5 Hidden Resume Killers:

by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

You may think you have the perfect resume, but you keep getting overlooked for all kinds of positions, and you can’t figure out what’s happening! Perhaps you are sabotaging yourself in ways you don’t recognize.

Almost everyone is aware of obvious job search killers in resumes, such as spelling and grammatical errors; however hidden mistakes often end up costing you the interview when you have an otherwise solid resume. Protect yourself from being misperceived out of a job opportunity by carefully reviewing your resume for hidden killers.

1) Highlighting Political or Religious Affiliations

Many people fill their time with charitable work and, in the process, make some strong community contacts. Great idea and very fulfilling, most likely, but if that organization is your local church or political action group, you may be sabotaging yourself if you include this in the resume. Just the mere mention of such groups may subconsciously create a negative response in the reader. Don’t place yourself at risk for potential discrimination or a negative first impression because of an association with a group that may not align with the values of hiring managers. We all know it’s not ethical, but better to protect you, than be naïve and lose another opportunity.

2) Explaining Employment Gaps with too much Personal Information

Although it is critical to be honest about gaps in your employment history, exercise caution about giving too much personal information or suggesting your personal life may overwhelm your work life. Be brief and succinct in explaining any gaps in your personal work history, and be aware that caretaking for elderly parents, for example, is becoming much more common. Career change or geographic moves may be part of necessary family caretaking decisions, which could also be important to explain in your resume. Caretaking for family members is not as gender-based as it once was in our society, however you don’t need to provide a lot of detail regarding the emotional toll and investment of time such caretaking has taken. The explanation doesn’t need to suggest you have been consumed by personal obligations, hinting that personal obligations may be more important than your work life.

3) Don’t Broadcast Weaknesses

Everyone has skill deficits or areas where his/her work could improve. However, by over-emphasizing these deficits or appearing nervous about them, you are likely to sabotage the strengths identified in your resume. Being honest doesn’t mean you have to hang your head and kick at the floor like a school child; it’s likely you feel worse about these shortcomings than necessary. Emphasize your strengths and practice a response to express information about potential weaknesses. What is it that bothers you so much about this particular deficit when you likely have other strengths? You don’t need to be “all things to all people in order to land the job”, and feeling shameful about deficits can only work against you.

4) Too Many Positions within the Same Time Frame

Sure, you may have worked 2 or 3 jobs in college, but later in one’s career, this may send a message that you are scattered, unfocused, or worse yet, not committed to your primary field of interest. Potential employers want to know you are working toward company goals with the same level of energy they are, rather than being tired and distracted. Review the job history realistically. You cannot misrepresent your work experience, but try to look at “your story” during that time of your life. If there were a number of part-time positions pieced together out of financial necessity, be certain to identify the positions as part-time. Perhaps the positions included experiences for certification. Such situations denote a commitment to professional growth and are typically time-limited, a situation that more clearly explains seemingly dual, simultaneous employment.

5) Don’t Over-emphasize Periods of Self-Employment

Many potential employers question your ability to be a team player if you are accustomed to being the boss yourself. It may also intimidate hiring managers or suggest you are over-qualified, if you have labeled yourself President of your own company. Again, don’t be deceitful, but be cautious regarding labels. Describe creative development skills associated with self-employment in ways that will benefit the prospective employer, such as market analysis, client development, or full P&L.

Increase your own awareness of potential “resume killers”, and you will be well on your way to eliminating obstacles to employment. Resumes can communicate in many more ways than just using words. The nuances of a resume are similar to body language – people get the message even if not overtly expressed. Rid your resume of hidden killers and move ahead in your job search!