There seems to be a trending pattern with job seekers and two mistakes that seem to trip them up over and over: Assumptions and Not Being Prepared.
I recently read an article on the Top 22 Mistakes you can make on a resume – wow – 22 mistakes on one resume. That was significant. Some items were basic like avoiding typographical and spelling errors, others were a bit old fashioned, like, only one-page resumes are accepted by recruiters.
However, there seems to be underlying career management mistakes that permeate and upend the entire career management campaign.
Recently, a potential client called me to inquire of my services. He was interested in a Senior Executive Service (SES) portfolio: 10 executive leadership stories (essays) on 10 pages, a five-page SES resume with the leadership stories integrated into the body of the resume, and a one-page Technical Qualification statement (essay). He said to me, “I am the acting director right now, and most of the leadership team knows me, so I am a shoe-in.” He said he wanted a good package completed, but, he knew that his colleagues and leadership would expedite his package. He said, “We can just quickly prepare a decent resume, it will be fine.”
Diane’s thoughts: “No, it will not be fine. This is competition. This is a first impression; this is the first gate in many gates in the employment process.”
Well, he is assuming that because people know him, he is going to get the job. He is assuming that because the leadership team knows him, he does not have to include much information on his resume, as they already know what he does and the programs he manages. He is assuming that because they know him, he does not have to put his best foot forward – he is assuming that a really strong first impression is not warranted. They prepare his performance evaluations, so he is assuming that they already know about his major accomplishments.
His assumptions could lose him the job, because he is forgetting some very important other factors:
- His resume and leadership essays will be read and scored by a Human Resources (HR) office before it ever gets to the leadership team. If the HR office does not score his resume high enough / if they believe his resume package does not meet the minimum qualifications, his resume may never get forwarded to the next level.
- The HR office may be in a completely different location than the leadership / hiring panel, meaning, the HR specialists may not know who he is, or that he is in the acting role for the office / location for which he is applying. Since HR hires for varied functional positions (accounting, Information Technology, engineering, legal, and more) on a daily basis, they will not necessarily understand that he is currently fulfilling the acting leadership role for the position for which he is applying.
- Unless HR has been notified by the hiring panel to forward his resume for the interview process, there are myriad reasons why HR may not forward his resume – including, in some cases an overwhelming number of resumes that have to be reviewed. There are cases where HR improperly scores a resume and does not forward a resume to the hiring panel. In this case, an applicant has to request an audit of his resume, if he believes he is qualified and should have been selected for an interview.
- If his resume does get scored high enough by HR and is moved up to the hiring panel for the next level of consideration, sometimes that panel includes members who work in other offices / organizations to maintain partiality. Again, some of these members may not know the applicant.
So, this applicant made an assumption that may have upended his application at the outset.
Not Being Prepared
Another client found her dream job posted on an online job board. The job positing closed in four days.
She had not applied for a job in years, so she did not have an updated resume. Her last resume was post college – one page, dates listed down the left margin, name and contact information embedded in the header, and font at 8 point to cram all the data onto the page. The entries were short duties descriptions. Her most recent two positions in the previous five years were not on the resume.
She asked me, “Can you just update my resume, so I can submit it before the deadline? I will stick to the one-page version, because that is what my professor told me to do when I graduated college. I interview great, so if I can just the resume into the system and get the interview, I will be fine. I just need you to add the duties from my most recent two positions to the resume.”
Well, she made assumptions and she was ill-prepared. She assumed that her old resume format would work fine five years later. She assumed that cramming more information onto her already full one-page resume would be acceptable.
- She did not prepare in advance with a new fresh resume. She did not properly research the job posting and target company; rather she just reacted to the opportunity to apply to her dream job.
- She did not research Applicant Tracking Systems or learn that her resume would most likely be reviewed by a computer scanner before it ever made it to the eyes of a human.
- She was bound to the one-page resume rule, not realizing that a computer would read the document for keywords, key terms and key phrases, before it was considered for format.
- She had not done her homework. The job posting was open for 30 days, and she was waiting until nearly the last day to apply, which means there could have been potentially hundreds of applicants in the cue line ahead of her.
- Her zip code was 2,000 miles away from the target job’s location. She did not read the requirements of the announcement that stated they were looking for candidates within a 50 mile radius.
By being unprepared, she most likely lost out on her dream job opportunity. If she had prepared early in the process, her resume would have been updated and expanded to two pages. The resume would have included accomplishments rather than duties.
She needed to pare down the older jobs on her resume from college that were non-relevant and focus on her more relevant post-college positions, with strong accomplishments, projects, and awards.
She should have researched the company and the announcement earlier in the process, so she could explain that she was willing to relocate to the target location at her own expense.
She could have connected with the company / organization via a LinkedIn group or connected with people from the company via LinkedIn.
Since, she was unprepared, with such a short deadline, her resume ended up being prepared haphazardly by herself, over a weekend. Because there was inadequate time, she did not follow any career coaching guidance, and added her two jobs to the one-page resume by expanding the margins. Subsequently, she never heard back from the company concerning her dream job.
She called me a few months later, showed me her “updated” resume, and asked to secure my services to prepare a proper resume to apply for future dream positions.
Assumptions & Not Being Prepared
Well, making assumptions in career management, resume writing, and job search and not being well prepared, cause people to lose out on potential positions.
By reversing assumptions to the positive: “I will assume that I need to develop the best possible resume, making a targeted first impression” will lead to a much stronger application.
By being prepared by performing research, having an up-to-date resume, and knowing the requirements for an application will position an applicant for a potentially positive outcome in job search and career management.