3 Key Reasons Why Your Resume Isn’t Working

There may be dozens of possible reasons why your resume hasn’t landed your dream job and changed your life…just yet. But only a handful of these reasons fall under your control. And some of these reasons are more controllable then others. Before you exhaust and frustrate yourself by trying to tackle intangible issues that you really can’t do very much about, try taking on these three.

1. It looks just like everyone else’s.

You’ve worked pretty hard to make sure your tone, language, and list of credentials toe the exact line these employers are looking for. The post said they needed an “enthusiastic go-getter,” so you’ve bent over backward trying to sound like an enthusiastic go-getter. The post said they were looking for a detailed-oriented clinician with five years of blood work experience. So you’ve worked hard to shine a spotlight on your detail-orientation and clinical experience, as requested.

But here’s the problem: Fifty other go-getting candidates are following the very same path. So the harder you work to fit the bill, the more you fit the bill, and the more you resemble the as-ordered, cookie-cutter model of the ideal employee.

So how can you break out of this pattern? Do two things: 1.) Change your tone. Everyone is a “go-getter,” and this term means nothing. So let it go and sound like yourself instead. 2.) List experiences and skill sets that haven’t been requested. If you speak French, have a dual background in finance, or kite surf competitively on the weekends, include this.

2. It’s confusing.

Language has meaning and power. Don’t just throw words onto a page and assume that your reader will meet you halfway and somehow extract your true meaning from a jumble of weak verbs and non-parallel bullet points. If you have a slightly confusing subheading or awkward phrase in your resume, don’t ignore the problem with a thought like: “Well, it’s okay. The reader will know what I meant. She’s smart. She’ll figure it out.” She might. Or she might glaze over and move onto the next resume in the stack.

3. It’s irrelevant.

You have a track record of personal and professional experience that nobody else in the world can claim. Your skills overlap in unique ways, and every detail you present to your reader can help you stand out in the marketplace. But if your employers need an expert on 18th century clothing styles among elderly women in middle-class Ireland, that’s what they need. If you don’t have this precise background—and your area of expertise covers the same clothing styles in Scotland, not Ireland—you’ll have to find a way to bridge this gap. Use your sales instincts and do everything you can to frame this difference as an asset, not a deficit. 

Get Help from the Resume Experts

As you address each of these critical areas, visit LiveCareer for help. The site offers templates, resume building tools and experienced guidance for every step of your resume and cover letter editing process. 

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