For many job seekers, the process of resumes, interviews, and hiring can seem opaque and murky. Why is it that some people get hired immediately and easily while others struggle from interview to interview, or worse, never get the interview at all? This leads to a lot of frustration on the part of the hopeful applicant and often to people feeling as though they will never get a better job than part time entry level at best. And it’s all too easy to blame things like the interviewer, the system for losing your resume and so on, and ultimately to decide that job seeking may not be worth it, leading many to get stuck in dead end jobs or go back and forth between part time work and being on social assistance. If this sounds familiar, you’re far from alone; however, the odds are good that you are sabotaging your own chances at getting hired and you don’t even realize it!
You already know that the whole process of getting hired is, at best, unrelenting. You have to keep track of your prospects, go out regularly, make sure you do your follow up, be ready for any call for an interview at any time, and remember to do your post-interview. It only takes one wrong move to send you hurtling down the list of prospects for employment and the better the job, the easier the slip up (and the less forgiving the hiring manager is). It’s of course made even harder by the fact that it’s easy to make these mistakes without even realizing you’ve done it. So, let’s look at five common ways people completely sabotage their own hiring chances. Are you guilty of self-sabotage?
1. You Overdid it On the Resume
Oh, is it ever fun to create fancy resumes with pictures, infographics, colors, and fancy fonts! And even programs like Microsoft Word let you do some pretty cool stuff if you’re willing to take the time. Pinterest and Instagram make it even more tempting to go ballistic on the fancy resume with sample after sample filling your search windows.
But can you go too overboard?
“Resumes should be clear, clean and to the point…. I don’t believe they should entertain… or compete with the information the … employer is looking for…”
-Sue Karlin, President of Suka Creative.
Yes, it’s awfully tempting to go ‘whole-hog’ on your resume, and for a little while there, resume trends were certainly trying to do that. But most employers quickly stepped on that trend, preferring a clean, easy to read resume over fancy gimmicks. Even resumes for designer jobs would do better to be clean and simple rather than overblown, let alone a resume for a job as an office assistant or a teacher.
Does that mean you should go straight up black and white though? You can use a bit of color or font to liven up your resume. We are fond, for example, of using a simple color border on the resume with the color matching the color found on the company’s website. Or you can try matching fonts with the company or using a logo on the corner of your resume and cover letter (just make sure it’s not too big or intrusive). Keep in mind your audience; if you have to submit your resume online, keep it simple with no color or fancy design work as the algorithms the company is using to filter resumes may completely ignore yours because of the fancy font. If the resume is going to a human on the other hand, you can do a bit more with fonts and color.
Where you should really shine? Make sure your social media profiles and any relevant online portfolios look sharp and let them be a little fancier. But your resume should be focused on who you are and what you can do, not how many colors or fonts you can pair together.
In other words, communication over design.
2. DIY Resumes When You Are a Poor Writer
Writing is a skill. Resume writing is a skill. Editing is a skill.
It’s a skill that you may not have, and it may be costing you interviews! Many people have a very hard time crafting an average sort of resume, let alone the type of resume that stands out through thick and thin. If you have a hard time marketing yourself, understanding which key terms and skills you should use, and how to put together a good profile, it’s time to ask for help. You can hire a resume writer for example or talk to a job coach to get help on putting together a well-crafted piece.
Even if you are a decent writer, it’s still well worth getting a second set of eyes on your resume. Get your editor to check for things like:
• Spelling and grammar. Nothing torpedoes a hiring manager’s interest faster than a misspelled word.
• Inconsistencies. Did you say you worked five years in retail in one sentence, but your job history shows only three years? Make sure everything lines up!
• Awkward sentences. You meant to say that you were awesome at working with networked systems, but it came out as gobbledy gook and you have no idea until someone sees it
• Did you miss any relevant skills simply because you didn’t think of them? (I’m looking at you in particular, stay at home parents….)
• Is there just a better way of phrasing something?
Don’t go at your resume and cover letter alone! Get help.
3. Trying to Gloss Over Things that Seem Problematic
We all want to have to have the best resume and the smoothest road from point A to point B, but that just doesn’t happen. People get sick, you job hop around, you have a family, you move… Things happen, and those things can look peculiar on a resume if you don’t address it immediately. The most common things that people try to ignore and fail: long gaps between jobs, experiences in totally unrelated jobs, and short periods of time on jobs.
Yeah, hiring managers notice that. So, there’s no point in trying to hide it.
Instead, offer a clear explanation in your cover letter, profile, and/or your online presence. Did you take a couple years off to raise a family? Say so and then tell people what you learned and what skills you now possess. If you job hopped, tie them together with any common themes they may have (such as retail or education) by using a skills based resume to highlight your skills rather than your job history. Use these things as an opportunity to showcase what kind of person you are and why you are an asset. It may take a little creativity, but it pays off hugely and you don’t have to worry about making hiring managers suspicious over what else you’re hiding.
4. Your Social Media Presence is… Awful
We know how important social media is to the job search today. It’s completely integrated in most peoples’ lives and even if you aren’t interested in social media, you’re still going to be influenced by it. Social media can be used to help your job search, network, and employers often use it to look up potential hires and ‘vet’ them. There are tons of social media platforms, so choosing which one to use is going to boil down to what you’re looking for. If nothing else, we would suggest using LinkedIn, as it’s a good all purpose professional social media site.
Once you have it though, what do you do with it? A poorly put together social media presence is as bad (or worse) as not having one at all, so you want to manage it properly. In order to make your presence stand out in a positive way, keep the following in mind:
• Anything you post online will be online forever. Anything embarrassing, divisive, controversial, or offensive will be there as a stain for anyone to find if they really want to. Locking down your privacy will help of course, but if you do that, it’s a lot harder for employers to find you! Instead, before you post, ask yourself if anyone would be offended by it.
• Be present and engaged online. If you’re just starting out, make sure you make your connections, post relevant and interesting content regularly, and reach out to others. Yes, having a brand-new profile just as you start job searching looks weird, but if you show that you’re engaged, you may be able to skate by.
• Use a good quality, professional looking profile picture
• On LinkedIn, take advantage of their templates to build a great online resume. Make sure to include plenty of skills and experiences, as well as volunteer work, things you’ve created, and projects!
• When people talk to you, talk back. Social media is all about communication.
Social media can be a great way to job search. Just make sure you’re using it correctly!
Finally, job seekers often make the mistake of not making sure everything is lined up. Their LinkedIn profile says they worked at one place from 2014-2019, but their resume says 2015-2019. Phone numbers don’t match up. You say you have a BA on your resume and a master’s on your Monster.ca resume. You have your old street address on your cover letter.
These sorts of dopey mistakes are easy to make, but they cost you hugely. Hiring managers can be really suspicious of these things and wonder what you’re hiding or why you’re lying. And even if they assume that it was just a mistake, it’s a pretty ‘rookie’ mistake to make, meaning they may worry that you’ll make more mistakes while on the clock.
It’s important to triple check all of your resumes, cover letters, and online profiles before you send them out to make sure everything matches and lines up. Get another set of eyes on it. Get two other sets of eyes on it! Just make sure that no matter where recruiters go to learn about you, they’ll always get the same information.
These five things are fairly common mistakes that job seekers make, mostly because it doesn’t occur to them! But “know better, do better” as the saying goes and now that you know better, try to do better and hopefully get a much better shot at getting that interview. Good luck!
~Charlene Mattson is an instructor and author at Canadian Vocational Training Centre. When she isn’t writing, she’s chasing her oldest son, feeding her new baby, and playing video games. You can learn more about her books here.