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In 2015, the United States capped its best year for hiring in 15 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is great news for job seekers; but it also means it is a competitive job market out there and to nab your ideal role, it’s all about making an impression.  Ideally, your first impression is made face-to-face or at least by word of mouth through a mutual acquaintance or networking opportunity. In reality, not everyone is that lucky, leaving your resume to do the talking for you. With the abundance of resume templates, tips, webinars, and paid services available, there should be nothing but strong resumes flooding the inboxes of hiring managers everywhere. As an executive recruiting firm we can tell you that is definitely not the case. We continue to see poor resumes on a daily basis; and nothing will take you out of the running for your ideal job quite like a subpar resume.

As a job seeker, you want your resume to stand out among the crowd… but for the right reasons. Poor grammar, spelling mistakes, excessive use of industry related jargon, and too many words are common mistakes. Another common resume pitfall we encounter is that many professionals simply “update” their resumes with their recent work experience, rather than editing the entire document.According to Amanda Augustine of TheLadders, “As your career progresses, the emphasis of your resume should change… Employers are no longer focusing on your education, relevant internships, and extracurricular activities. Now they’re more interested in the skill sets you’ve developed and the accomplishments you’ve achieved in your professional career. Your resume needs to tell your story.”

Misspelled words and choppy professional histories are not the only resume fails we see.

10 Reasons Your Resume Sucks and You’re Only Getting 6 Seconds 

1. You included your address.

Obviously, hiring managers want to get to know potential candidates. However, the chances of them coming to your house to speak with you are slim to none. If you are looking at a local position, it is appropriate to include your city and state so the employer knows you are a local candidate. But I’d leave off the street address. Photos and hobbies are another resume no-no. If you want the hiring manager to get to know you, why not take them to the place they can get to know you best… your LinkedIn Profile page. Including a direct link to your LI page allows a hiring manager or recruiter to learn more about your professional experience quickly and easily.

2. You’re still using an Objective while everyone else has written a Professional Summary.

In the 50+ years of combined experience here at TurningPoint Executive Search, we have yet to find a candidate who is not looking to apply their experience and their talent with a company that will provide him or her the opportunity to grow.We all know the stats: Hiring managers spend approximately six seconds looking at your resume before deciding whether you’re a viable candidate or not. Therefore, you need come out of the gate with a BANG! Replace your old Objectives with a well-developed, conciseProfessional Summary that provides a clear overview of who you are as a professional.

3. You did not include a Summary of Qualifications.

We like to think of this as your highlight reel. Developing a bulleted list of skills and experience and inserting it at the top of your resume will allow the hiring manager to see your best moves during the six seconds he or she is going to initially invest in getting to know you.

4. You’re still relying on your Education to get you in the door.

Unless you are a recent graduate, your practical experience will far outweigh your classroom experience in both time and relevance. While including any relevant and important degrees may still be needed to show you meet the job requirements, it shouldnot be at the top of your resume.  Exceptions: A doctorate degree, masters, or relevant certification should highlighted by simply including the post-nominal initials.  This is especially true for certain types of positions, especially technical positions. Some companies prefer to hire professional with an advanced degree or specialty certification such as PHR (Professional in Human Resources).  Secondly, if the hiring manager graduated from the same college or was a member of the same fraternity, sorority or other campus organization, it is not considered unprofessional to make that connection by including your education background.

5. You’ve included unnecessary information.

You only get 6 seconds, remember? Hiring managers do not want to know what you minored in or your graduating GPA. They want the highlights only.

6. Your titles are too vague.

Director, Manager, Assistant Manager, Vice President, Senior, Managing Director. There are a myriad of professional titles used today. Hiring managers want to see what roles you have had in the past and what roles you are targeting in your current search. If you are looking for a senior level position, provide evidence of your experience with that type of role. “Manager” does not adequately define your seniority.

7. Your job description is boring.

Although most job descriptions are typically bulleted lists, this is your time to shine and sell your experience and impact in previous organization. “Managed” and “responsible for” is using passive language. Add life to your experience by using dynamic word choices such as: Drove, Developed, Instituted, Designed, Created, Implemented, or Built.

8. Your resume isn’t unique. It’s just hard to read. 

Unless you are looking for a job in the creative sector – design, graphics, advertising – using multiple font styles and sizes is distracting for a hiring manager who is quickly scanning your resume for key words. Varying the color of topics or sections make your resume appear unprofessional and can unintentionally take away from the value of the content you’ve included. If you want your resume to stand out visually, try avoiding common fonts such as Times New Roman and use clean-looking fonts such as Helvetica or Calibri.

9. Your companies have no descriptions.

Not everyone has worked for Nike or Google. Most job seekers have worked for less well-known organizations that might need some clarification. Including a one sentence company description allows hiring managers to get a feel for the types of industries you have experience in.  In addition “this description will also help the reader put your title into perspective… For instance, if you’re currently a director at a small company, including this description will help the reader understand why you may be targeting a manager-level role at a much larger organization,” Augustine says.

10. You don’t show your value by highlighting what you’ve achieved.

The last thing you want is for your resume to read as a job description. While there will certainly be tasks and duties included, your resume should show the reader what you bring to the table, why you will be an asset to the company. This can only be done by highlighting your successes. Numbers and percentages are excellent ways to show what you’ve achieved. Include money saved, sales projections exceeded, increases in ROI, new business, or revenue that you are responsible for or had a hand in. Emphasizing your achievements demonstrate the value you added to your previous company and what can your potential new company can expect from you.

If you’re only going to get six seconds, you’d better make them count. As cliché as it sounds, you will never get a second chance to make a first impression. In an ideal world, candidates would be able to make that first impression on a hiring manager face to face or on the telephone. With an average of 250 resumes for every corporate position, facetime in the initial phase of a job search is almost an impossibility. This is why it is essential that professionals develop a concise, dynamic, easy to read, error-free resume that highlights their successes, skill set, and experience and leaves a recruiter wanting more… in six seconds or less.

For a few more Resume Myths & Must Haves visit our Resume Toolkit.

 

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Resume? Check. Interview? Check. Degree Verification? Check.  Reference Check? Is it really necessary? All I’m going to get is verification of previous employment dates, right?

Minus the push for more creative resumes and lengthier interview processes, there have been few significant changes in the hiring protocol used by most companies… save for one: the reference check. Confusing legal guidelines have resulted in many larger companies refusing to provide anything other than the verification of employment, dates, and rehire eligibility. In fact, surveys indicate that while 80%+ of companies actually conduct a reference check before making a hire, many complain about the lack of information gathered from the reference. 

In fact, a significant portion of our own clients tell us not to worry about completing a reference check. Needless to say, we do them anyway. Why? Because the value that can be derived from a quality reference check is significant. Given the constraints that often surround completing a reference check, how is it possible to gain true insight into a potential new hire?

 

  1. Leverage your network. Reaching out to a candidate’s previous boss is not the only tool at your fingertips. Chances are, your potential new hire worked with a variety of people- many of whom are in your professional network. Connecting with these people will provide insight beyond verification of employment. Questions about a candidate’s ability to collaborate, his leadership qualities, and areas of growth can all be answered by connecting with the people you know who also know the candidate.
  2. Engage with the reference. The key to a quality reference check is engaging with the reference, building rapport and never accepting the first answer as gospel. True, a reference is likely to provide a positive reference (or she wouldn’t be on the reference list in the first place). However, with the right questions, even a candidate’s best friend can provide useful and candid feedback.
  3. Do NOT ask open-ended questions. “Is Bob Smith eligible for rehire?” and “Can you verify the dates Sally worked for you, along with her title.” Do not qualify as a quality reference check. Even the standard “Tell me about Sally” is worthless because there is no context for the type of role and culture the candidate will be immersed in. Instead, ask specific, situationally and behavioral questions. Example: “Tom will be working as a Marketing Director for a 6 year old software company that just hit $10m in revenues. The environment is very similar to a start-up, where everyone wears multiple hates, and is expected to work 50-60 hours/week while embracing the fluid and constantly changing priorities.  How do you think he will fare in this type of situation?”
  4. Call a reference that is NOT on the candidate’s list. Want to gain a completely unbiased and unrehearsed opinion about your potential hire? Ask someone who has not been given a heads up. Keep in mind that in order to paint a reliable picture of a candidate there must be multiple sources to provide information. Therefore, contacting several of the provided references in addition to a few that were not provided can give a broader, and possibly more accurate, view. Just be careful about who you call to ensure that you don’t break confidentiality or jeopardize the candidate’s position before they have given notice.

It is important to peel back the onion to uncover the true make up of a candidate.  While both resumes and in-person interviews provide insight into many of the skills she brings to a new role, the only way to obtain a clear picture of how those skills play-out in the work environment is by communicating with the people who have worked closest with him/her. Leveraging your network to ask specific, situational and behavioral questions about a potential new hire will allow you to engage in a quality reference check.

About the Authors

Ken Schmitt is the President and Founder of TurningPoint Executive Search and the Sales Leadership Alliance. Specializing in placing sales, marketing and operations professionals across the country, Ken’s 16 years of recruiting experience have equipped him with the knowledge to serve as a thought partner to his clients for all recruiting, hiring and human capital-related initiatives. Ken sits on the board of Junior Achievement, the American Marketing Association, the San Diego HR Roundtable and is an Advisory Board Member for San Diego Sports Innovators (SDSI).

Vicky Willenberg has served as the Social Media Manager for TurningPoint since 2011. In 2014, she was elevated to Digital Marketing Manager, broadening her participation across all things digital for the firm. A former teacher with a Masters in Education, Vicky is an active and published blogger at The Pursuit of Normal and a marketing professional. She has her finger on the pulse of the latest trends in the recruiting, hiring and leadership sectors.

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