Five Reasons Even A Great Resume Will Not Help Your Job Search
Spoiler alert – your resume is only part of the package. Interview prep, communication skills, and your online activity all play a role in your desirability as a candidate.
Original article by Carolin Ceniza-Levine, Forbes
One of the most common inquiries I get from prospective coaching clients is about fixing their resumes:
- How can my resume get me more interviews?
- How can my resume get noticed by recruiters?
- I have been unemployed for a while. What’s wrong with my resume?
If you find yourself looking to your resume for answers to explain your as-of-yet unsuccessful job search, you are likely looking in the wrong place. Sure, a strong resume definitely improves your job search chances. But there are other, more important factors in a hiring decision. In fact, regardless of how strong your resume is, there are several common hiring situations where the resume doesn’t matter. Here are five scenarios where even a great resume will not help your search:
You don’t have brand names on your resume
You absolutely can get hired without brand names in your background (e.g., Fortune 500 employers, Ivy League alma maters). However, brand names definitely help because they act as a filter for the employer – if this person is good enough for [insert household name here] then s/he must be good! In situations where there are a lot of applicants, brand names are frequently a shortcut the recruiter uses for that first selection.
You can work around this by getting referred to the recruiter and therefore not competing with the broader, unsolicited pile of resumes. However, that’s your networking helping you, not your resume.
You have something atypical in your background
Atypical doesn’t mean bad. Atypical just means that you have not worked recently in a very similar role at a competitor. You might have worked at a smaller, unknown competitor (see point above about brand names). You might have taken time off or have been laid off and now have a gap in your resume. You might be coming from a different industry. Employers use resumes to find reasons to weed people out. You can have solid skills and experience and still not be the perfect fit.
You can work around this by giving the employer information beyond the resume – a well-written cover letter that outlines what you have delivered, a recommendation from someone the employer trusts providing social proof, a direct pitch to the employer (e.g., you meet them at a conference) about your value. A qualified candidate can absolutely convince an employer to overlook industry changes, employment gaps, layoffs, and more, but the convincing happens by you, no thanks to your resume.
You applied for a job that is already filled
I am sure people don’t apply for jobs that say they are closed, but many job postings stay up well after the role is filled or after a shortlist of candidates is already identified. Recruiters prioritize filling the next job, not taking down old job postings. When you rely on resume submissions for your job search, you invariably apply for jobs that aren’t really open. Even if you only apply for jobs on the first day that they are posted (which isn’t even a realistic standard because how could you possibly catch every job opening on its first day???) some jobs are posted while the employer already has someone in mind. Sure, s/he will consider others if someone “amazing” comes along, but s/he already has a first choice in mind.
Job postings are made public well after the company is so busy and knows it needs to hire someone. If you want to be one of the first, you have to know about the job well before it is posted. This requires networking, not mailing out resumes.
You don’t interview as well as your resume looks
Even if your resume does get noticed, most companies do a short interview before passing you on to the hiring group. Searches differ widely, but a typical estimate is dozens of resumes for fewer than a dozen short interviews, and the only a handful of these interviews lead to meetings with the hiring team. The resume is a first, very brief stop, and the interview immediately takes priority. If you don’t interview well, your strong resume is quickly forgotten .
Whatever time you spend on your resume should be multiplied in your preparation for interviews, especially these short, unforgiving first round screens. Yet, too many job seekers I meet are fixated on their resumes and not even thinking about their interviewing skills, which can be dramatically improved with some attention.
The rest of your marketing isn’t as strong as your resume
Your resume is just one part of your application. If a job posting asks for a cover letter and yours is poorly written, then it doesn’t matter how nice the resume looks, you have made a poor impression elsewhere. I once had a prospective client ask me about his LinkedIn profile (which is different from a resume, but for this example, let’s think of it as an e-resume). I didn’t even get to his Experience or Education sections (though I did notice they were sparsely filled). The first thing that caught my eye was his Summary – a one-line sentence replete with typos and grammar. I don’t need to look at the rest of the profile because my expectations are already low.
Your cover letter, email correspondence, and online activity all matter as much as the resume. Since so many recruiters actively use LinkedIn to find candidates, your LinkedIn profile arguably matters more than your resume. Whatever time you spend on your resume, an equal or greater amount of time needs to be spent on the rest of your marketing. A strong resume won’t help much if you’re not consistently strong with the other parts of your application.
A great resume is helpful to your job search but it is only one small part of a whole that has many moving parts. Spend time and effort to improve your resume, but do not ignore the rest of your marketing, networking, and interview preparation. If your job search is taking longer than you expected, do not assume improving your resume is what you need – you may need to focus on one of the other areas in your search instead.