What Might be Keeping You from Receiving the Interview Phone Call

Just a few days ago I had dinner with a long-time friend who is the Marketing Director for a large non-profit organization. When I asked regarding what was the most frustrating part of her job, she immediately replied, “hiring new people”. She went on to relate how 400 resumes were received within two hours of posting an opening for a Marketing Assistant. When I asked how many of the 400 resumes she felt were good enough to warrant a call for an interview, my friend responded, “less than 10…and a few of those are borderline”. This is today’s reality for hiring managers.

Regarding the most common reasons why she did not select a resume to be added to the “short list” of people to be called for interviews, I was told the following:

No results – Bullet points that read like a laundry list of duties and responsibilities rather than specific examples of accomplishments and “how” those results/outcomes were accomplished. You cannot just tell me that you can do something well – you must prove it by using specific examples demonstrating exceptional outcomes.

Lack of metrics to quantify stated accomplishments – Telling me that you “increased client satisfaction” packs no “punch” unless you quantify that claim with some sort of metric (percentage increase on client satisfaction survey scores, percentage growth in referrals from existing clients, dollar or percentage increase in repeat sales…etc.)

Poorly written and/or formatted – Resumes that contain grammatical or spelling errors, bullet points that are not clear and need to be “interpreted” (by the way, hiring managers have neither the time nor the patience to figure out what you are trying to tell them in your resume), formatting that makes it hard on the eyes to read (font size and style, too many lines used as separators, margins that are too small or too big, etc). I would strongly suggest not using acronyms that only you and your former co-workers understand/recognize – remember, you are trying to engage & “wow” the hiring manager, not confuse them.

Word file saved in the wrong format – The vast majority of businesses who use Microsoft Office software still use MS Office 2003 – not 2007 or 2010. The 2007 & 2010 versions’ default is to save Word files in “.docx” format, that cannot be opened with MS Office 2003, which uses “.doc” (unless the hiring manager/HR recruiter has downloaded and installed a file converter tool from Microsoft). Use the “Save As” function to save the Word file in “.doc”. If a hiring manager cannot easily open your uploaded or attached file…they just move on to the next resume submission and yours is deleted – they have no interest in searching for, downloading and installing the conversion tool from the Microsoft website. Make it easy for me to open the file containing your resume. You can also send it in “.PDF” format, as pretty much everyone has Adobe Acrobat Reader on their PC’s.

Resume not customized for the position being sought – the more generic your resume sounds, the less skilled you appear. You are trying to convince me that you are “the one” to fill my open position. Remember – the hiring manager’s objective is to find “the best person available”…someone who is going to make them look great to their boss. If a hiring manager sees a resume customized for their open position, you’ve already made a positive impression by demonstrating that you understand the need to focus on the skills and requirements as noted in the job description. The frustrating reality is that only a very small percentage of submitted resumes are what would be considered customized (based upon my own experience and my discussions w/dozens of hiring managers and professional recruiters) – which means those written in that manner have an excellent chance to be added to the list of calls to be made to schedule interviews.
Incomplete work history – This one might be the most frustrating for job seekers. A number of folks have told me that they have been strongly encouraged to only include work experience from the last 15 years on their resumes, nothing beyond that. Although I recognize that there are definitely two different “camps” on this issue (i.e., include no more than the last 15 years vs. show everything), I am a strong proponent of the “show everything” side. And, I have yet to find a professional recruiter or hiring manager who has told me that they wanted candidates to show only a partial work history. Most of these people have told me that, if they find out a candidate who (from the resume’s work history) appears to be in their mid-30’s – is really in their late 40’s or 50’s, they begin to wonder “what else is this person hiding from me/not telling me?”. As mentioned in my posting from last month, “Tips for the More Experienced Job Seeker”, better to be honest up front and find out that a company/hiring manager might discriminate on age – than to wind up working for such an employer.

The good news is that all of these problems/issues are correctable…and easily so. Yes, there is a greater investment of your time required to develop that “killer” resume, but – aren’t you trying to convince me that you are that one out of 400 other candidates that I should hire? How impressed would YOU be, if you were the person hiring this Marketing Assistant, and found documents that were vague, poorly written, formatted in such a way to appear “pretty” – but contained little to no real content and contained a lot of bullet points about what candidates “did’ rather than what they actually accomplished and “how” they did so…?

As you write your resume, put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager who wrote the position description for the job you are seeking (pretend that your job depends upon the success of this particular hire). Are you (the hiring manager) – going to be “wowed” enough to move you (the candidate) to the next step and schedule an interview? Until you are, don’t submit the resume – because it will most likely wind up in the pile that will receive a “thanks, but no thanks” letter.

Create a “wow” perception that will become the hiring manager’s reality.