There’s a first time for everything. Today, for the first time, I had to send rejection letters to job applicants. It felt awkward. But it was necessary. Still feeling not-at-ease with this management task I am writing this post with the hope of saving a few future applicants the disappointment. I really feel I should explain to those who receive rejection letters some of their repeating mistakes.

Read the Ad

Before applying – read the job advertisement thoroughly. Even if it seems long. Even if you’re sure you got the gist by skimming through the first paragraph. Read every word, and read some of it twice. Make sure you have indeed what the company advertized for. It’s not pleasant to get a rejection letter. Believe me, it’s not pleasant to send one. But if you don’t have what the company is looking for then you are in for another disappointment. Please, don’t apply if you don’t posses at least some of the experience and qualifications stated in the ad.

Make Adjustments
Sometimes your standard resume and cover letter don’t fit the requirements of the job advertized. But you still think this job is interesting, desirable, will lead somewhere and yes, you can do it. Try emphasizing the most relevant paragraphs on your resume and de-emphasizing the irrelevant ones. Rephrase if needed. Look at the list of requirements as if those are questions in a quiz and your resume should have the answers. If I am looking for knowledge in parenting and babies and you are closer to being a baby than being a parent, why not mention your relatives’ kids, friends’ toddlers and even your babysitting experience? Show your interest in the topic. Show why this is relevant to you. How you answer this demand.

Look at How You Look
When a company is interested in hiring a social networks animal, they are bound to search for you online. It’s best to control your online presence. Make sure your social networks profiles have the same email you have provided with your resume. If you don’t have any profile on any social network, maybe now is a good time to create a few profiles. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are the first that come to mind, in that order.
Whether you have an old profile or you are creating a new one, ask friends, colleagues or classmates what is the impression they are getting from your profile and from your avatar. You may have the resume of a gifted academic and promising professional, but if your profile picture shows a 16 year old – and just to remind you, I was looking for an expert on parenting, then perhaps this is not the correct image. Try to use neutral avatars. Even taking your 16-year-old looking avatar and doing a sketch filter on it might produce a better looking result for potential employers.

Edit and Presentation
How your resume is presented and edited is really important. I find too many resumes confusing, messy, unclear. The best advice I could give you is to download a resume template or use a resume wizard. But really, the simple truth is you need to keep it as simple as possible. Here are the main guidelines for fixing your resume:

  • Part one is work experience: Going backwards state dates clearly; job title – short and to the point; employer’s name (best linked to company’s web site) and a short description of duties.
  • Part two is education, again, going backwards. Start with the latest learning period, going backwards, if relevant – until your high school. For each education achievement make a clear title including the target (bachelor/master/doctorat/certificatediploma etc.) and the topic (marketing, computers, medicine, programming, graphic design etc.) For each one also write the name of the educational institute (preferably linked to its web site).
  • If you have obtained diplomas and certificates – this is the place to list them.
  • Note that education can come first and work experience later, depends on where your strongest emphasis lies and the relevancy to the job.
  • Part three and four are languages and extras. Under extras you can add some information about you that isn’t included in the standard work or education parts. For instance, animal activist, loves cooking, gardening enthusiast, marathon runner etc. This may offer the potential employer an extra look into the person behind the CV.
  • More information: sometimes a fifth part of the resume is added for additional information such as links to samples of work – especially in graphic design and writing. Do not provide a long list of links as work samples just because you worked with this company for a short project (remember, links to employers sites are introduced in the work experience part, when you list the employer’s name). Links are relevant as work samples if you can claim to have produced their content, design, programming or other aspects of this site’s production, and only when you are sure you can produce a reference who will talk highly about it. Another type of information to include in the fifth part (or sixth) is proficiency in tools, software or other relevant work skills not mentioned before.

Last, but not least: I strongly recommend putting a version of your resume on LinkedIn and keeping it up to date. The only problem there is when you are making extreme adjustments for different types of jobs. Possible solution is to minimize the online information and not include detailed duties per job.

So, with the hope of getting some better fitting resumes, I would like to refer you to one of our job ads: Wanted – a community management intern.

If you have more tips and suggestions – don’t hesitate to include them below.