director of First Impressions (or receptionist, in layman’s terms), by all means put that as the job you are striving to obtain!

4. You don’t live there. If you are looking for a job in a city other than where you reside, you will most likely be pushed to the wayside. Employers do not want to pay for relocation and do not want to interview a candidate they know Lost in the Pileis not in the area. If you have friends or family who live near the job location, use their address on your résumé. Check out my post Landing a Job Long Distance for more advice.

5. Keywords in job description not included. With the large influx of résumés coming in for advertised positions, many companies do not have the time to read them all. It is common practice now to feed résumés through software programs that pick up keywords that apply to that position. If you do not reach the set number of keywords necessary to move to the next round, your résumé will be discarded. A great way to lower your chances of this happening is to skim the job description and include as many keywords as you can without being grammatically incorrect or overly obvious. See ATS 101: Demystifying Applicant Tracking Systems.

6. Didn’t follow instructions. Be sure to read the job description very carefully. Some employers have very strict standards and procedures on how they accept applications, résumés, and other materials. If they request that you send your résumé in Word and you send them a PDF, right off the bat, you have shown you cannot follow directions. Who wants a person like that as an employee? If they require that you submit three references and you submit two, odds are that you will be rejected before you can say “hire me.” By the way, this includes salary requirements. I know it seems you’ll be pricing yourself too low or too high, but there are ways to give a number and then indicate you’re flexible.

7. Focused on duties, not accomplishments. Employers want to see what you have accomplished, not what you did on a daily basis. Accomplishments show drive, ambition, productivity, and more. List actions that you can take credit for. Try to use words like managed, implemented, developed, applied, created, etc.

8. Typos in résumés. Punctuation problems, misspelled words, and goofed-up grammar force many employers to slam on their brakes. With computers, spell-check, and (I know I will sound old here) plenty of dictionaries, there is almost no excuse for you to have grammatical errors and typos in your résumé. Do not always trust spell-check; go through the entire document from bottom to top and read every word. Proofread it over and over again and ask for feedback from professionals you trust. If you notice a typo after the fact, do not send a corrected version, but definitely fix your résumé before sending it out to the next opening.  Be sure to check for these common mistakes I find all the time:

  • Is the correct word there, their, or they’re? It’s or its? Where or wear? Figure it out, and be right!
  • Bulleted items should only end in a period if they are complete sentences.
  • Jobs, activities, and accomplishments you have had in the past are in past tense. Those that are current are in the present tense (manage vs. managed, raise vs. raised, negotiates vs. negotiated).

I hope with these tips you can begin to see the résumé response from employers you are looking for. It is also important to remember that recruiters and employers are swamped with job inquiries. Give it about 1-2 weeks before following up with that prospect or putting that position behind you. Keep your chin up and your attitude positive!

Readers, have you had trouble getting résumé responses from potential employers? What have you found to be the best trick to get the call-backs rolling in?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Happy Hunting,

Anita

Understanding Unemployment

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I was recently laid off from my position as an Accounts Payable Clerk and my severance package is just about to run out. I was offered 2 months’ pay after the layoff, and I have been living off that while looking for a job. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find gainful employment and now will be filing for unemployment. How do I go about filing for and obtaining unemployment benefits?

Dear, Moving Forward,

Thank you for the great question. It can be a difficult time maneuvering your way through a layoff and coming to terms with what your future may look like. After you have exhausted your severance package or if you were not presented with a package, you may feel like you are up the creek without a paddle. Try your best

to remain calm. You do have the option to receive unemployment for up to 99 weeks if necessary.

Every state has a different process and procedure as to how you go about obtaining these benefits. Most states allow you to file a claim right from your own home or wherever you have access to the internet by completing an online application. If you do not have this type of access, you will want to visit the state’s unemployment office or see if you can file over the phone.

Be prepared with specific information that may be asked by your state’s representative. Each state varies on their requirements, but a few pieces of key information are listed below.Discouraged_Job Seeker

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Telephone number
  • Former employer’s name
  • Former employer’s address
  • Former employer’s telephone number
  • Employer’s Federal Identification Number. (located on your pay stub)
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Alien Registration card number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Employment start and end dates
  • Compensation amounts, typically just your wages
  • Grounds of your release or termination of employment

After you have submitted the initial application and are approved, you will be given the option to reapply for aid each week. Funds are typically paid to your bank account, via check, or sent to a debit card.  Select whichever method of payment fits your situation the best.  If you choose direct deposit to your bank account, be sure to submit a voided check to verify your routing and checking account numbers.

Job HuntingMore details and information about filing for unemployment in your state can be found visiting your state government’s unemployment office.

My final piece of advice is to not stop your job search! As a matter of fact, some states won’t continue sending you checks unless you prove you have applied to jobs each week. I will be writing an article soon on what you should do while you are unemployed to increase your chances of landing a great job. Stay tuned for this post. In the meantime, I have a quick video I’d like to share with you that synopsizes this post.

Readers! Have you had to file for unemployment benefits? Share with me your experience and how you are overcoming adversity.

Thanks and I look forward to your comments!

-Anita

Employers Think I’m a Job Hopper!

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I know one of the things that stands out in a résumé (besides skills) is how long you have been with a company –  (working somewhere for 5 or 10 years, for example,  shows stability).  I also know it is professional to put all your jobs on the résumé, but when I do, I am often asked during interviews, “How come you have so many different jobs within a two year period?” I haven’t been able to find a stable job but have been getting calls from contract and temp jobs that last 4 months, 2 months, 6 months and I accept them (because when you need work, you accept it to pay the bills).

There are great employees out there that have skills that make them the perfect candidate but because of their job history, employers don’t trust them to stay with the company.  

So my question is this, how can you make your résumé look presentable even with a minimal stable job history?

Dear, “Stability,”

You have brought up an issue that probably impacts a good majority of my readers… and certainly warrants a full post!

How the heck do you “sell yourself” in a résumé as a dedicated employee, when your work history is full of short term temp assignments and/or contract work?  Jumping from job to job doesn’t exactly say, “I am a stable person who will stick with your company for years and years to come!”

It does say, however, that you have been working consistently and are versatile; yet reveals the fact that you just haven’t found that position or opportunity where you can commit long term.  For some people, temporary work is ideal for particular lifestyles.  Perhaps you’re a new parent wanting to earn extra income while tending to a child.  Maybe you’re a full-time student, just looking to make some extra cash.  Then there are those that have been laid off from a previous job and are simply exploring new industries and opportunities before deciding on their next career path.

All in all, I think hiring managers understand the reality and importance of temporary work, more than ever.  Rather than viewing it as “instability,” they know that people are simply trying to make ends meet during difficult times.  In fact, many employers have been faced with hiring freezes themselves. Their companies are either cutting full-time staff, or are battling budget cuts left and right!  Keep in mind; this also explains why job hunting is so competitive.  When companies are finally given the trigger to hire someone… they’re going to be ultra choosey and basically search for the pick of the litter. (This is why, as a job seeker, you need to be on top of your game, have a flawless résumé, and be ready to shine in that interview.)

Now back to your question, “How can you make your résumé look presentable even with a minimal stable job history?”

You don’t want a two page résumé that includes the days, weeks, or months, of each individual temp assignment you’ve ever had.  At a glance that will surely be a turn off to any hiring manager.

Here’s what I suggest:

Below your name and contact information that appears at the top, begin with a section called, “Summary of Qualifications.” There you will highlight 5 or 6 bullet points of key skills or experiences that directly pertain to the job you are seeking.  Maybe one sums up “’X’ number of years working in the ‘Y’ industry overseeing…. Or developing… Or assisting with….” <insert whatever applies>. Another bullet point may include specific computer skills, or industry/ trade specific knowledge.  Here is where you may list whether you’re bilingual (for example)… you get the idea?

Next comes the chronological list of “Employment” or “Work Experience.”  If you have been doing various temp jobs for the past two years, simply group all of that together as a single listing with the header, “Contract Work” (or something like that) – Then just list the years (NOT months or specific dates).  The key is, you’re still being completely honest… but you’re redirecting the focus from short intervals to a long period that included a variety of positions.

Now, within the section you’ve called “Contract Work,” use bullet points to outline each position in a single sentence (use present tense as what you’re really dong here is drawing attention to your various skills, responsibilities, and attributes).  For example:

Contract Work – (2010 – 2012)

  •  Accountant / Bookkeeper (insert company name) – Data entry, accounts receivable, and records management of a $X budget.  (NOTE: it’s always good to include quantitative figures wherever you can…  gives more substance to your résumé)
  • Customer Service Representative (insert company name) – Inbound / Outbound calls, up-sell to customers, demonstrate product features and benefits of over ‘X’ products and services.

Directly below the “Contract Work” section (that now gives the allusion it was a long term commitment… by bundling your short-term projects), you will list whatever you did before that.  If you were laid off from somewhere after working for 3 years (for example) you will list the date range in years. Then do the same for next job, etc. – No need to go back 40 years… keep it relevant.

End your résumé with your education, certifications, any awards, and/or accomplishments.

While your résumé must be honest and should include as much pertinent detail as possible to attract the attention of a hiring manager, it is in your cover letter or during the interview that you will have the opportunity to explain things further.  Try to keep the focus on your skills that will contribute to the job at hand more than concentrating on dates and time periods. Trust me…  listing a duration of temporary assignments in your résumé (whether it’s a period of 2 months or 2 years) looks much better than having  gaps in your work history.

Don’t hesitate to be honest about your situation.  The way you openly explained it to me in your question made perfect sense and shows your determination and work ethic.

I hope these tips help and wish you much success in landing that long-term position in 2012!
Anita

Gaps in Employment

A reader writes…

I’ve been out of work for a long time now.  How do I handle the question in interviews about my gaps in employment? When asked, “What have you been doing all this time?”  My answer is, “Looking for WORK!”  I appreciate any suggestions.

Dear, “Gaps,”

The dreaded question “What have you been doing all this time?” is bound to come up – whether you’ve been out of work for 2 months or 2 years!  I will say, however, most recruiters and hiring managers realize that lengthy gaps in employment can be a harsh reality these days.

The key is to be honest about your situation and “practice” an answer to this inevitable question in advance. Don’t sound like you’re reading from a script, but definitely have an idea of what you’re going to say.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Share what you’ve done to look for work. This reveals your resourcefulness and determination.
  • Be open about how you have handled the stressful process of looking for a job.  We all know it is  a challenge, but what did you do to cope?  What have you learned? A common interview question is, “How do you handle stress?” or “Tell me how you operate under pressure.”  Your answers (though not related to stress on a job) are equally relevant and valid.
  • Highlight any skills you obtained during your unemployment period — aside from patience and perseverance, that is.  Did you learn any new software programs? Did you brush up on a second language? What about your ability to network?  All of these attributes build character but also reveal a lot about your abilities (and what you can contribute to a new position).
  • I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again… feature any volunteer work. You may be able to provide letters of recommendation and apply new skills and experiences to a job.  Here’s a link to a previous article I wrote on this subject:  http://anitaclew.com/2011/06/07/including-volunteer-work-in-your-resume/

In conclusion, when asked about your employment gaps, don’t get defensive… get determined.  Looking for a job is like a full-time job in itself.  The steps you’ve taken say a lot about you and your work ethic.

I have complete confidence. You WILL get through this!

Anita

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
%d bloggers like this: