Looking for a job is hard work. I get that. However, like many things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. If you’re serious about job hunting, it pays to craft top-notch resumes, keep them updated, and polish your interview skills.
I started writing this blog a while back while I was sifting through resumes, seeing terrible errors that instantly caused me to toss a resume into the “no way in hell” pile. You may not realize it, but every person who hires people — and receives resumes — has that pile. And you do not want to end up in it.
Although the Internet contains thousands of job hunting tips, for some reason, many people still make classic mistakes. If you are job hunting or have a friend who is job hunting, take a moment to share these tips with him or her. They may need help.
1. Don’t leave unexplained gaps in your resume.
I’ve seen resumes where it appears the individual hasn’t worked in 3 years. I am left to worry if they just omitted a recent/current job because it was not relevant or were in prison for the last three years. It is understandable that gaps in employment exist. Life sometimes gets in the way. Babies are born, parents are hospitalized, and other events happen. Just don’t leave a gap unexplained. For example, I received a cover letter that included, “During my marriage, I was a stay home wife/mother, and that explains the gap of employment.” This one sentence was right to the point and all that was needed to explain.
2. Avoid spelling/grammar/punctuation errors.
These are immediate red flags. If you can’t proofread your own resume, what are you going to do with documents or emails coming out of my business? If you need a second pair of eyes to look over your resume, get one. There is no excuse for mistakes like the ones I’ve seen, which include:
- “I’m detailed oriented.”
- “Black Career Institute” (should have been “Blackstone Career Institute.”)
- “I am currently a Paralegal major, where I plan to transfer to UCF to receive my Bachelor in paralegal well minoring in sociology.” (That one has too many mistakes to even note.)
3. Don’t put stupid stuff on your Facebook page.
Anticipate that your employer will look you up on Facebook. That does not mean to get rid of Facebook. Just use it to make you look good — consider it an extension of your resume. I’ve put otherwise-good resumes in the trash because a Facebook feed was filled with ridiculous boyfriend drama (I don’t need any boyfriend drama in my office!) or other nonsense that I do not want interfering with an employee’s work. At all times, including in your public social-media persona, maintain professionalism.
4. Avoid attaching resumes in .doc (use PDF instead).
When resumes come in as email attachments and I open them in the email (because I don’t want to download each one, especially when I have 50 resumes to browse through), those formatted and saved in Microsoft Word as .doc or .docx are not always perfectly visible. Depending on the formatting and the email program, huge chunks may be omitted. One .doc resume appeared to me (looking at it through a gmail browser) as if it were merely titles with no experience or education. These errors and inconsistencies are exactly why Adobe invented the portable document format (PDF). Take the time to save your resume in PDF, then view it as if you were a potential employer. PDF is the cleanest way to send a resume and easier to view. (Sending a .doc or .docx also makes you appear less computer literate.)
5. Be careful with perfume!
You may be used to spraying yourself with perfume as soon as you leave the car. But don’t do it before an interview. I interviewed one potential candidate whose perfume was so strong I trouble keeping a straight face — and breathing — while I was interviewing her. Not only was the odor immensely distracting, but it was causing me to feel a gag reflex. Some people are sensitive to strong smells. No matter how pleasant you may think your own perfume is, not everyone will have the same pleasant reaction. Causing your interviewer to gag will result in an immediate rejection.
6. Practice interview questions beforehand.
I recently did an interview where I asked a candidate, “So, what first attracted you to the legal field?” She smiled and answered, “I don’t know. I just like it.” I paused, thinking that maybe she was nervous and needed a minute to respond. She continued, “I’m just passionate about it.” She may not have realized it, but I was throwing her a softball to enable her to launch into an inspiring story about herself. Unfortunately, she dropped the ball.
Interviewing is your opportunity to shine. I interview because I want to hear the candidate speak. I am often not as interested in the answers they give as I am in how they answer the questions. While they answer, I am taking mental notes on their demeanor and overall communication skills. I wonder, if I were a client, what impression would I get of the firm if the candidate was my first point of contact? Will clients find this person likable?
Take some time and practice by looking at common interview questions. Think of answers that will make you shine and seem like a perfect candidate. Practice with a trusted friend who can give you honest feedback. If you get nervous speaking to others or doing interviews, join (or at least visit) Toastmasters. I can’t recommend it enough. It works wonders.