Bad job search advice. It’s everywhere.
Don’t shoot the messenger (even though she’s also a purveyor of job search advice).
It’s everywhere for a number of reasons, including:
- Those delivering it often have a bias that affects the nature of the counsel (e.g., husbands, parents, BFFs).
- There are no licenses or certifications that career coaches are required to carry (which results in a mixed bag of talent in the world of “experts”).
- Textbook advice—the kind that many of us have the most ready access to during our formative years—can be severely old school (or worse).
Unfortunately, if you don’t use care in choosing trusted sources for job search advice, you may run into resume advice that teaches you how to “trick” the applicant tracking system (ATS) or hiring managers. I’m not here to say that there are no effective “resume tricks,” but there are a few that could very well backfire on you.
Here are four of them.
1. “Borrowing” Entire Phrases Right out of the Job Description
Yes, yes, yes: You absolutely should study the job description for each job you plan to pursue, and you should mirror some of the keywords that describe the skills and qualifications on your resume. You should not, however, lift entire sentences or text blocks from that job description. This will put you on the express train from solid on-paper match to shyster who’s trying too hard.
2. Thinking a Functional Resume Will Serve as the Perfect Disguise
It’s so common for job seekers with career gaps to use the old “hide the gaps with a functional resume” trick that, every time I see one, I just assume there’s going to be a gap. And then I set out to find it. Functional resumes are almost never the right solution. Not only can it be difficult for an ATS to read and parse a functional resume into the electronic database, it also screams “I am hiding something!” Better to use a hybrid resume with a strong summary at the top of the page followed by career history (with details) in reverse chronological order.
3. Listing Completed College Coursework as a Degree
Oh, have I seen heartbreaks with this one. Among them, a job seeker who was about to be hired by one of my recruiting clients—a global manufacturing firm—for a field engineering role. He actually didn’t need the degree as a requirement for this job, but he still felt it necessary to list a bachelor’s degree on his resume. Unfortunately (for him, me, and the hiring manager, who loved the guy), he was a few credits short of having that degree. This little nugget of information came out when the firm’s HR department did a standard degree verification. He did not get the job.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or two credits away from earning the degree. If you didn’t finish it, you need to state “Coursework completed toward…,” not “Have degree.”
4. Fudging Dates (and Then Having Different Dates on Your Application)
Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s just easier to say that the job you stormed out on last July actually ended in November. Smooth over that gap, right?
Wrong. Fudging dates is not only called lying, it’s an easy way to land yourself in hot water with decision makers, especially if you accidentally list out different dates on the official job application. You can certainly strategize if you need to de-emphasize time gaps (for instance, use years instead of months and years), but fudging dates can be a true recipe for disaster.
Without a doubt, it can be confusing, overwhelming, and downright mind-numbing trying to figure out how to set up a resume that snags attention and positions you to sail through the hiring process. As you consider the “tricks,” always keep in mind that some are clearly better than others.