You spent hours digging into your work history and crafting the perfect resume.
Your references are prepared to share glowing reports of your work ethic and attention to detail.
But you have applied to several job openings, and your phone is not ringing. What gives?
That resume that you have worked so hard to perfect may be doing you wrong.
That may be tough news for job seekers to swallow. But think about it from the employer’s perspective.
They are under pressure to find the best person to help them reach their goals. They know what they are looking for, and hope to find a highly qualified candidate who will put an end to the search. That is why they are on the hunt for anything that will qualify or disqualify the candidate.
An eye-tracking study found that recruiters spend an average of six seconds on each resume. They zero in on just a few key areas such as the person’s name, current title and company, previous position and employer, start and end dates, and education. In that space of time, they decide whether the applicant is a possible fit or not. If your resume fails to stand out, you will not get more than a passing glance.
As the CEO of Aha!, I can tell you that we receive tons of resumes every week. I can learn plenty about the person and whether they are a possible fit just from their cover letter and their resume. Applicants who are direct and get right to the point are more likely to catch my attention. A clean, concise resume helps me discern whether they merit a deeper look.
You do not want to make the hiring manager work to figure out how your experience relates to the position. Chances are, they will not expend the effort.
You can better your chances of landing an interview by thinking like the hiring manager and looking at your resume through their eyes.
Before you send out your next resume, look for these common problems that can disqualify you from the running:
1. Absent cover letter
Take the initiative and include a cover letter, even if the ad does not specify that you should send one. Find out the hiring manager’s name through LinkedIn and address him or her personally in the letter. Keep your letter short and to the point, hitting the highlights of your qualifications and include a link to your LinkedIn profile.
2. Wrong format
You want your resume to be as easy as possible to read. Make sure to send it in a format that anyone can open, read, and pass along to others in the company. The best method is to save your resume as a PDF, renaming the file with your name (ex: JohnSmithResume.pdf) and sending it as an attachment.
3. Distracting images
Choose a clean layout with bullet points highlighting your role and accomplishments. Note: If you are pursuing a creative role, use your best judgment in this area. But for most jobs, err on the side of caution and good taste. Let your accomplishments be the focal point of your resume.
4. Grammatical errors
A resume that is riddled with errors shows overconfidence and carelessness. Remember that spell-check does not always catch duplicate or substitute words. Have someone else proofread it or read it aloud to yourself before hitting “send.” Be sure to spell-check your cover letter and email as well.
5. Useless jargon
Your resume should present a clear snapshot of your career, so look for anything that muddies the picture. For example, your resume is not the place to show off your command of the language.
Choose words that best communicate what you have done and remove any acronyms, adjectives, and unnecessary words that slow down processing.
6. Resume length
While you do not want unexplained gaps in your work history, your resume should not tell the story of your life either. Limit the length to one or two pages at the most, and only list relevant work experience and the results of what you have accomplished. Leave out extracurricular activities that simply add more noise. A succinct resume will show that you can focus on what matters.
I understand that it is not easy to be in the position a job seeker. That is why I hope you will take this advice seriously and take a good hard look at what you are sending out.
You want the hiring manager to clearly see all the possibilities in you. A simple thing like cleaning up your resume can make a huge difference in the number of interview calls you receive — and hopefully land you the job you deserve.
Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He has been the founder or early employee of six cloud-based software companies and is the CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software. His last two companies were acquired by Aruba Networks [ARUN] and Citrix [CTXS].
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