Sure, we all get rejected, make mistakes, and just mess up occasionally. But if you've been striking out on a regular basis when it comes to accomplishing your job search goals, it may be time to rethink your strategy. If you're wondering why nobody is calling you back, read on for answers:
Mistake #1: You confused them.
Let's imagine a typical job-search scenario: You've read about an interesting job online, so you whip up a cover letter, dash off your resume, and you wait by the phone (or computer) for some kind of acknowledgement or reply from a recruiter about what's to come. Unfortunately, the phone doesn't ring and you're left wondering what you did wrong.
Consider this possibility: You were confusing. Maybe you applied for a sales position, but you also mentioned that ''you'd be open to a position in marketing or finance'' in your cover letter. Or perhaps you have job experience in everything from teaching English to baking pastries – and it's all on your resume.
The solution? Clarity.
When you give too much information about you, your professional history, your future career goals, or anything else for that matter, you run the risk of confusing people. As much as we'd like to think people read what we write (she writes, hopefully) and listen to what we say, chances are, they aren't. People are busy, time is limited, and recruiters are inundated with phone calls and emails all the time. Your job is to be direct, clear, and get to the point – fast.
Before you send out a resume or pick up the phone, ask yourself this question: ''Above everything else, what is the one thing I want the reader of this email/resume/cover letter to know about me?'' Think about how you can edit – or even remove – everything on paper that doesn't fit your ‘one thing' requirement. For instance, if you're dying for a position in investment banking, do you really need five bullet points on your resume about your work as an English teacher? The more information you throw at somebody, the less likely it will be read and really remembered.
Mistake #2: You bored them.
Have you seen the movie, ''Jerry Maguire''? If you have, you'll remember a scene where Tom Cruise is professing his love to actress Renee Zellweger. As he begins to share his feelings, she stops him and says, ''You had me at hello.''
When it comes to writing a resume or handling yourself during an interview, you've got to ‘have them at hello.' Think about what we said earlier: Busy professionals – including recruiters and hiring managers – are inundated with emails, resumes, and other materials on a daily basis. The result? Long emails, boring letters, and unprofessional resumes get discarded, deleted, and ignored.
The solution: Meaningful information that matters to the reader. If you want your resume and cover letter to stand out above the noise and competition, your written materials must be concise, clear, and deliver meaningful messages that grab the reader. Leave out the clichés like, ''I'm a team player,'' ''I think outside the box,'' or ''I'm a hard worker.'' Even if these things are true about you, everybody writes this stuff, and these kinds of descriptors are just too broad and sweeping to really deliver any meaning, anyway. Plus, do you really believe it when someone else tells you that they are a ‘hard worker'? If you're like most people, you'll believe it when you see it.
Recruiters are the same way. If you really are a hard worker and you want to say so, then you also need to prove it. Don't write it unless you're also prepared to offer a clear, concise example about a time when you really put the pedal to the metal. In fact, whenever you write anything about yourself, always be ready to offer up a story, an example, or some other evidence that truly demonstrates you are who you say you are.
About the Author
Elizabeth Freedman, MBA, is an award-winning speaker and business columnist and is the author of Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself and The MBA Student's Job-Seeking Bible. She was a 2005 finalist for College Speaker of the Year, an honor awarded by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities, and runs a Boston-based communications and career development firm that helps new professionals look sharp, sound smart, and succeed on the job. Clients include The Gillette Company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and The Thomson Corporation. For more information about the author, please visit www.elizabethfreedman.com.