Does it ever feel like your application has taken a non-stop flight straight down a black hole? You spend hours searching for jobs and applying just to end up hearing nothing.
In my career change program, I work extensively with clients on how to tailor their resume for the types of positions that appeal to them. Below are the most common mistakes I see before hitting the submit button:
1. Making it about you
The first natural reaction to finding a job you’re really interested in is to describe why you want that job. Maybe it’s because it’s a step up on the corporate ladder or because you’d be working with musicians and you’ve always loved live music. It’s great that you’re identifying why you’re interested in the position, but you need to take it a step further.
Employers hire people for self-serving reasons. If you only talk about how this job will help you, your application will no doubt end up in the rejection pile. Instead, focus on what’s in it for the employer.
If you really enjoy social media, don’t just talk about why you are interested in this area. In your resume expand on all of the accomplishments you have made relevant to social media and in your cover letter expand your description to why this is valuable in the role they are recruiting for.
2. Including all of your experience
Part of the reason the job search process takes so long is because an effective application is a customized application. That’s why most people use the same resume for multiple positions.
It can feel scary to leave out some of your experience - “But what if it looks like I was doing nothing during that gap?” Unfortunately when you include all, or even most, of what you’ve done in your career your story appears scattered. You can’t be known for anything if you’re trying to be known for everything.
If you feel insecure about leaving off positions that aren’t necessarily relevant to the position you’re applying for, just move them to an “Other Experience” section.
3. Lack of keywords
One of the hardest things to do is see our impact in terms of the bigger picture, not just our day-today duties. When you’re applying for a new job, one of the MOST important things you should do is promote your transferable skills.
Say you’ve been responsible for planning editorial calendars and writing copy for a product-based business and this is how you list your experience on your resume. Well if a company is describing this work as “content marketing” and you don’t frame your experience this way, a hiring manager isn’t guaranteed to notice it.
Applicant tracking systems are used a LOT now. If you don’t include the keywords listed on a job description on your resume and cover letter, you risk your application being rejected before ever reaching a human being.
4. Interest is there, relevant experience is not
Part of the reason most of us make a career change is because we want to be doing something we’re more interested in. But interest alone doesn’t make you qualified.
When you’re reviewing a job description it’s important to make a list of why you’re drawn to a position. This will help you get really clear about what it is that is attracting you to that specific position and will help you articulate it later.
Then it’s vital to make a separate list of how specifically your experience supports what they’re looking for in a candidate. If most of what makes you qualified are things you did a long time ago or as a hobby, you might realize this opportunity is appealing as an interest and not necessarily a career path (at this point in time).
5. No cover letter
Some people think a cover letter is an unnecessary time. Granted it takes the most amount of time and creativity. But it’s your ONE chance to directly connect the dots between your experience and the position posting.
Your cover letter is the opportunity to explain why you’re making a career change, talk about your soft skills, and expand on your resume to give specific examples of how you’ve already succeeded in the areas they’re looking for.
Why would you willingly give up this opportunity?
6. Disregarded application instructions
Similar to the last point, if you don’t follow the explicit instructions given on the posting, your application likely won’t be reviewed. I know one hiring manager who won’t look at any resume that is submitted without a cover letter, no matter how qualified the applicant appears.
A few common instructions are: including salary requirements, including your cover letter and resume in one single file, attaching writing samples, or keeping your resume to one page.
7. Posting is old
Employers start to narrow down serious contenders within 1-2 weeks of the job being posted. If you’re applying for something more than 30 days old, chances are they’re already in the thick of contacting applicants and maybe even interviewing.
Searching a few times a week or setting job alerts is the best way to get your eyes on newly posted positions and get your resume to the top of the stack.