You’re incredibly qualified for the position and your resume is a stunner. You’ve got great formatting, quantified bullet points, and a degree that lines up perfectly with the role.
What could possibly go wrong, right? Well, hopefully nothing but let’s do a quick sweep of that brilliant resume and make sure it’s not missing anything that may cause red flags among decision makers or, worse, land you in the “no” pile for that job you’d love to land.
1. You Include Titles That a Layman May Not Understand
Some organizations call their jobs really cryptic, weird, or completely irrelevant things. Other companies attempt to be incredibly cute or original with titles. This is all fine and well if you’re not planning to leave that firm. But if and when you do decide to move on, non-obvious titles can work against you, both with the human reviewers and the scanning software (also known as applicant tracking software). Again, your goal here is to appear to be what they are looking for.
What to Do
If you’ve got a title that falls into the category of “potentially confusing to a layman,” consider listing two titles–your actual title and one that more accurately reflects what the job would be called in the outside world. This will enable decision makers to more readily understand your role, and enable you to optimize your resume for the scanning software.
2. Gaps Without Explanation
No matter how incredible your job history, if you have gaps that you suspect a recruiter or hiring manager may wonder about, assume that they will. And then strategize accordingly. Remember, your best defense is almost always a good offense. So, if you have a gap in your career chronology, consider briefly explaining it right in the resume, rather than hoping no one will notice or care.
What to Do
Say you relocated with your spouse to another state, and then didn’t find a new job for 10 months. Consider adding a statement right at the beginning of the job you ultimately landed that reads something like this: “Following a family relocation to Austin, accepted a client services role with this leading food manufacturer.”
Or, maybe you’ve been a stay-at-home parent for a few years and are just attempting a re-entry. There’s probably some “above and beyond” stuff that you’ve doing during your time away from the full-time workforce that could technically be defined as “a job.”
If you’ve taken on any part-time work or projects—even volunteer projects at your kids’ school, or the soccer association or the yoga studio around the corner—consider listing these in your work history. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t a paid position or if you only worked at it for a few hours a week. If it was a noteworthy undertaking or a project that will help the reviewer see some of your talents, add it to your work history.
If, by chance, you got laid off and it took a while to land a new role, you might consider beginning with a description of the job you did, like this: “Following the bankruptcy of XYZ Company, accepted an opportunity to manage national accounts for this global furniture manufacturer.”
Statements and strategies like this quickly and succinctly remove the question mark, and enable you to then move right into the details about your accomplishments.
3. A Location That Makes No Sense
Say you live in Ohio and really super truly want to go live in Denver or Honolulu. And so you spruce up your materials and start madly applying for jobs in Denver and Honolulu. But you’ve got this Ohio address on your resume, which probably either confuses or scares the people on the receiving end.
“Why on earth is someone from Cleveland applying for our job?” they might think, “Does she expect us to pay relocation costs?” “Does she know anyone here?” “What if she hates it once she gets here, and quits?”
These are precisely the kinds of things that go through the minds of the decision makers when out-of-towners apply for their jobs without any sort of explanation as to why.
That said, no matter how terrific your experience looks, if this company is wary about hiring a candidate from another location, you may be looking at an uphill climb.
What to Do
Make it clear right out of the gates why you’re targeting roles in these locations (or, better yet, that the move is in progress). You can do so right in the cover letter, or you can establish a local address as you near the moving date, so you can put it on your resume and make it clear that you are a candidate with local ties.
Always remember this: The best job application is the one that makes it “smack in the forehead obvious” to your target audience how and why you make perfect sense for the role or roles you’re pursuing. The easier you make it for both the human decision makers and the automated scanning software to make a quick connection between what they’re seeking and what you come with, the better the odds that you land an interview.
And once you get that invite? You’ll have all kinds of opportunity to dazzle them.
Let’s make sure you get that chance.