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4 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Job Search

4 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Job Search

Have you ever been told to get out of your own way? In our personal and professional lives, we often make things more difficult for ourselves; taking troublesome routes around obstacles, making obvious-to-others-but-not-ourselves missteps, and tripping over our own mistakes.

A fantastic example of this self-sabotage can be seen in almost every job seeker’s approach to the job search. Here are four ways that real job seekers tripped over their their own job applications, with tips on how you can avoid these pitfalls and pave a smoother, more productive job search path for yourself.

1 Using impossible language.

Using claims like “I am a perfect fit…” or “My qualifications are unique…” is setting yourself up to be proven wrong quickly< and easily.

When concluding his cover letter, a recent job candidate wrote, “I have attached my resume and I am certain that, after you review it, you will agree that we should discuss a potential partnership.”

To a recruiter or hiring team, this is often seen as a challenge, because certainty is not something found in spades in the hiring process. Even the best candidates—the ones who eventually get the job—can’t be certain that their applications will pass muster. As you might have guessed, the hiring team, after reviewing this resume, was not at all certain about discussing things further.

How to fix it: Don’t use language that doesn’t leave room for any other result, because the odds say you’ll be wrong more than right. Some better ways to phrase this would have been, “I feel confident that…” or “…after you review it, I would welcome the chance to discuss a potential partnership.” Confidence is refreshing, but certainty is just cocky.

2 Applying to jobs you’re clearly not qualified for.

It’s one thing to have most but not all of the requirements listed in a job description—most employers are willing to overlook some minor deficiencies in a job applicant as long as the major qualifications are in order—but sometimes job seekers can’t help but get in their own way.

A comment in a cover letter for a blogging and social media job read as follows: “Please note that I am not currently on LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc.”

Since this person was applying to work for a virtual company whose entire presence is based on its website and social media platforms, this one line sent the entire application down the drain.

How to fix it: If you’re a job seeker who is lacking a very important qualification that can be easily remedied within minutes and for free, then remedy it! Creating LinkedIn and other social media accounts would have taken this person a matter of minutes, and placed them back in the running for the job.

3 Offering skills no-one has asked for.

Unless you have a pretty good idea that a company can use a skill, telling them you’re fluent in Russian isn’t going to add to your application.

A job seeker who applied for a career advice writing position spent a good deal of their application explaining their long background in journalism. “I’ve reported and written on a variety of subjects, including education, consumer health care, social issues, women’s issues, politics, business, the military, animal welfare, government and much, much more.”

Sounds great! The only problem was that this job required previous HR or career advice writing experience, neither of which were included in this applicant’s laundry list of topics.

How to fix it: If the “much, much more” portion of this applicant’s writing experience involved either of the required subjects, they should have started out with that fact. Don’t clutter up your application with skills that an employer neither asked for, nor needs.

4 Ignoring or glossing over your lack of requirements.

If you have gaps in your employment history or you’re missing a requirement, don’t pretend employers won’t notice if you gloss over those areas. Instead, address them directly, or reconsider whether you are the right candidate for the job.

A company whose services are typically geared towards mid-level career professionals was recently hiring for a role that would work directly with customers to offer them practical advice. One applicant who had yet to graduate from college felt that he was a “strong candidate”, even though he lacked the required years of experience as stated in the job description.

How to fix it: Hiring managers can tell almost immediately if someone is trying to gloss over a lack of experience or qualifications. Rather than hope no one will notice, address any perceived deficits directly in your cover letter and explain how you can fill them. If you truly are qualified for the job, this should be easy to do. And if you’re not qualified, why are you applying?

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Brie Weiler Reynolds

Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019

20 Critical Skills to Include on Your Resume (For All Types of Jobs)

20 Critical Skills to Include on Your Resume (For All Types of Jobs)

A resume describes your critical skills in a way that compels a hiring manager to want to meet you. That is a resume’s sole purpose.

And make no mistake: Writing a resume is an art.

Today each corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes on average, and somehow yours will need to rise above the competition. It’s actually harder to snag an interview from an online posting than to get into Harvard. But don’t let that intimidate you. Instead, open your laptop, roll up your proverbial sleeves, and let’s get to work!


Employers generally prefer candidates with skills that show leadership ability, problem-solving ability, and perseverance through challenges. So in the resume, you should demonstrate that you’re a dynamic candidate.

Refine the skills on your resume so that you incorporate these resume “musts:”

1. Leadership Ability

Even an entry-level employee can show leadership. Point out how your skills helped your department ascend to a new level. Capture leadership attributes with compelling statements.

Example:

“Led change that drove efficiency and an ability to cut 800 error-free payroll checks.”

2. Problem-Solving Ability

Most employees are hired to solve problems. Showcase that ability on your resume.

Example:

“Led staff in campaign to outrival top competitor’s market share during a down cycle.”

3. Perseverance

Have you been promoted several times? Or have you maintained margins in a down cycle? Both achievements demonstrate persistence. You look like someone who can navigate roadblocks.

4. Technical Skills

Consider including a Key Skills or Technology Skills section in which you list computer and software skills.

Example:

“Expert-level knowledge in Java.”

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5. Quantified Results

Nothing is quite as attractive as objective results. Did you increase sales by 25 percent? Win three new clients? Surpass the internal goal by 15 percent?

Use hard-hitting numbers to express your point. State the result first, and then provide a sentence or phrase describing the critical skills you applied to achieve the milestone.

Example:

“Boosted sales by 200 percent by developing new online platform that made it easier for customers to compare and contrast sizes, textures, and fit.”

6. People Skills

Employers prefer congenial staff members to prima donnas or mavericks. Relate your strongest soft skills.

Example:

“Organized, hard-working staffer who listens well and communicates effectively.”

7. Passion in the Field

Recruiters and hiring managers can intuit whether candidates care about their career performance by the dynamism behind the descriptions of their skills on their resumes. Are your efforts “transformational” or merely “useful?” Were your results “game-changing” or boringly “appropriate?”

The tenor of your words reveals whether you’re passionate or passive. (But don’t overdo it. See the “Hyperbole” section below.)

8. Being the Entrepreneur within the Corporation

Whether you took the initiative to create a new synergy or worked independently to land an opportunity, share how you furthered organizational goals through your self-directed efforts.

9. Your Adaptability

Have you switched career paths? Weathered a corporate takeover?

Make it clear that your resilience helped get you and your organization through the turbulence.

10. Confirming Your Expertise

Every job posting states experience requirements. Ideally, you want to meet these requirements or best them. But don’t exaggerate.


While proving that you possess the credentials described in the job posting, you can still stand out if you are able to offer additional special skills to showcase your personality.

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Consider adding any of these special accomplishments, if true:

11. Referencing Award-Winning Talents

If you played center on your college basketball team that made it into the Top 10 finals, then working collaboratively and cooperatively are among your natural callings. Be sure to say so.

12. Unveiling Your Work Persona

If you were repeatedly singled out for your stellar performance in work settings, becoming employee-of-the-month, top revenue generator, and so on — it’s worth mentioning.

13. Capitalizing on Commonalities

From Googling the hiring manager, you discover that she was formerly a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize. Listing your Spanish immersion course in Central America may draw her attention to the other outstanding skills on your resume.

14. Highlighting Creative Tactics

If, for example, in your HR role, you piloted an employee incentive program that became an industry model, include it. Such innovative thinking will command an employer’s attention.

15. Specifying All Accolades

Listing any honors received instills confidence that you will bring that level of perfectionism forward in a corporate environment.

16. Transferable Skills

You spend your spare time conducting your community orchestra. Highlight this after-hours pursuit to show that you have the critical skills needed to keep a team on task.


Take note: Hyperbole can hurt you. So, show your credibility.

Although it may be tempting to use embellishments to boost your experience, improve your job title, or enhance your education, resist. These days, a five-minute search will reveal the truth. And taking self-inflation too far could easily come back to destroy your career.

Hiring managers have their antenna up for resume hyperbole. A survey shows that 53 percent are suspicious that candidates are often dishonest.

Follow these guiding principles when writing your own resume:

17. Accurately Describing Your Degree

Make sure to differentiate between certificates attained and degrees earned, along with the name of the institution awarding them.

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18. Stating Job Duration with Honest Dates

Honesty is the only policy when reporting the length of a particular job. If you’ve been out of work for an extended period of time, state the reason you have gaps.

Whether you traveled, had to cope with a family emergency, or went back to school to change your professional track, communicate the positive outcome that came from the hiatus.

19. Claiming Only the Skills You Truly Possess

Unless you’re proficient in a software program or are fluent in a second language, leave any mention of them off.

Conversely, if you feel like you must include them, then accurately qualify your level of competence.

20. Being Honest About Your Role in a Project

You may think you were the lead person because you did most of the work, but chances are your supervisor thinks otherwise.

Besides the 20 critical skills to include on your resume, here’re some important notes for you.

Bonus Tips for Writing a Resume

You Only Have 6 to 7 Seconds to Impress the Employer

Hiring managers and artificial intelligence “bots” may spend only 6 to 7 seconds perusing your resume, which means you need it to teem with essential skills, quantifiable achievements, and action words.

If, in fact, you believe that a “bot” will be analyzing your resume before it even lands on a hiring manager’s desk, be sure to include some of the actual key words from the posting in your document. There’s no reason why you can’t customize your resume to each job posting.

Another tip: Be sure to show your resume to a few individuals who work in your field, so that you can fine-tune the information as needed.

Starting at the Top

The Objective at the top of your resume is optional if you’re seeking the same job you already have, just at different company. However, if you’re switching fields, it’s critical to include an Objective, which is a one-sentence summary of the job you want.

For example:

Objective: To become web editor at a thriving news website.

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If you’ve been in your field for ten years or more, you will probably want to include an Executive Summary. This is a one-sentence takeaway about who you are, including the critical skills you amassed throughout your career.

For example:

Executive Summary: Award-winning creative director with over ten years experience managing teams on three continents.

Depending on your field, you may also want to add some skills as bullet points in the Executive Summary section.

And what about your Education? If you graduated from college within the past ten years, include your Education just below the Objective section (and forgo the Executive Summary). If it’s been over ten years since you graduated, then include your Education at the very end of your resume. Only cite your grade point average (G.P.A.) if it was exceptional—3.7 G.P.A. or higher, or if you won scholastic awards.

Ideally, the critical skills you amassed during college, at your previous job, and throughout your career will add up to a riveting portrait of a professional who’s ideally suited for your dream position: You.

Tailor, Tweak, and Fine-Tune

If you’re targeting different kinds of organizations, you’ll need customized resumes for each outreach.

Don’t be afraid to parrot some of the words on the list of requirements back to the company. Many times, organizations will actually use the key words mentioned in the job posting when screening resumes.

Approach Your Resume as a Skills-Based Story

Like any good storyteller, lay out the framework at the beginning. Include the skills you’ve mastered and state how you can add value—wording your sentences in a way that reflects the specific job you’re seeking.

Are you vying for a sales position? Quantify your results: “Responsible for 50 percent of all sales that resulted in $750,000 in annual revenue.” Use your critical skills, peppered throughout your resume, to tell the exciting story of your distinguished professional career!

Researching the organization that you’re targeting will help you make your examples specific. Does the company cater to a particular audience or clientele? Be sure to note any experiences you’ve had with similar audiences.

Putting It All Together

A resume is not a laundry list. It tells a cohesive story. Your story should highlight your qualifications and critical skills in a way that makes a logical, well-constructed case for your compatibility with the organization and its advertised position.

Packaging your story into the concisely prescribed format of a resume means that it will read as a synopsis — one that will hopefully land you the job.

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Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com

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