Ways Job Seekers Sabotage Themselves

In my last post, I talked about how a job seeker needs to brand themselves in order to stand out in a competitive market. Knowing your brand and standing out will help you get your foot in the door, after which there are many ways to fail if you haven’t properly prepped yourself for the job search process. I’ve been a recruiter for over two decades and here are some common ways I’ve seen candidates I really want to hire sabotage themselves.

Inconsistent materials

Think about how a company like Pepsi markets itself. All the ads it runs are consistently on message (aka “on brand”) no matter which platform they are on. Print, TV, radio, and internet ads all carry the same message for whatever campaign they are running. If your resume does not match your LinkedIn profile or your \ Twitter (or Instagram) bio, then you need to fix that ASAP.

Your LinkedIn profile should be a comprehensive list of your entire career. In fact, I like to see people who have really detailed LinkedIn profiles (complete with company, title, dates, and a brief description of what they did, how they did it, and what the outcome/results were). Your LinkedIn should be updated every few months so it can act as the storage place for your career details that you pull into your resume when it’s time for a job change. Make sure to add awards, volunteer work, and links to presentations, papers, and patents. Also, have a few recommendations on there that speak to work you’ve done. All of that helps the hiring team see you are well-qualified and low risk from a “plays well with others” POV.

Your resume is a marketing tool that helps the decision-maker see where and how you are the solution to the problem they have. Your resume needs to match your brand and target the job you are trying to get. It is a good idea to tailor your resume to each job you are targeting so you can really zero in. For example, if you are looking for both Office Manager and Project Management roles, you need a version of the resume for each. Make sure the “what you did, how you did it, what the results were” bullets are relevant to the items listed in the job description. I’ll dig deeper into resume content in a future column.

Not giving us a way to reach you

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gotten a resume from a job seeker and there is no contact info on it. That’s right, I have no way to reach them even if I like them! If you’ve been applying to jobs and you’re not getting contacted, make sure you didn’t ruin your own chances due to carelessness.

Your resume needs to have a phone number where you can be reached (with a voice mail that is set up and not full) and an email that you check regularly. Make sure to also put this information on your LinkedIn profile at the top of the “Summary” section where a recruiter can find it easily when they want to contact you about a job.

I realize some people worry about privacy. It is very easy to set up a Gmail address and a Google Voice number which can forward to your actual email and phone while protecting your privacy. While we’re on the topic of privacy, you don’t need to put your mailing address on your resume. Nobody is going to be snail-mailing you anything. The resume can just include your name, phone, and email. If you want to list the city and state, fine. At the point you go for an in-person interview, you will likely fill out an actual application and then you can provide your home address. Until then, there is no legitimate reason for a company to have it.

Lack of attention to details

I understand that sometimes typos and errors happen (heck, there is probably one in this post even though it’s been proofed and reviewed by multiple people!) However, if you’ve promoted yourself as being “detail-oriented” but there are many typos and grammar errors in the Summary section of your resume, I’m sure you can understand why it will be hard to believe you are detail-oriented. Once you plant a seed of doubt in the readers mind about the truthfulness of what you are telling us, you are already sliding down the list of finalists we’re talking to.

Another problematic area on a resume is the dates of employment. Make sure there is a flow from starting to ending to starting the next job. I’ve seen mistakes where the person failed to list the right year in the dates of a new job, so it appeared she was unemployed for 2 years when in reality she had not been. Any gap on the resume will raise questions, so make sure to explain them even if it’s only a note about “extended time off” or “personal leave”. We know that sometimes life gets in the way of work and that’s fine but it’s better to acknowledge it on the resume up front.

Lack of attention to details also carries over to not paying attention to time, date, and location of an interview. If we agree to a phone call on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., write it down. When I call and ask you if it’s still a good time to chat and you tell me you’re busy because you “forgot”, I must admit I’m unlikely to give you a second chance.

Paying attention also applies to seeing the interviewer’s name in writing and then calling them by another name because you forgot what it was. It also applies to not doing any research on the company before going in to an interview. When I’m on the receiving end of things like this it, makes me very cautious about moving forward in the process with you because it shows both a lack of respect and a lack of preparation.

Changing jobs is stressful but with the right preparation, which includes avoiding some of these pitfalls, it can actually be a fun and exciting process.

About the Author

Marie Watkins is CEO of Polaris Talent Inc. She has 25 years in HR and Talent Acquisition for companies from 2 people to 200K. She is passionate about helping companies find the right talent to hire and in helping job seekers find a job they enjoy going to on Monday morning. Marie is a subject matter expert in entrepreneurship and volunteers her time helping emerging companies grow.

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