My Resume's Not Getting Me Interviews. What Am I Doing Wrong?

by Leslie Toth, MBA, CPRW, PHR, SHRM-CP

Job Interview

Have you sent out tons of resumes, but you’re not getting many, or any, interviews? You’re not alone. Even though the job market is getting better, you still have to catch the reviewer’s attention in a positive way. This means getting the right things on the resume and leaving the wrong things off. There are a lot of lists out there of things to put on your resume and things to leave off. Those lists are great, and most of them offer good advice. However, with this article, I’m going to give you more detailed instruction and explanation than is typically offered in the lists.

To make sure you’re getting noticed, you need to concentrate on what in your experience addresses the needs of the organization.

When I say concentrate, I mean it like a concentrated detergent, not your brain thinking.

You don’t want a 5-page resume with a litany of job tasks that a 6-year old could probably do. Your resume needs to be packed with the most impressive work you have done, as well as what you have accomplished. Take it from me, somebody who has reviewed thousands of resumes as a recruiter, when a recruiter gets to the 100th resume in a row for a job posting where a resume simply states the tasks performed in 3 or more pages, those resumes take the express train to the don’t call pile. You want to pack in the best you have to offer and leave the rest out.

Don’t forget keywords. Looking through the job ad, are there key industry-specific words in the ad that you don’t have on your resume? Realize that most resumes go through the first review by a machine, or maybe an assistant or a recruiter. None of these reviewers have the level of knowledge that you have, let alone that the hiring manager has. So, you need to write your resume in plain English, but also keep in keywords that the hiring manager probably emphasized when requesting to fill the position. This is probably the most difficult part about writing a resume. You need the keywords to get by the machine, the plain English to get by the human reviewer, and the well written, impressive accomplishments to get selected for an interview by the hiring manager.

If at all possible, accomplishments should be measurable.

If you currently have a job, I would highly recommend measuring your historical and current output. What are your annual sales? What is your budget? How many users are you supporting? Better yet, how much have you increased sales while in your position? By what percentage have you reduced costs through process improvements? Can you quantify how your work has improved the organization’s financial, quality, productivity, or customer satisfaction performance? These are what the hiring manager will evaluate with laser focus.

If you’re doing all the right things and not getting interviews, then, well, you could be doing some things you shouldn’t. Again, there are some good lists of things not to do, but I’ll give you some of the ones I see the most on professional level resumes.

Surprisingly, your email address is the first thing a recruiter will see, and it’s possible you won’t get any further with the wrong email address. If you have a creative email address or you use your work email address, then you should get an email address from one of the many providers who offer email accounts for free. The best would be if you could create an email account that has some variation of your name. This offers the side benefit of having all of your job search information separate, so you don’t miss any emails from recruiters. Just make sure you check the new email account daily.

Another area that will kill your interview opportunity is putting organizations or affiliations on your resume that don’t add to your case for winning an interview. Too often the reviewer will have a personal issue with your activity; political and social causes can get you eliminated for no good reason. Unless you are applying for a position where affiliations are expected, it’s better to leave all of them out. If it’s a neutral affiliation like a Nurse association where you held a leadership role, then go ahead with keeping it in, especially if you can evidence skills used that will help you win an interview for the position you are targeting.

Finally, and most importantly, have somebody review your resume. I’ve received a lot of resumes to review where a simple typo was placed in a way that made the candidate look like he or she didn’t understand the industry or the position. Of course, grammatical errors and spelling errors will also get resumes tossed, and, unfortunately, spell check doesn’t always catch these errors. The result can be that you are overlooked due to something very preventable.

Use these tips and get your new resume out there. I have seen improvement in the job market this year, so now is a great time to make that career change you have been thinking about.

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