At one point or another, it has happened to all of us. An exciting job opportunity that matched our background, experience and education finally came along. And not only was the job well within our salary range, but it was a PERFECT fit for our resume—to the point we convinced ourselves “They actually wrote this job posting for ME!” So we dusted off our resumes, wrote a quick cover letter, and sent our information directly to the hiring manager . . . and never hear back. Yet another job opportunity passed us by, and we were, quite inexplicably, NOT included in the process. Which forced us to repeatedly ask ourselves the same burning question.
“What the hell happened?”
Those of you who are currently unemployed, or actively looking for a job-related change of scenery, have no doubt realized things are finally starting to loosen up a bit. And now that the employment market is turning positive, it is a great time to dust off your resume, make a few updates, and start selling yourself to the world. But before you start mass emailing your information, there is something you need to know. In addition to the obvious resume mistakes every savvy job seeker on the planet avoids (hard to read layout, mis-spellings, too many pages, etc.) there are a few not-so-well-known red flags experienced hiring mangers look for—red flags that can put your resume on the fast track to an industrial-sized paper shredder.
If you’ve ever missed out on the interview process for a job that seemed like a perfect fit for your resume, chances are good you’ve made one of these five resume mistakes.
Resume Killer #1: Listing Religious, Political or Controversial Causes as Volunteer Work
In my 18+ years in business, I’ve seen hundreds of candidates make the mistake of padding their resumes with activities that put their belief systems on full display. Sure, acting as the Chair of your neighborhood “Christian Democrats for the Fair Use of Water” meetings shows both commitment to a cause and a willingness to unselfishly donate your time. But what if the hiring manager who looks at your resume is an Atheist Republican Anti-Conservationist? The fact is, you NEVER know the political, religious or moral views of the person vetting your resume. Understanding it isn’t ethical for a hiring manager to eliminate a candidate because of their political or religious views, don’t fool yourself by being naive—it happens every single day, and there is no point in taking the risk.
Resume Killer #2: Communicating Personal Drama in Your Cover Letter
If you are an experienced hiring manager, odds are good you’re nodding your head right now. As adults, we all understand things like car accidents, divorces, serious medical conditions and family deaths are an unfortunate part of life. That said, as heartbreaking as these things may be, they have absolutely nothing to do with your qualifications as a potential employee. Look at it from the standpoint of the hiring manager: if a candidate is willing to share ultra-person details in a cover letter, how many hours per day might they spend venting to fellow employees—or their boss—once they actually have the job? The best hiring managers look for low-maintenance employees who are smart, care about their work, and come with minimal baggage. Before you apply for your next position, re-review your resume and cover letter and ask yourself, “Do I sound high-maintenance?”
Resume Killer #3: Pointing Out Your Own Flaws
One of the most common impulses among job searchers who aren’t technically ‘perfect’ candidates for a position (especially in the Midwest) is to be honest about their shortcomings up front. This high degree of ethics might allow you to sleep more peacefully at night, but it will NEVER help you gain an interview. In fact, admitting your previous position was in a different industry, or that you’re two full years short of the experience requirement, will only get you one thing: eliminated from the hiring process. The fact is, there are very few ‘perfect’ candidates who apply for open positions, and hiring managers will often overlook missing requirements in exchange for something else they happen to like. Don’t be tempted to do the hiring manager’s job for him or her. If you’re not a perfect fit, let them figure it out on their own.
Resume Killer #4: Listing Yourself as the CEO of Your Own Company
To most hiring managers, starting and successfully running a business (even for a short period of time) shows ambition, entrepreneurial spirit, and an ability to handle a variety of responsibilities. That said, C-level titles on a resume rarely work in an applicant’s favor. If you’re applying for a VP or Director position, claiming a CEO stint on your resume says “I’m used to calling all of the shots.” And if you’re applying for a middle-management position, listing a CEO position screams “I’m overqualified, and probably want too much money.“ Here’s a tip: if you ran your own business in the past, focus on what you did to make the company successful —Marketing Consultant, Flash Developer or Project Manager, for example—not on what your business card said.
Resume Killer #5: Overlapping Timelines in Your Work Experience
For those of us who had to work our way through college, a certain sense of pride comes with being able to claim we juggled two (or in some cases three) jobs at one time. Back when we were young, balancing multiple jobs made us look like ‘entrepreneurs’ and ‘go-getters.’ But in the real world, working two or more jobs at one time is a sign to hiring managers that we will be distracted and chronically tired employees, whose minds are usually somewhere else. As an applicant, you need to keep in mind that every employer wants his or her job to be the ONLY focus in your working life. Giving a potential supervisor any reason to think otherwise will significantly decrease your chances of even getting an interview—much less actually landing a job.
And to wrap it up, I would like to point out that my goal for this article is to create a living, breathing, extraordinarily helpful document for job seekers. Therefore, if you are a hiring manager and would like to add your own “Resume Killer” to the list, PLEASE use the comment field at the end of the article to share your knowledge and experience with job seekers around the world. Thank you for your help!
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