Last updated : May 21, 2014
We all make mistakes—that’s what makes us human. But when you’re looking for a new job, it’s important to minimize those job application mistakes because it may cost you the position.
Here’s how the recruiting process works at most organizations:
- Post job description.
- Receive lots of resumes.
- Review resumes and pick top candidates.
- Schedule interviews with top candidates.
- Make hiring decision and extend offer to top candidate.
The majority of candidates don’t make it past step two because there’s something on their resumes that disqualifies them from being selected for an interview.
So, what can you do?
Make Sure You’re Qualified For The Position
Do an honest assessment of your skills and figure out the types of positions you are qualified for and apply only to those positions. When recruiters receive hundreds of resumes, they are very quick to dismiss those that don’t have the required knowledge, skills, and abilities for the position.
Maximize Your Qualifications For The Specific Position
It takes time to make your resume stand out, but you need to ensure you will make it to the interview process. One way to do this is to mimic the language used in the job posting. For example, if the job description gives examples of daily responsibilities, show how you accomplished these same tasks in your previous work experience. Use specific examples to show what you achieved and how you achieved it.
By using the keywords that are included in the job description, you have a better likelihood of passing any electronic resume screening tools a company may be using. Reread the job description and see which keywords and phrases seem to have importance in the position description. In your resume, include these keywords and phrases and show how you have experience in these areas.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Spellcheck is great, but it doesn’t pick up everything, so do a manual proofread of your resume before you submit it. It may take only one typo or grammatical error to be eliminated from consideration, so take the time to do a thorough review of your resume.
5 Biggest Job Application Mistakes
Here are some of the biggest application mistakes candidates make (and how to avoid them):
These types of errors, although they seem small in nature, can be a major red flag to employers. It shows you lack attention to detail, and many hiring managers or recruiters will think you rushed through your application.
How to avoid this mistake: Take your time filling out applications and have someone else look it over if possible. Print out your answers and read them aloud to catch anything you may miss while scanning through on the computer.
Not following directions
This is something everyone learns in grade school, but it’s amazing how many people STILL don’t read directions! Every application you fill out will be slightly different or require a different response—so it’s important to read through each step.
How to avoid this mistake: Pay attention and slow down during the application process. If you’re feeling rushed, it’s probably because you’re applying to too many openings that you may not be qualified for, so you may want to re-think your strategy.
Turning in a resume you haven’t tailored to the position
This is a big no-no. It shows you don’t really understand what the employer is looking for and are just hoping your resume fits some of the criteria.
How to avoid this mistake: Carefully read through the job description, qualifications, and education requirements. Show the employer through your resume how you fit into those through your previous experience, skills, and expertise.
Writing a generic cover letter
Your cover letter should tell a compelling story and make the hiring manager interested in moving on to your resume. It should also address the hiring manager by name and describe exactly why you are the best candidate for the position.
How to avoid this mistake: Write a new cover letter for each position you’re applying for. Although there may be similarities, always tailor your cover letter to the opening.
Not going beyond the job description
It’s imperative that you research the organization at which you’re applying. You need to know what it does, how it’s structured, and its mission, values, and goals in order to determine how you fit in. Should you move on in the hiring process, these things will be vital to a successful interview—and you’ll be one step ahead.
How to avoid this mistake: Perform a simple Google search on the organization. Look through their company website, LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook profiles, read reviews of the organization and its products, and browse recent news articles that mention the company.
What are some other major application mistakes you’ve made and/or witnessed?
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Beef Up a Too-Short Resume with Detailed Accomplishments and Volunteer Service
Recruiters only read your resume for about six seconds before moving on, but if you’ve been unemployed or you’re fresh out of school looking for work experience, your resume may be so bare that six seconds is long enough. Here’s how to spice it up with useful data that’ll help you land a job.
Whether you’ve worked at the same company forever, or you’re stuck in the old catch-22 that you can’t get a job without experience (but you can’t get experience without a job), don’t look at a too-short resume as a drawback. It can actually be a huge advantage over other job hunters. You have room to go into detail about your accomplishments and experiences at the jobs you’ve had. For example, don’t just list “managed 15 projects from start to finish,” you have room to get into the details of those projects, and what “managed” really means, whether that includes controlling the budget, managing people, developing schedules and timelines, and so on.
Also, include any volunteer experience you may have. Volunteer work says a lot about a candidate and can go a long way, especially if the skills you used or learned are relevant to the job you’re looking for. Plus, volunteering can help you learn the skills employers want. If you’re unemployed or looking for new work, volunteering at nights or on weekends can be a fast track to a better job. For more resume-bolstering tips, hit the link below.
From One Paragraph to One Page: How to Beef Up Your Resume | The Daily Muse viaIdealist Careers
When you prepare your resume for higher positions….
In previous years, listing the size of budgets managed, divisions run, or revenue generated might have been enough for a recruiter to hunt you down, but no more.
In today’s economic climate, executives are being asked to deliver more and brand themselves as well-rounded leaders prepared to tackle industry challenges and obstacles to growth.
It’s important to look at your executive resume with a fresh perspective. Have you missed opportunities to market yourself? Do hiring authorities fail to understand what you bring to the table?
Are you being passed over for jobs, even though you’re well-qualified?
If so, these three strategies can help you reassess the strength of your executive resume – with ideas for powerful content and leadership storytelling:
1. Demonstrate strategic, not tactical, value.
Employers are not only looking for your leadership skills – they’re intent on finding an executive champion that will impact growth, retain top talent, and impress their competitors.
Therefore, your executive resume has to take your brand message a step further than just results, and talk about context.
Consider whether the following situations apply to your background:
- Heading a new growth strategy
- Conceptualizing and leading the release of new products
- Reacting to the threat of competition in the industry
- Addressing the effect of the economic downturn
Next, write a short success story that pulls in the challenge and explains the reasons you got involved, plus the outcome, as shown in this example for a COO resume:
“Produced 142% increase in net income by transforming focus to life sciences markets; won contracts at AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, and Johnson & Johnson.”
Repeat this exercise for different situations, and create condensed summary versions of each story for your executive resume.
2. Merely mentioning the scope of your duties isn’t enough.
So you’ve managed the P&L and helped create revenue growth. You’ll be up against numerous leaders with similar achievements—making it harder for you to stand out.
Distinguishing yourself on an executive resume requires that you specify the setting behind each of your accomplishments. To mine your background for this context, answer the following questions:
- Did you take on challenges within the company, such as frequent turnover, negative PR, or market volatility?
- Were your roles broader than what was typically required? In other words, did you take on the role of CFO and CIO simultaneously, or step into a Manager-level position to help out subordinates?
- Was the company experiencing rapid growth – putting pressure on you to hire or standardize procedures?
- Were you required to turn around a challenging situation or address looming obstacles that threatened profits?
This example of a CFO resume achievement demonstrates the candidate’s ability to take on a wider level of authority:
“Served as CFO and COO administering $23M annual revenue and sustaining operations during restructuring, with 18% drop in facilities costs from newly renegotiated vendor contracts.”
If any of these situations apply to your career, be sure to describe background detail when noting the scope of your achievements. The ability to gain results in these scenarios is highly sought after within the executive suite.
3. Compare yourself to leadership peers.
Comparative analysis is one of the best ways to frame and express executive achievement, which helps to highlight your leadership brand value versus your competition.
For example, you might have brought in changes that were critical to company growth or customer perception – with bottom-line results. Look at each job for evidence of the following:
- New operational procedures that saved time or money
- Comparisons to your predecessor in the same role
- Performance measurements against colleagues with the same job title and function
- Industry comparisons for others in a similar role
Here, you’ll want to ensure the comparisons made are clearly conveyed on your resume, as in this example of a CEO in the pharmaceutical industry:
“Revitalized product sales with 65% growth after taking over sales team—despite lackluster results during preceding 2 years.”
If you were specifically recruited because of the results you could deliver (and surpassed other candidates in the hiring process), be sure to note this in your executive resume.
The bottom line?
Putting yourself out there in the executive job market requires careful thought and analysis of your brand value – an exercise that will help before you even start to write your executive resume.
6 Eye-Tracking Secrets that will get Resumes Read
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