Three Reasons your Résumé is Rejected

24 May, 2015

Only 5% of people win their new job through answering an ad. Pretty surprising numbers aren’t they? If you add in jobs that are managed by Recruiters, the Visible Job Market makes up about 20% of total roles available.

Yet, generally 80% of people are chasing those 20% of roles in the visible job market.  Clearly, there’s something wrong here and if you were a strategic job seeker, you would target the Hidden Job Market to access the 80% of roles that your competitors know nothing about.

Making the “Yes” pile

However, whether it’s strategic or not, most people feel more comfortable responding to an advertised role. So, it makes sense to ensure that YOUR résumé is going to land you in the “Yes – let’s interview these ones” pile rather than the “I can’t believe what I’m reading here” pile.

More Dreaded Statistics

Recent research is pointing to the fact that, on a first scan of your résumé, a Recruiter will take just 6 seconds to decide whether you make it to the next stage.  If you add to that even more recent research that states that our average attention span is now 8 seconds (which is officially less than a gold fish) you can see that your résumé is going to have to be very good to make the grade.

Classic Mistakes

Over the years, I’ve seen literally thousands of résumés from people who were keen/anxious/desperate to find a new job.  Yet, I can only remember ONE résumé from a client in Singapore which showed that the writer understood the purpose of a résumé, which is to make the reader think...  Wait for my oft-repeated classic phrase –

“Wow, can’t wait to meet this one!”

Wouldn’t it be great if people thought that about you and your precious work history?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to start to swing the balance of power towards you so that the prospective employer starts to worry about what they’re going to have to do to get you to come on board with them?

Résumé writing is not fun

Nobody I’ve met has ever reported back that they enjoyed working on their résumé.  So, if you are going to spend a lot of time on a difficult task, it makes sense to do it properly.  As my Mother constantly said: “What’s worth doing is worth doing well”.

There are three critical errors to avoid when you craft your résumé.  Each of them is avoidable so as well as outlining each issue, I’ll also provide some solutions.

Here they are.

1. Unappealing “Look”

Most résumés are ugly:

  • They use old fashioned fonts like Times New Roman or Arial
  • They use underlining and shading
  • They overuse Upper Caps, italics and bold
  • They use loud colours
  • They do not use the correct font size and are either so small that they are difficult to read or so large that they look childish

Most résumés are difficult to read:

  • They lack internal logic when it comes to size of headings and spacing so that the brain of the reader struggles to grasp which bits of content belong to which sections
  • They cram the content into a very busy page with narrow margins and no spacing between bullets

The Solution

  • Select fonts and sizes such as: Calibri 11, Century Gothic 10, Trebuchet MS 10
  • Use Small Caps as an alternative to Upper Caps and reserve their use for Section Headings
  • Eliminate underlining, minimise italics and only use bold on headings
  • Seek advice from someone who is good with colour and minimise its use (or stick with black)
  • Understand that the minimum space required between bullets is 4pt (and 6pt is better)

2. Incorrect Length

Most résumés are too long:

  • They are more than 4 pages long
  • They contain too much information about earlier, less relevant jobs
  • They contain long lists that very few people will want to read

The Solution

  • Internalise the concept of “Less is More”.  We all have a finite attention span and the more “non wow” content you force the reader to scan, the less time there is to be impressed by your “wow” content
  • Keep your content to 3-4 pages of well-spaced out content (Note: this length is suitable for Australia – other cultures may prefer shorter résumés e.g. USA)

3. Unconvincing Content

Most résumés make ambit claims with no accompanying evidence:

  • They focus on responsibilities which may or may not have been achieved
  • They present a (usually) long list of stand-alone attributes such as: customer service, leadership, team player

The Solution

  • Use Responsibilities to paint a picture of the scope and seniority of your role, but do not bore the reader
  • Focus on Achievements: concrete, specific and outcome-focussed
  • Ensure that these Achievements position you at the appropriate level of seniority and paint a picture of the complexity of your actions
  • Use metrics whenever possible e.g. dollars saved, percentages increased

Avoid damaging yourself

I volunteered at a Careers Expo last week and it was both uplifting and sad.  I just loved chatting to the school kids, at the very beginning of their career dreams and journey.

Some of the adults I met were striving to achieve job success in difficult circumstances – recent migrants, highly qualified and experienced in their own countries who were struggling to be taken seriously by Australian employers. 

Other adults had sent résumé after résumé off for job after job without success.  Imagine the damage that does to your self confidence!

Travel First Class

If you are going to look for your new role in the Visible Job Market, it makes absolute sense that your selling documentation is absolutely first class.  It’s the start of you dictating the “Wow” process for the employer…

On deciding who to interview: “Wow, can’t wait to meet this one!”

On deciding who to hire: “Wow, I hope she’ll come on board with us!”

On deciding how much to pay you: “Wow, I hope our salary offer is enticing enough!”

On welcoming you into the workplace: “Wow, he’s going to be just great!”

Find an astute friend

When it came to my first résumé, I was helped by an amazingly astute friend when I left my profession and wanted to reinvent myself. 

Your choices are either to master the skill of résumé-writing yourself, find a similarly astute friend or pay a résumé expert to help you.

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

Don’t do it.

 

aBOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert.  She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au

 

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