How To Keep Your Resume Out of the Trash
This post is about a resume-screening monster. I’m sure many of you aren’t familiar with them, or at least you think you’re not. But if you’ve applied for jobs in the past ten years, I’m certain you’ve run across one or two. I’m not implying that all screeners are like this; however, there are plenty of them out there—lurking in the shadows, tucked away in a cubicle, or even sitting behind big desks in plushy corner offices. There are enough of them that I felt the need to write this post.
Most people don’t seem to realize how terrible their resumes are, and even worse, they don’t seem to care. There is an endless supply of great resume-writing advice on the Internet: Books; blogs dedicated to it; articles on all of the major business sites; and yet, recruiters and HR reps continue to be bombarded with garbage. I’m going to let you in on a secret—that’s where most of the resumes end up—in the garbage.
Case In Point
I was looking through LinkedIn the other day, and I noticed a VP position that had been listed two days before, and already 274 people had applied for the job. I’m guessing that by the time the ad runs its course, it will have a few hundred more applications.
What Does That Mean?
Have you ever looked through and tried to read 500 resumes? For a few minutes, put yourself in the screener’s position.
You are facing a small mountain of resumes, but you dig into it with enthusiasm and optimism. Before you narrow down that stack of paper by less than 10%, you’re tired. At first, you might be tolerant of a mistake or two. If you spot a mistake, you’ll place the resume into a “to be reviewed” pile. But before long your tolerance disappears and you become something ruthless, almost unrecognizable.
I’m going to give you a rare opportunity. I’m going to let you peek behind the curtain so you can see what happens when an ordinary HR person turns into a…
Screener: Also called Rose. She is the director of human resources for the company. For those of you who may be wondering, I have a sister named Rose who happens to be a director of HR. Other than that, they have nothing in common. (Except physical appearance, manner of speech, and they both say “jackass” a lot. A whole lot).
Come along for the ride. You’ll see how a gatekeeper looks at your resume.
Objective: Seeking a fast-paced company with opportunity for advancement, which will allow me to utilize and improve my well-honed marketing skills.
Rose: So, this guy wants a company where he can improve his well-honed marketing skills? Jackass, go see the wizard at the end of the rainbow.
Rose crumples up the resume, forms it into a ball, and makes a three-pointer that hits the basket, which, in this case, is the trashcan.
No objective. So far so good.
Summary: Expert, hands-on Business Manager with outstanding communication, both oral and written, and experience with Fortune 500 and Mid-Sized Companies. Successful track record in Sales, Business Development, Marketing, Product Management, and Project and Program Management. Fifteen years of proven General Management skills.
Rose: This guy can do everything. “Sorry, Clark.” Note to self. Send Clark a box with kryptonite inside. See how he handles that. (And tell Clark to learn what words need to be capitalized.)
Rose leans back in the chair and tosses another three-pointer.
No objective. No summary. I’m liking this one. Education is excellent.
Rose is getting excited, and then…right under education is a list of hobbies.
Hobbies: Active member of PTA. Little League Coach for the past six years. Won Division Championship three years in a row. Marathon runner.
Rose: Hobbies. Oh my, how nice that you coach little league, and run marathons. I hope one of them can pay your mortgage, because you’re not getting this job.
Yep, you guessed it—another three-pointer.
A cover letter! How nice. (Rose likes cover letters.)
Dear Rose: I noticed in your job posting that you were looking for a manager of quality for your new facility. The description peaked my interest, as I have had seven years of experience in quality with similar products.
Rose: Oh my, we peaked your interest did we? It’s a shame we didn’t pique your interest. You might have gotten the job.
Remember, many people who screen resumes operate on a “screening-out” philosophy, not a “screening-in” one. That means that they only read until they find a reason to trash it. That’s why I suggest making resumes and cover letters based on the no mistakes philosophy, which is making sure that you give them no reason to trash your resume.
Now that you know what a screening monster looks like, do your best to make a perfect resume. Before you send it out, proofread it several times. Give it to someone else to read, and most important of all, make sure it has no mistakes.
For other do’s and don’ts check out the No Mistakes Resumes checklist. It’s a free download. And if you want to know how to write a resume with no mistakes—it’s easy, get the No Mistakes Resumes book.
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