Today’s Lesson: Do a little work to find work. (Five tips for interviewees and interviewers.)
I see a lot of resumes and I am always looking for the best people to add to my team. It is astounding, though, how little work most people put in to seeking work. Here are five red flags I look for on a resume. Missing the mark on a single one of them won’t prevent someone from landing an initial interview with me, but the more of these I see, the less likely I am to take a candidate seriously. If you are looking to build a team, there might be a few short-cuts here for you. If you are looking to join a team, consider how avoiding these common land mines can help you stand apart.
1. Pretend like you have heard of spell-check. Even if you are good with grammar and spelling, use spell check and re-read your resume multiple times, word by word. It is not like a FaceBook rant or blog post. Your resume is one of the most important documents in your life. Be sure yours looks like it matters to you. If you really suck at grammar and spelling and spell check is too technologically challenging for you, at least have family and friends look over your resume. Try reading it backwards to find spelling errors or missed words. My favorite is when someone has noted “attention to detail” as one of their skills but has misspelled the phrase.
2. Demonstrate commitment. It might be too late to fix this now, but if I see you have had six jobs in five years (and you were not a temp agency worker or contractor), then I will likely skip you. If you could not stick with any of your last several jobs for at least a year (the time it would take you to actually start being competent in a role), why would I hire you to drag my company’s learning curve and retention rates down? If you can not show job commitment, then highlight your degree (showing you can at least stick with something for 2 to 4 years) or a long-time hobby. Work is a relationship and most employers are not looking for people with a fear of commitment.
3. Make the cover letter relevant or just skip it. A cover letter is a plus. It tells me why I should consider you over others. If your cover letter is not specific to my opening, though, you may as well just start it with, “Hi. I am too lazy to compose a unique cover letter for you so here is a completely generic one I send to every potential employer.” Making a unique cover letter for each job being applied for is a pain but it does show initiative. A generic cover letter shows that someone understands the importance of a cover letter but would rather take shortcuts than do the work. It is totally okay to skip the cover letter if your resume highlights specific skills related to the posting. It is also okay to skip it if you are too lazy to make it unique to this job. I would rather you not do it than pretend you sort-of care about getting the job… but not enough to type a few more words.
4. Lose the “Objective” statement. The only objective of a resume is to get a job and the “objective” statement is a relic of the 90’s. Use that valuable real estate for other things instead (such as expanding on work skills or accomplishments). The main problem of the Objective statement is that they all sound alike, “seeking a challenging career that uses my talents to blah-blah-blah…”. Worse, most people never adjust their Objective statement to the job they are applying for. If you are submitting your resume for a job as a mechanic, for example, an employer will dismiss you immediately if your objective statement is, “Looking to use my customer service skills to drive sales…” Those are fine skills and fake goals to have but they do not tell me anything about your mechanical aptitude or desire to work as a mechanic. I would pass–not the skill set I am looking for in a shop mechanic.
5. Use or create a professional email address. This is more of a nit-pick and I never hold a dumb email name against a candidate but there is a part of my brain that says, “Really? That’s the name you are hoping to find gainful employment with? ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’?” AOL?!? When was the last time you used a computer? Just use your normal name (or a close variation) at GMail, Mail, MSN, Hotmail, or Yahoo, even if it is the only thing you use that address for (which is a good idea anyway).
Those are 5 low-hanging fruit basic tips but for some people, I hope, they will be effective. I am not a professional recruiter, just a long-time manager who has had to review many resumes and interview candidates. If you found these tips helpful and want more like them, please share this post, favorite it on your social media of choice, or comment on my FaceBook page.