I do a lot of resume screening in my position. Every morning I go through the most recent list of candidates hoping to find one that is qualified. Disclaimer: I’m not an HR person nor am I an employment expert. However, if you’re goal is to have your job application go unnoticed here are the most common things I see preventing that first interview:
#1 Applying for multiple positions With the same resume at the same time
Make sure you have made it clear which position you truly desire. It’s difficult to determine when you’ve applied to 5 different openings with the same resume at the same time. If they’re similar i.e. several software developer positions, that’s not too bad. Just don’t shotgun it for Business Analyst, QA Team Lead and Sales Account Manager! Different roles take different skills; the odds that you’ve highlighted them effectively in a single resume is against you!
If applying for several positions at once, make sure they are related.
Creating several templates targeted to the different roles that interest you e.g. Business Analyst, Software Developer, Project Manager is better than using the same one for everything. Even if you do this I still recommend spending 30min to an hour to customize it for every position that interests you.
Clarity is key.
#2 Your Goal is “to get a position with company X”
I recently saw a resume who’s goal statement was “To get a Software Development Position with Your Company”. That’s what I hope for too, but tell me why I should choose you over someone else. Ideally your goal statement is tailored to the position and company. It should be reflective of your passion for the company and briefly explain why you are the best candidate for the position.
Goal statements are tricky as they really act as a very brief cover letter. They need to hook the reader to be interested in what you have to offer. Try reading it out loud. If it isn’t making you want to discover more about yourself, get rid of it. Having a limp one is worse than having one at all. If you have a poorly written goal statement I’ll still read your resume except now you’ve left me with a negative first impression. The rest of your resume better be kick-ass to persuade me to call you.
Goal Statements are tricky – make it strong, get someone else to review it.
#3 SUBMITTING A JOB APPLICATION WITHOUT A COVER LETTER
This one isn’t black and white, but it means that your resume must work much harder to impress. Without a cover letter I have very little context in which skills, specialty, projects you are highlighting that are applicable to the position. I have to infer and that is up for misinterpretation. So if you are submitting a job application without one you need to tailor the resume and make it laser focused (see #6). It most likely means you need a goal statement (See #2).
No cover letter means your resume must work much harder to get noticed.
#4 SUBMITTING A generic cover letter
If you’re not going to spend the energy creating a cover letter summarizing how your skills and expertise will make you successful in the desired position spend the time tailoring the resume. If you do plan on submitting a generic letter take the time to make it interesting. You may have generic opening and closing paragraphs, but tailor the skills abilities you want to emphasize. But do more than just change the company name and the position!
100% generic cover letter is a no no. Tailor the specific skills that make you stand out for the position.
#5 YOUR COVER LETTER SAYS <INSERT COMPANY HERE>
I’m not exaggerating. I actually read a cover letter that had <Insert Company Here>. ’nuff said.
Mail merge is not your friend.
#6 ONLY SHOWING RESPONSIBILITIES AND NOT HIGHLIGHTING ACCOMPLISHMENTS
In many resumes the candidates list their positions and their duties, but nothing that shows how they stand above their peers. Did you manage to reduce memory utilization of an application by 50% thus improving performance of an application? Did you gather requirements for an application that launched across the province / state? Create a communication plan to break down department silos? Dazzle me with your brilliance.
One of the items that really catches my eye is when someone provides a link to a portfolio of their work. e.g. Software Developers displaying their side projects on a website; contributions to open source projects in GitHub; portfolio of designs. Examples go a long way to explaining why you are different. I tend to overlook application deficiencies if I like the examples!
Every Business Analyst gathers requirements from multiple stakeholders. Highlight why you are different with examples.
#7 YOUR RESUME IS TOO LONG
You do not need to list the McDonald’s job that you’ve held 20 years ago unless you’re applying for a job at McDonald’s. The only exception is if you’re going back into your history to make a connection with the hiring manager or interviewer and even that is hazardous. Only do so if you absolutely know there will be a positive outcome.
Highlight the positions that exemplify your skills and abilities.
#8 Not telling me why you want to join the company
Telling me why you wish to join this particular company shows me that you’re passionate about the problems that we try to solve. This isn’t just a job for you – you’re committed and willing to give it your best. Place this in your cover letter; or the goal statement of your resume (if you have one).
Employers want passionate people – not drones.
#9 Too Low or Too high Salary Expectations
I have a love / hate relationship about salary expectations. Ideally employers are crystal clear to prevent wasting each other’s time. For some reason this is kept secret to avoid salary comparisons between companies, but required for the job application to be submitted. My recommendation is to do some research – there are tons of places where you can get information about salaries like the Workopolis Salary calculator. Pick the average (maybe go slightly above) and move on; you’ll end up negotiating this anyway. Do not go too low or too high. I’ve seen people specify that they are willing to work for $25K as a software developer. If you think I’m blowing things out of proportion I’m not. Keep in mind the geographic location as well. Unless you’re planning to work for a world wide mega-corp many salaries are regionalized based on the cost of living.
Research the average salary of your market. You should be negotiating this, but understand what you’re worth.
#10 not grooming your social networks
Like it or not social networks are being examined by HR, especially LinkedIn. These sites not only are able to promote yourself to prospective employers but also are capable of displaying information that a paper resume simply can’t. They can show how focused your network is, examples of work, industry thoughts and ideas. Using them properly take you from a passive application to an active one. But make sure you groom them – if you have an updated resume make sure that LinkedIn or other career sites are updated as well. Highlight your professional social network in your resume to allow the hiring manager locate you online. LinkedIn alerts you when someone views your profile so you may get a heads up if a prospective employer is reviewing your application.
Like good hygiene your social networks need grooming.
wrapping Things Up
So there you are, 10 things that will most likely make your job application go unnoticed. Hopefully I’ve given you some good advice to give you a better chance at getting that first interview… at least good advice if I’m reviewing your resume 😀
If you have stories or other things that could help prospective job seekers, put them in the comments below. I’d love to hear them!