Dear Sarah – Was my resume trashed?

Hi Sarah,

What do hiring managers absolutely hate seeing on resumes/CVs? What would get you automatically disqualified?

Best,

DQ

Hi DQ,

There are many things that might disqualify you as a candidate. Recruiters and hiring managers default to saying ‘no’ due to their own time constraints; identifying ‘red flags’ becomes second nature when there’s an overwhelming candidate pool. I’ll touch on a few:

First, avoid dumb mistakes. Spelling, grammar, and punctuation challenged resumes are the worst offender. Why? It’s avoidable with basic proofreading (and do so more than once). Don’t expect your spellcheck to catch everything, like, ‘higher’ instead of ‘hire. (Yep, we’ve seen it.)

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Earlier this year, we were actively hiring to fill a position on the TalentWorks team. Of the 426 applicants for our last job, 25% (108 applicants) was basically spam, e.g. outsourcers, recruiters. Almost 10% (40 applicants) made dumb mistakes, e.g. misspellings, forgot to include their email!

Second, a resume without a clear indication of professional progression is another potential ‘red flag’. Hiring managers look for promotions within the same company,  title changes and a logical career flow. If your resume indicates a career plateau (or a career gone backwards, so-to-speak) make sure you add color to your cover letter. (Don’t forget the cover letter!)

Thirdly, if you’re a mid-level employee applying for a ‘lower position’ make sure your resume doesn’t indicate over-qualification, another potential ‘red flag’. Only indicate relevant work history and degrees. Focus on the exact skills and responsibilities highlighted in the job description, which will help distract from titles. 

Lastly, another (very) avoidable mistake that will immediately disqualify you from candidacy is a failure to follow directions. If the job posting asks you to include/attach certain documents, list a salary requirement or fill out their online resume form (I know, I know, it’s tedious)…just do it because there are plenty of people who won’t hesitate.

Good luck!

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How do I build a resume if I don’t have a ton of professional experience?

Dear Sarah,

I’m a recent college grad applying to jobs. The thing is, I don’t have a lot of ‘pertinent’ experience for these positions and have only worked retail while in school. What is the best way to flesh out my resume?

Best,

Coming up short

Hi Short,

First off, good on you for holding down a job while at school. Regardless of the position, be it retail related or an internship, balancing both speaks volumes about your work ethic…which leads me to my point.

Many hiring managers expect that a recent college graduate has a limited work history for obvious reasons; it’s how you sell yourself that matters. Even people with minimal or no professional experience possess relevant skills (i.e.: strong work ethic, creativity, etc). Using your example, a retail job requires sales leadership, communication and people management; these are all pertinent responsibilities that could span any job. (PS- We’ve worked with jobseekers that have taken their retail experience, pursued positions in tech recruiting, and are now working at Salesforce ;))

Include a “Key Skills” section in your resume highlighting your abilities.

Doing so will increase your chances for an interview by almost 60%. Use exact wording from the job post when applicable, as well. Even smaller companies use resume parsers (or ‘ATS’) and this will help get you to the next step of the process.

Identify actual ‘entry-level’ positions.

We recently did a little experience and analyzed 95,363 Marketing Assistant jobs, 52% (49,245) were supposedly entry-level (based on what the employer said). Of those, our hypothetical job-searcher — a Marketing Assistant in LA, say — was only interested in 3% (1,286). Of those 1,286 supposedly entry-level Marketing Assistant and other jobs, we found 240 for actual entry-level Marketing Assistants.

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It’s unfortunate that many supposedly entry level positions require experience and it certainly takes time to seek them out. With a bit of patience, you can identify the ~5% of jobs that actually match your needs. (We can help, as well!)

One last point: Our data suggests that recent college grads with <1 year of work experience who had an explicit ‘objective’ listed got 7% more interviews. It may seem statistically insignificant, but these little resume alterations add up!

Good luck!

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How to overcome a hiring manager’s bias

In an ideal world, candidates would compete for jobs on an even playing field. Unfortunately, hiring managers are human and predisposed to inherent bias. If your resume makes it through the ATS (“applicant tracking system”) what type of biases exist and is there anything you, the jobseeker, can do?

Bias #1: Ageism

Our data suggests that your hireability starts dropping by ~8% every year after age 35. Yes, it’s illegal for companies to base hiring decisions around age, but it inevitably happens. Although The Age Discrimination in Employment Act allows legal protection against employers blatantly adding age preferences in job listings, many older workers will hear such things as “You wouldn’t be happy here” or the ever present “You’re too qualified” that are thinly veiled ways of saying your age matters.

So, what do you do if you’re nearing 35? We highly recommend leaving out your graduation dates on your resume and LinkedIN page.

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Bias #2: Resume ‘Blemishes’

More than age, race or experience, having even one employment blemish (such as a firing or layoff) was the biggest factor affecting the job search.

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Candidates who were fired, laid off or quit in the first 15 months of a job were 43% less hireable when applying to new jobs. Comparatively, their callback rate for interviews was 55% less than people who did not have a resume blemish. Averaging across industries and cities, getting fired meant roughly same as wiping out ~5 years of experience for them.

If you’re applying to jobs with a recent blemish on your resume we recommend concentrating your search around smaller companies. Applications to companies with <500 employees had a 192% higher interview rate. For every additional 1,000 employees, the hireability for people with work blemishes dropped by 19%.

Bias #3: Your Name

If you’re Asian or Hispanic-American and make a resume faux-pas on your resume (such as a misspelling or forget to include your email address) you are penalized much more than white applicants.

Force an objective mindset if you have a non-white name and you’ll increases your interview rate up to +199%. This roughly translated to closing the racial discrimination gap in hiring by 54% (a 1.6x race penalty vs. 2.3x originally). How do you force objectivity? Using concrete numbers to demonstrate your impact will boost your hireability by 23% and help remove subject bias. Also, adding industry buzzwords and acronyms will give you 34% hireability boost.

Conclusion

It’s hard enough that employers give a resume about 6 seconds to decide whether they’ll proceed, but throw in age, a layoff, and an “exotic” last name and the odds of an interview are stacked against you significantly. Take care that you’re being reviewed as fairly as possible by formulating a resume that stands up to potential bias in the hiring world.

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).

 

Can I include something in my resume that isn’t 100% accurate?

Dear Sarah,

I’d like to apply to a position where I’m sorta familiar with the technology required to do the job. Would it be “okay” to say I’m well-versed and then learn on the job? I believe I’d otherwise be a great fit.

Best,

Fibber Mcgee

Hi FM,

Sure, you can speak to your fake skills in a resume to land a job…but, you really shouldn’t. Seriously

According to HireRight’s 2017 employment screening benchmark report, 85% of employers found their candidates had lied on their resume; this is a 25% jump from five years ago!

Though it may seem innocent, embellishing skills on a resume will inevitably put you in an awkward position where at the very least you’ve started a professional relationship with a lie. If the hiring manager finds out you puffed up your qualifications, they’re likely to fire you.

Some of the more crazy fibs we’ve seen have ranged from falsifying university degrees (and graduation dates) to completely stolen work histories where the resume and cover letter don’t match at all. In an age where we’re more connected than ever, it only takes a quick Google search on the part of the recruiter to learn about candidates if there’s any ambiguity. Also, it’s not uncommon for a hiring manager to contact people via LinkedIN that aren’t your listed references; there are no laws restricting them from doing this. In fact, 70% of employers do independent background checks on future hires such as snooping their social media accounts.

It’s been said on this blog numerous times that making your resume machine parsable (with the same exact words from the job description) is fundamental. We’ve also emphasized how important it is to apply to jobs even if you only have 60% of the job qualifications. Of equal import is understanding that lying your way to an interview is absolutely not worth the risk.

All the best!

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Prove You’re a Leader On Your Resume (even if you’re not)

Regardless of whether or not you’re specifically applying to a managerial position, all hiring managers like to see leadership skills represented on a resume. “Leaders” are inherent problem identifiers and solvers, efficiently pivot when necessary and have great communication skills. Demonstrating that you possess these attributes will increase the likelihood that you will snag an interview. Our data suggests that using leadership keywords automatically increases your hireabilty over 51%!

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It’s all about catching the eye of the hiring manager. Using specific words like communicated, managed, coordinated, leadership, and organized prove your competency as a leader. So what if you don’t have any leadership experience to speak of? Use the following qualities to beef up your leadership prowess:

Creativity

Are there projects that you helped conceptualize to completion? Was there a creative way you approached a problem? Hiring managers want to see creativity in action! Provide situational examples in your resume or cover letter along with your creative skills to qualify your potential.

Loyalty

People whose shortest job was 9+ months were 85% more hireable than people whose shortest job was 8 months or less. A solid, steady career history shows future employers that you’re committed to both a place and a team.

(Sometimes leaving a company is beyond our control. Learn how to navigate resume blemishes here.)

Communication

Communication skills for leaders include written, technical, verbal and non-verbal qualities. Every good leader understands the importance of communication within the constructs of their immediate team and company as a whole. Include examples where you’re communicating goals and achieving them. This is a great opportunity to plug-in relevant buzzwords! For example, a non-verbal communication skill might be your ability to visualize the greater picture. (Don’t forget to use the exact words in the job description!)

Conclusion

There are many ways to example your potential to lead even if you don’t possess specific managerial experience. Increase your chances for an interview (and potentially a better paying job) by emphasizing leadership qualities. (Remember- If you qualify for at least 60% of the job, don’t hesitate to apply!)

For $10/month we can automatically find the best jobs and pre-fill job applications for you based on your desired role, location and years of experience. In addition, you’ll get our Interview Guarantee — if we can’t get you an interview within 60 days, we’ll refund everything back to you, guaranteed. (90% of job-seekers using TalentWorks get an interview in 60 days or less).