Five great things your resume says about you (and why it still won't get you the job)

Sad but true: Five great things your resume says about you (and why it still won't get you the job)

Peter Harris|

Before you started looking for a job, you read every piece of resume advice out there, consulted experts, and spent long hours creating the perfect resume to highlight your skills, accomplishments, education and experience. It’s been proofed and polished, and everyone says that it’s great.

So now you’re ready to send it out to every job posting and company that’s hiring people in your field. The resume that you’ve agonized over will surely stand out from the crowd of applicants who put less effort into refining their resume, right?

Unfortunately not. If you’ve done it right, that perfected professional resume will cast you in a great light. But it’s most likely going to be ignored. It’s sad but true.

Here’s what your resume says about you (and why it won’t work):

    You are great (but generic). You have one fantastically written resume – and you’re using it for every application. Employers can tell a generic application when they see it. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all resume. You need to carefully read the job description, find out what you can about the role and the company, and tailor your application to their needs specifically.

    You’re accurate (but forgettable). You have accurately and concisely described all of the duties that you were responsible for at your previous job. Hey, you were taking care of a lot of stuff!

    But ‘taking care of stuff’ isn’t the same as standing out in the role, making unique accomplishments, achieving what others in a similar position wouldn’t. And that’s how you get noticed. Employers generally know what duties go with your job titles, so there’s no need to list them. Instead document what set you apart in a measurable way.

      “Consistently performed within the top 5% of account managers while contributing over $1,000,000 in annual sales.”

    You’re creative (but nobody knows). You have a unique writing style and you show it off in eloquent prose to stand out from the crowd. The trouble with that approach is that there’s a good chance that no one will ever read your masterpiece. More and more companies are using software that filters through applications before the recruiter or hiring manager sees them. If your resume doesn’t contain the relevant keywords that are being screened for, you won’t make the cut.

    Try to match the way you’ve described your skills and experience as closely as possible to the wording used in the job description.

    You’re talented (but not relevant). You have listed the measureable accomplishments that you’ve made for your past employers. But you haven’t connected them to the challenges of the role you’re applying for. This is why customizing is so important – especially for people changing fields or making a career transition.

    The fact that you’re a multi-award winning sales rep doesn’t make me want to hire you as a marketing person – unless you can show me how what you’ve accomplished in that role can be useful to me in the one I’m hiring for.

      “Achieved record-breaking sales numbers through deep understanding of clients’ needs and challenges, and knowing how to communicate solutions in terms they can relate to. This knowledge of both product and customer can be invaluable to crafting effective communications strategies.”

    You’re ambitious (but not qualified). It’s sad but true, employers tell us that sometimes more than half of the applications they receive for a job are from candidates who aren’t nearly qualified for the role. It’s good to stretch yourself, and to aim high, but if you don’t have at least 75% of the qualifications an employer is asking for, you’re probably just wasting your time and theirs. Think quality of quantity. You’ll increase your chances of being hired by submitting better applications to fewer jobs than by simply mass applying to everything out there.

Lots of people use the same resume and cover letter when they apply to multiple jobs, only changing the hiring manager’s name, and the job title. (Hopefully!) But it’s not a very effect job search strategy, especially in a tight job market.

Use the resume you’ve perfected for posting online and creating a LinkedIn profile. And use it as a template for applying for jobs, but like any template, it’s just a starting point that you tailor to the job in question.

It’s more work (but worth it.) Customizing your resumes and cover letters takes more time and effort than the one-size-fits-all approach, but trust me, it will pay off.

See also:

How to write a resume that gets read by more employers
The 10 most overused words and phrases in Canadian resumes
The biggest mistake on a resume (and how to create a masterpiece)


Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter


Category: Resumes and Cover Letters, Student, Uncategorised
  • Sarah Khan

    All great points that I teach my students in our business program. The biggest challenge however is with point number 2: being accurate, but forgettable. What do you advise a job seeker who says “well, I didn’t stand out…” or “I didn’t do anything remarkable…I just did my job and did it well.” How do you come up with achievements instead of responsibilities?

    • Richard Derek

      I have the issue Sarah. Some people will do a good job but not do anything outstanding. This does not mean that they cannot do the job.

  • The Mature Student

    Fact number six: your resume does not give the impression of the age demographic the employer has in mind for the job.

    These are all great points. Every resume workshop I’ve attended in the past year brings them up in one fashion or another. What nobody will admit however is that employers usually have a specific age group they’re looking for and they’ll use your resume to screen you out. The resume has to be specifically tailored to match the age group you believe they’re looking at.

    Applying for a summer student or internship position? If your resume gives the perception you’re any older than 25 you’ll be screened out. Graduate and entry level positions: no older than 28. Mid level positions: 35 is the limit.

    Of course dealing with an interviewer that has been presented with a candidate approaching 50 when they were expecting a 22 year old is a whole different subject to cover.

  • Md. Azimuddin

    Fact number 1 is the most important. A resume is developed in its generic form with all the skills, experience, qualification and achievement. Some of them are not wanted to the employer and presence of such elements in the resume can force the employer to confusion and he can start thinking in what role shall the job seeker be considered. Possibly this is the reason the best resumes are rejected.
    The best idea is to chop out the skills, qualification and achievements those are not wanted by the employer and rewrite the resume. Read the job description in the advertiesment as many times as it is clear to the job seeker and then rephrase the skills and achievements.
    -Achievements related to the job description shall be highlighted to attract the attention of the employer.
    -Action verbs shall be used to describe the roles and achievement.

  • Ryan LaCroix

    1. makes no sense
    Here’s why: you expect someone to create a new resume 50+ times
    for each new job applications?
    rather then creating 1 resume that works as a shotgun approach?
    Because I assume you didn’t think about that at all.

    2. your resume is looked over in 30 seconds to a 1 minute?
    why would you over elaborate on a position on your resume,
    when that would be better explained if you get the interview?
    Rather then adding more content that’s not needed, keeping it
    simple and short works best. Thus if the employer would like to
    know more, he’ll ask during the interview.

    3. Creative writing is not noticed unless your looking for a
    Journalist position or something along the lines of writing.
    I don’t think anyone really cares if one word is mispelled.
    If they are going to not hire you or even ignore your resume for that
    reason, then its a waste of time to make a resume like that.
    Keep it simple and short. with not so many long difficult words if possible.

    4. Listing accomplishments is one thing, but some how jumping
    to it has no relevance does not make sense to me?
    If its relevant to the last job, then its relevant. if your looking for
    someone in a different field altogether, then you have a resume
    of someone that wants to change jobs…..duuuuuh
    Look at the skills listed and see if that person can be trained to do the job.
    Yes I say Trained, cause you have to train every employee you hire.
    there not going to know everything about the job from the get go.

    5. You’ve listed a job, that is either under paid for the experience.
    Expecting everything from one person, when the job should be
    a 2 – 3 person job. ( yes employers do, do this ALL THE TIME! )
    You do not consider Training a less experienced candidate because
    you think training is a waste of money, and think they’ll more likely leave
    in under 3 months.
    And my personally Favorite – You believe you will find the Perfect candidate
    within 4 – 6 months of the job ad, but instead get Hundreds if not Thousands
    of resumes from less experienced candidates. Because, you forget
    that Someone with 5-10+ years experience will find a job faster,
    if not more likely already has a job and will not leave for less.

  • Richard Derek

    I love the ambitious but not qualified one. I have seen so many jobs that want post secondary education AND two years experience (or more) to do the job. How can people get full time working experience when they are studying full time? Let’s face it, many employers are just being too demanding at times.