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

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

Other Ways to Find Jobs

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

Could you please address ways for finding employment opportunities outside of job boards and “want ads,” such as networking and how to do that effectively?

Dear, “Opportunities,”

Believe it or not, employment opportunities are all around us – everyday… everywhere we go.  It’s just a matter of discovering them, getting the word out, and playing off the old saying, “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know!”

Here are a few places to search (outside of job boards and want ads):

  1. Social Networking sites:  The whole purpose of sites like Facebook is to make connections, stay in touch with friends, family, co-workers, etc., and share what’s going on in your life.  Just as cute or funny pictures tend to spread like wildfire online… the fact that you’re looking for a job is no different.  Get the word out to the people in your social network.  Who knows, they may have a relative, buddy, or colleague that is hiring or would be open to meeting with you!

    LinkedIn is another, highly respected social networking site that specifically caters to professionals.  Like Facebook, this is a free site but in the case of LinkedIn, the objective is to complete a professional profile about yourself – like a résumé.  You will have the opportunity to state your work history, areas of expertise, and interests.  Before you know it, you can get “linked” with other people who either share your interests, profession, or that even worked with you (or went to school with you) in the past.You can easily run searches for people and companies in your area (or anywhere for that matter).  From there, you’ll see how you may be connected (through somebody else) to potentially key contacts.  Again… it’s all about the people OTHER people may know that can get you hooked up with great opportunities.  Likewise, businesses often list job openings on LinkedIn (that may not appear on standard job boards).One more comment about LinkedIn – Another cool and effective feature is the fact that you can request “Introductions” and/or have people “Endorse” (recommend) you for your great work.  It’s like an instant referral system that potential employers can look at and see how wonderful you are!

    This leads me to my next reminder:

  2. Referrals from Family and Friends:  I know I basically covered this in point #1, but it’s worth stating on its own… particularly if you have not yet explored the social networking scene online.  Spread the word to friends and family that you are looking for work.  The people who care about you the most will put on their thinking caps and pass along any recommendations or suggestions.  I firmly believe “it’s a small world after all…!” (Sing it if you know it!)
  3. Volunteer Groups: Participating in volunteer groups or charity events is another great way to network with people.  I’ve said this in previous posts, and I’ll say it again…  People generally prefer working with people they like.  If you already share a common goal or interest, you’ve already broken the ice and accomplished a major step.  Befriend as many people as you can and get involved.  Who knows, the person running the race, planting a tree, or picking up trash by your side… may have a job opening that you can fill!
  4. Church Groups / Alumni Groups: These are just a couple of other resources that come to mind when it comes to networking opportunities and finding possible jobs.
  5. Toastmasters: This is a nonprofit, international leadership group that has been around since 1924 and helps people develop their public speaking and leadership skills.  Groups meet regularly to network and interact in a comfortable setting. Part of the problem many job seekers have is a lack of confidence in front of strangers.  Before convincing someone else that you should be hired… you need to convince yourself! It’s groups like these that help you build that much needed self-esteem.One quick tip… when attending a networking session, don’t feel like you need to own the room or be the center of attention.  Try to make meaningful connections and spend quality time with individuals… that’s what ignites long term relationships (not the quick handshakes in passing).
     
  6. Internships:  Sometimes you can get your foot in the door by doing paid (or unpaid) internships for businesses or organizations.  If anything, this is a great way to gain first-hand experience in a particular industry and again, it exposes you to a whole new set of people (and potential hiring managers).  I frequently encourage college students to do internships while in school (to help build an effective résumé).  Whether you’re interested in working in the medical field, a law office, a publishing company, or government agency (as examples)… this may be a good route to explore.  Pick up the phone and ask around, or stop by in person (professionally dressed!).  You never know… unless you ask! 
  7. Temporary Agencies:  Last, but certainly not least, I highly recommend going through a temporary agency.  Let a professional recruiter do the searching for you at no cost (it doesn’t get any better than that, right?)  Many companies do 100% of their hiring through services… in some cases; it’s the only way to get in. I highly recommend my old friends at Select Staffing (www.selectstaffing.com).

Hey Readers… Please share some additional methods for finding job opportunities and/or networking (aside from standard job boards or help wanted ads).  Blogs like this are an excellent forum for networking and helping one another.  We’d all love to hear your thoughts, comments, and suggestions!

Anita

Reference Check Response

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,
I was recently asked to respond to a reference check for a former employee.  How much information am I obligated to provide?

Dear, “Contacted,”

Providing a reference for a former employee may seem simple enough, but depending on the situation, things can get slippery.  You need to make sure you’re protecting the best interests of your company – with so many lawsuits out there… a lot of managers avoid reference checks like the plague!

Consider the following:

  1. Consult with your Human Resources Department to see if a company policy is in place.  If your reference is positive, you can certainly provide a verbal response. 
  2. A standard reference check asks for the following information (job seekers… pay attention!):
    Confirmation of:
    – Job title
    – Final salary or hourly wage
    – Dates of employment
    – Job responsibilities
    -Occasionally, you may be asked about certain characteristics such as “reliability,” “working with others,” etc.
  3. Sometimes, you’ll be asked to provide a reference for an employee who worked for you so long ago that you don’t remember specific employment dates, wages, etc.  For these reasons (and more), I recommend that you leave this process to your HR Department – they are more equipped to deliver accurate answers. 
  4. If you choose to provide a written recommendation, I also advise that you pass it by HR for a quick review before sending.  A written letter of recommendation can go a long way for someone looking for a new job.  Here’s the rub… a written letter of recommendation can also be a little risky… particularly if it’s generic.   When something is written, it can exist forever (and be photocopied multiple times).  What was once a professional looking letter – signed by you – later becomes a faded mess.  Lord knows what kind of employee your former employee has become over time.  You also won’t have any idea how your letter is being used.
  5. If you receive a reference request for a former employee who left on bad terms… defer to HR.  You should NEVER feel obligated to respond to questions you are uncomfortable answering.

As you can see by my list above, Human Resources is precisely that… a resource to assist you with these types of situations. Utilize them to help protect yourself and your company.

A note to job seekers…  Most (if not all) potential employers will ask for employment references.  Be prepared to provide this information and know that it WILL be checked (either with a former supervisor or – more likely – with your former HR Department.)

Hope this helps!
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: