Here are the top seven things your interviewer has been instructed to watch for on your résumé:
- Poor spelling, typos, and grammatical errors
A prospective employer will assume this is your best work. Always use the spell-check feature, but also have several other pairs of eyes looking out for mistakes. As the saying goes, you do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
- Several stretches of unemployment
Most of us have been unemployed once or twice. Some even for many months at a time. But if you have more than one or two significant breaks in your job history over the past 10 years, you may not look like a particularly desirable candidate.
- Listing of qualifications without paid work experience
If most or all of the relevant experience you have is volunteer work, it will not be considered as highly as previous employment. While in some ways, I consider this a form of employment snobbery (I have certainly held volunteer jobs that required a lot more effort and attention than some of my paid positions), it is a fact that generally volunteers are afforded a much greater level of flexibility and freedom than paid workers.
- Many jobs in unrelated fields or multiple jobs within a short period of time
Job hoppers (as these individuals have been termed) may not have much loyalty to an employer, or perhaps there is some uncertainty about what they like to do or where their strengths lie. Or perhaps you are just interested in many fields or have made some poor choices in the past. An interviewer will be trying to determine whether you are worth the risk to employ and train.
- Vague descriptions of responsibilities or achievements
A prospective employee who is vague about his or her previous work may not have done very much worth elaborating, or perhaps is trying to conceal a job that was not as impressive as its title. Be specific about what you did, and especially how your work benefited the company. Whenever possible, use numbers (e.g., "Supervised 7 employees" or "Increased revenue 23% in one year").
- Work experience that is disproportionate with level of education
While it is certainly possible for individuals with little formal education to achieve great success in business, sadly, it is not nearly as common as people padding their résumés in hopes of finding a better, higher paying job. Make sure you list the qualifications which allowed you to advance above what might be expected of someone with your education.
- References from companies which are no longer in business
Many of us have had a previous employer close its doors. However, when the majority of your employment history is comprised of companies which no longer exist, an interviewer may wonder if you are trying to keep him or her from checking your references. In the case that several of your former employers have gone out of business, be sure to have several business references available for potential employers to choose from, such as previous managers in their new positions.
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