CV Tips

Job hunt not going according to plan? Can’t figure out why you aren’t getting called in for interviews? Perhaps you’re one of five types of job seekers whose resumes just seem to tank with hiring managers.

Think about it. Maybe you change jobs a lot? Or have gaps in your career history? Some very commonplace things can raise red flags for employers. The good news is that there are a few easy solutions that can get your resume back on track.

Whether it’s learning how to write a resume summary or figuring out where to explain a layoff, the hardest part is simply knowing where weaknesses in your resume lie. Find out if you’re one of the five types of job seekers that have a harder time writing resumes and what you can do to fix it.

1. The Job Hopper

There is an ongoing debate about whether the stigma attached to job hopping is disappearing. That’s because Millennials (those of us born between 1982 and 2004) don’t see a problem changing our jobs frequently.

A recent Gallup poll shows that 21% os millennials reported changing their jobs in the past year; a figure that is three times higher than non-millennials who did the same.  If everyone is doing it, then it must be okay, right? Well, we all know the logic behind that kind of statement. While job hopping trends, companies are companies. They will always want a return on their investments.  And even if that weren’t true – which it is – frequently changing your job means you’re less likely to stick around, resulting in a repeat recruitment process for your hiring manager.

So, what can you do?

You’ve got to assure the hiring manager that you’re worth the risk. And you can do that by adding achievements to your resume. Follow the X,Y, Z approach when you add an achievement: In situation X, I did Y, which resulted in Z. To increase company-wide participation in CSR initiatives, I created an internal marketing campaign that boosted employee turnout by 50% at the next in-house event.  You’ve gone from “risky, average member of a marketing team” to an individual who can increase company-wide participation by half. That’s real value.  Place your achievements next to the corresponding responsibilities in your experience section.

Pro Tip: Some experts will tell you that you can alter dates by removing months. One month of work becomes a year. But tampering with dates is a no-no. You may think you’re tricksey, but hiring managers are in the know.  

2. Mr. Complicated Career Progression

Mr. Complicated Career Progression starts out as a manager and gets demoted. Perhaps it was a voluntary downgrade, perhaps not.  Getting demoted isn’t lethal, but you do have to consider how to present it on your resume without deterring hiring managers.

So, what can you do?

If it’s a simple case of voluntary progression reversal, all you need to do is provide a brief explanation. The best place to do that is in your cover letter, resume summary, or as a side note in your experience section.  But let’s say you were straight up demoted. In that case, you’ll need to sacrifice the emphasis you’d typically place on your management skills. You can try to omit the job from your resume as long as it won’t create a black hole in your experience section. If that’s not feasible, draw attention to the transferable skills from that job and your accomplishments instead of featuring your managerial skills and responsibilities.

Overall, try redirecting attention to your current role and skill set and place your managerial skills in less prominent places on your resume. In the end, the best thing to do is to remain positive when you talk about the situation. Don’t use the word “demotion” and don’t badmouth your past employer.

3. The Chronically Unemployed Candidate

Currently, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are over 7 million unemployed Americans. And four million of them are involuntarily stuck on the unemployment merry-go-round. There are endless scenarios that result in chronic unemployment. Perhaps you were laid-off and can’t find work. Maybe you are a stay-at-home parent who wants to rejoin the workforce. Either way, your resume has to tackle the gaps in your job history. 

So, what can you do?  

Resist the temptation to use a functional or skills-based resume format. The format takes the pressure off your job history while showcasing your skills, but these skills aren’t backed by proof.  You may need to get creative with the layout, but it’s best not to kill the experience section altogether. Instead, kick off your resume with an introduction to yourself and lead with an activity in your experience section – be it non-profit work, freelance work, or volunteer work – notice how all of those things are still called “work.” Finish with your education or your previous work experience – even if you gained it years ago.

Pro Tip: Try to keep your hands busy. If you’re chronically unemployed, staying busy is healthy both for your mind and your resume. Occupy yourself with freelance or volunteer work.

4. Miss Overqualified Professional

Voluntarily opting for underemployment is a bit suspicious. Upon seeing an overqualified resume, hiring managers may begin to make a whole bunch of assumptions.

So, what can you do?

You have to convince a hiring manager that you’re volunteering for underemployment for whatever reason, e.g., you want to go back to doing creative work, or you want a better work-life balance. But first, understand the assumptions they may make:

  • They may think that you’ll (justifiably) want a lot of money.
  • You don’t fully understand the job, and you will ultimately leave.
  • That the 15+ years you spent at your last job has left your skill set stagnant.
  • You won’t be happy working under people less experienced than you.

The solution? Address these issues as you update your resume. Write a cover letter that will quell all possible fears or assumptions. And write a stellar resume summary that will explain where you are, where you’re going, and how that’s going to benefit your new employer. Tell the hiring manager right away that you’re not in the wrong place.

5. The Non-specialized Job Seeker

Are you skilled in sales, marketing, and administration simultaneously? Then you are an Unspecialized Job Seeker.  Not to worry. You just have to focus your resume so that it doesn’t turn into a hot mess of random skills.

So, what can you do?  

One trick for unspecialized candidates is to choose a combination resume format. The format allows you to emphasize your skills by grouping the bullet points in your experience section under skill-based subheadings. All you have to do is tailor your resume to reflect the skills listed in the job description.

Administrative Assistant at XYZ

Organization

  • Reduced response time for client inquiries by 20% through the implementation of an innovative filing system.

Marketing Manager at Company ABC

Leadership

  • Spearheaded a team of 10+ employees to implement rebranding of all marketing materials company-wide.

Pro Tip: Cut the fluff. If you’re applying for an Office Management position, avoid long descriptions of your marketing position and related achievements.

You want to show transferable skills and achievements that demonstrate your ability to do the work at hand.

Key Takeaway

Even if you are one of the five types of job seekers listed above, you can easily overcome the stigmas attached to each. If you take a little extra time and effort to address these issues in your resumes, you’ll find that you will start getting the interviews you deserve.

About the author: Natalie Severt is a writer for Uptowork, the resume builders.


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