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How to turn résumé failures to your advantage

”But I was a perfect fit for that job!

It isn’t hard to find jobseekers who say, “I was a perfect fit for that position and I didn’t get an interview!”

No matter how clearly a candidate’s background fits the description on a job posting, there are still reasons that he or she may not to be selected for an interview. This applies to every person who applies for a job…any job.

Management Solutions This blog addresses two facets of preparing a cover letter and résumé to apply for a position:
  1. Assessing the job requirements on the job posting and,
  2. Managing challenges on the résumé.
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Chris carefully reviewed each of the requirements on the job posting. Excitement rose. This job was a perfect fit! Every requirement, including the preferred list was a match! Surely an interview would be forthcoming. As weeks passed, Chris’ hopes for an interview diminished. What had gone wrong?

Taylor had about 80% of the requirements for the position. It wasn’t a perfect match but it would be a good next step from a career perspective. Searching through the requirements and the job description, Taylor identified and responded to several questions that hiring professionals were sure to ask. Several days later, Taylor was called for an interview.

Some jobseekers believe that they have to match every single requirement for a position or they will not be selected. Other people repeat the story where they were a “perfect fit” and it didn’t seem to matter. How is it that the “perfect fit” résumés often don’t get called to interviews and others do? What is the difference and what can you do about it?

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Assessing Job Requirements

Assessing the Job Requirements section of a posting is one of the most important tasks for the jobseeker. The list of requirements gives jobseekers specific details on how a hiring professional will filter through the applications and decide which ones may move to the interview level in the hiring process.

Tips for assessing job requirements:

  • Remember that hiring professionals are not looking for perfect matches for every part of the job posting. They know that employees work best with the right balance between competencies and challenge. Many postings have “Preferred Qualifications,” however, even if they aren’t listed, it is possible for jobseekers to make an educated guess about what they might be.
  • Carefully read each requirement within the context of the Job Description. For example, if asked for familiarity with proprietary software, you might indicate that you have experience with similar software used for the same purpose.
  • When assessing each requirement, think broadly about your experience. For example, if asked for experience in a supportive environment for children, consider non-work experience where you supported your own children or your extended family, in sports, school, or religious activities.
  • If possible, try to ensure you have 100% of the required qualifications and 80% of the preferred qualifications.
  • Respond to each qualification with specific, factual, information.
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Managing résumé challenges

Every job seeker has some kind of past issue. They are sometimes called “elephants in the room”. Everyone has them, no exceptions! Hiring professionals know where to look. This is how they can eliminate a candidate in seconds. However, if the jobseeker has managed the issue to the hiring professional’s satisfaction, then they may receive the coveted call for an interview.

One of the most common concerns many jobseekers have today is their age. This mostly applies to Baby-Boomers who are concerned they may be viewed as obsolete. As a result, they receive advice and are even pressured by résumé professionals to leave dates off of their résumé. Really? Is it reasonable to think that hiring professionals aren’t going to figure it out? And when they do, will they then ask, “Hmmm, I wonder what else this person is trying to cover up?”

With the changes in technology and the move towards global collaboration, the age of the applicant is become less and less an issue. Much more important is the ability to adapt, learn and integrate with new technologies and teams from different cultures and with different values. These are the skill sets that will dismiss age concerns.

Hiring professionals check résumés for specific elements. Some of these are standard, while others are somewhat hidden. Here are some lists:

Standard résumé challenges:

This list contains rather obvious hurdles that the jobseeker must manage. In each case, offer a viable explanation.
  • Frequent (and consistent) change of employment
    TIP: Include brief information to explain the situation: e.g. Company was sold in 2002.
  • Gaps in your employment history
    TIP: You were doing something, regardless of whether you were paid for your effort. Examples include: Elder care during a parent’s illness. Also, time out to assess career trajectory and recapture a desire to contribute in a workplace environment.
  • Unfinished education
    TIP: I left school to work in the family business when my father became ill.
  • Over- or under-qualified and your age (too young OR too old)
    TIP: Studies indicate that a jobseeker’s fascination with specific activities or topics will beat out experience from the hiring professional’s point of view. Consider addressing this concern in a prominent place where it will be quickly seen.
  • Frequent changes in industries
    TIP: The details under each position should show a similarity of job activities. E.g. marketing/branding, customer service, inside sales, etc.
  • Missing critical “must-have” requirements
    TIP: Indicate substitute, comparable experience or qualifications.

Perceived resume challenges:

People naturally make assumptions that have specific ramifications, when in reality; the problem does not exist. Here are some examples.
  • Lack of industry experience (especially if you are in sales, business development or marketing)
    TIP: Comparable experience should be noted. Provide succinct verbiage to explain your association with the hiring industry.
  • Cultural challenges:
    • Foreign names and job history that might indicate that the candidate does not speak English well, or that their accent will be difficult for colleagues to manage.
      TIP: This should be handled on the cover letter: I was born, raised, and attended college in Huntsville, Texas. OR: English is my second language. I am a native speaker.
    • Foreign names that make it difficult to determine the gender of the applicant.
      TIP: On your cover letter, include a designation and pronunciation in parenthesis:
      (Ms.) Han Ly Chunh (Pronounced: Hahn Lie Choon)
  • Inconsistent messages with your online image (digital dirt)
    TIP: Your application (cover letter and resume), your LinkedIn profile and your verbiage during your interview should all have one comprehensive message. Variations, especially on core messages, can cause hesitation from hiring professionals. For example, if a person has a dual background in both Project Management and Systems Analysis, a hiring professional may wonder which direction the person really wants to direct their career.
  • Perceptions about attendance and productivity when a candidate does not “look” healthy. (As determined from his or her LinkedIn Profile)
    TIP: Include a statement regarding attendance: I have missed an average of two days of work per year due to illness.
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This blog presents two ways for jobseekers to stand out from their competition.
  1. Carefully assess the job requirements and promote “preferred” requirements where hiring professionals can easily find them.
  2. Manage all résumé challenges “in the moment” to move to the next step. FM+GlobefromFB

    Master these jobseeker skills to differentiate yourself, and stay ahead of the curve.





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