If you’re like most job seekers, then you launch your job search on day one with a wave of confidence and optimism, darkened by only a minor shadow of anxiety and doubt (if any). By day seven, you realize you may be on the market a little longer than you imagined, but you’re ready to buckle down for the journey. By day 200, you’re sliding into a different frame of mind altogether.
At this point, it’s natural to start feeling a little concerned (though an average job search in 2013 lasted for about eight months). And it’s natural to revise and rewrite your resume several times in order to keep searching for something that works. Just keep in mind that not every change is a change for the better. Watch out for these common mistakes among long-term job seekers.
Some weary job seekers start expanding their self-descriptions in order to appeal to a wider range of employers. Over time, these job seekers are tempted to delete claims like “I have five years of XTML experience” and replace them with claims like “I have extensive coding experience,” and finally “I have comprehensive computer skills.”
Don’t do this. Effective resumes are specific and precise, not vague and general. If you try to please everyone, you may end up pleasing nobody, especially the employers you really want: the ones looking for an XTML expert.
In a similar attempt to cast a wide net, many long-term job seekers are tempted to remove quantifiers. Instead of saying things like “I managed a team of five employees for three years,” they may say “I managed a large team of employees for several years.” This statement may sound more impressive on the job seeker’s side, but employers don’t see things this way. Most recruiters and employers like specificity, memorability, and honesty—all of which come with hard numbers.
This can be the deadliest mistake of all, and for many long-term job seekers, it’s the hardest to resist. We can’t convince you to show restraint if you’d like to insert the word “very” in front of the word “qualified.” You’re the only person who can make that judgment. But if you managed a team of three, don’t claim that you managed a team of 25. And if you gained five new contracts for the company between 2011 and 2013, don’t claim that you gained 20 new contracts in a month.
Sure, employers probably won’t do extensive research to verify these statements. But they know a fishy claim when they see one. Don’t let little fibs like these knock you out of the running in the first round. (And of course, never lie about big things, like your education credentials or your employment dates.)
Remember: you may have applied for 50 jobs in the last three days. But the employers you’re reaching out to right now are (possibly) diving into a stack of resumes with fresh, bright-eyed enthusiasm. You may be numb and jaded about the job search process. But your readers may be experiencing it for the first time in years, or possibly the first time ever. They have a company to run, and they’re eager to hear what you might have to offer. So view the situation through their eyes, and stay open to optimism and possibility.
If your job search is like a long cross-country drive, then your resume is your car. If something isn’t working the way it should, visit LiveCareer for a full tune-up or a few resume tweaks that can get you back on the road to your destination.