Is Your Resume Holding You Back?

If you’ve been looking for a job for a while, and you know that you are qualified, but no one is calling (on any of your phones!) What should you do?

I speak to potential clients who fit this category regularly. Clients suggest many possible scapegoats as to why the phone isn’t ringing:

  • Age discrimination.
  • My experience doesn’t exactly match their needs. No one will give me a chance to prove myself.
  • I’m trying to transition from non-profit to for-profit and they just don’t want me.
  • They look at my previous industry and discriminate against me because they don’t like (fill in the blank).

I would never tell potential clients that these factors have NOTHING to do with their hunt or that it is easy to overcome these possible roadblocks. However, when I review resumes from these job seekers, I usually identify fatal resume flaws that have nothing to do with age, experience or industry. Many times, it is clear to me that these job seekers are approaching their searches with resumes that are doing them more harm than good.

Some examples:

Age Discrimination. Many resumes appear old-fashioned and outdated. They include information that isn’t necessary (such as date of birth), but  omit key resume details (such as dates of employment). If the job seeker is “experienced” (read: older), an outdated looking resume only puts a spotlight on a factor that might be considered a drawback.

Lack of experience. Job seekers who don’t have direct experience in their field of choice make mistakes when they don’t attempt to address the needed skills and stick to a basic “this is the stuff I did” resume. Listing “stuff” isn’t going to cut it when you’re reaching for a job. Focus on those transferable skills. Look at your “soft” skills. Figure out what you have to offer and highlight it for the reader.

Transitioning. Consider how you describe your past experiences. If you are moving to a for-profit, use language that appeals to that employer. Always write for your target. I recently worked with a client to re-write a “non-profit” sounding job description using “for-profit” language. She landed an interview within 24 hours of sending the resume.  If you are applying for a job in France, you’d write your resume in French. Similarly, be sure to use lingo and descriptions that will make sense to the reader. Don’t expect them to translate it!

Industry Discrimination. I’ve worked with clients who believe their current industry isn’t an asset in moving to a new field. For example, a chiropractor who wants to work in accounting. It is easy to write a resume that makes accounting skills and experience the first thing employers will read. I’ve seen many resumes of job hunters who highlight the very information they think detracts from their candidacy!

So, if your phone isn’t ringing, don’t start assigning blame and throwing up your hands until you take a good, long look at your resume. You may be surprised at what you DO control in your job hunt.

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photo by friendly123

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View Miriam Cohen Salpeter's profile on LinkedIn
October 2008

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