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4 Reasons Your Résumé is Thrown in the Trash (And How to Pull It Out)

Ben Weiss

Before the stresses of interviewing begins, job candidates must first endure something arguably more insidious ... the application process.

Unfortunately. applying often turns out to be nothing more than busy work. And while enduring the frustration is sometimes necessary to eventually get promising employment leads, it still sucks to spend hours designing a résumé, crafting a cover letter and answering supplementary questions without getting closure.

In response, let's look at a few major reasons candidates are getting their applications tossed so you can avoid those potholes, get more interviews and start working on your career instead of more applications.

1. Requirements and experience are poorly aligned. The most obvious reason you're not getting responses is that there isn't enough intersection between what you've done and what they need. That doesn't mean these are jobs you're incapable of doing, but when hiring managers don't see 70 to 80 percent of your experience aligning with their requirements, you might appear to need too much ramp up before you can complete the necessary duties.

--How to avoid this pothole. While there are ways to explain how your experience would translate to success in a role you haven't specifically held before, you may want to diversify by applying for more roles in which you could objectively hit the ground running. Depending on how urgent your search is, deploy the same strategy as when applying to college and choose jobs you could be trained for and safety jobs you could slide into easily.

2. Lazy spell checking. Even if the rest of the content is sound, hiring managers who see grammatical or formatting errors will likely wonder how you could be trusted to handle larger projects if you couldn't create a few clean documents. "Your application is a reflection on you, your attention to detail, and how strongly you feel about a job opening," says Jennifer Loftus, national director of human resources consulting firm Astron Solutions and former president of New York City's Society of Human Resources Management chapter. "Sending materials with typos is a sure way to say to a recruiter you do not care about the organization or the job."

--How to avoid this pothole. Proofread and spell check your application materials several times before sending. Read them out loud to catch errors you miss when reading. Ask a friend or relative to read them as well. A fresh set of eyes may discover something you missed.

3. No specific tailoring. In a 2012 interview with Infusive Solutions, Peter Cappelli - a Wharton School of Business professor and the author of "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs" - explains how hiring requirements have shifted from hire for attitude and train for skill to in most cases considering only candidates who can contribute immediately. So if your application materials don't clearly show interest and ability in completing the necessary requirements quickly, you may appear too risky to consider.

Take a résumé's objective statement, for example. If you're a financial hiring manager who needs a senior Web programmer to start developing trading systems right away, you probably wouldn't be interested in candidates whose objective includes business analysis in media.

How you address supplementary questions matters as well. For example, health and fitness startup Greatist asks editorial candidates to submit thoughts on how Reddit is impacting the health space, which according to Greatist's editorial director Zachary Sniderman, is meant to test for a specific skill - in this case aptitude with social media.

"If a talented candidate was able to show us those skills in another way, then fair play, but it's rolling the dice a bit if you're trying to second guess what the company is looking for," Sniderman says. "The best advice is cross off all your boxes - if an employer wants three things, give them three things - but don't shy away from injecting yourself into the question."

With that in mind, remember that the style and spirit of your responses to supplementary questions can be helpful points of difference while ignoring or re imagining these application components can diminish your chances of a call back.

--How to avoid this pothole. Customize. While no doubt time consuming, it's wise to tailor application materials in a way that presents you as ideally qualified. Consequently, try to express your interest with the most creativity possible within the confines of the hiring firm's process.

4. Your potential impact isn't clear. When hiring managers evaluate your application, you want them to be thinking "if he or she were to replicate those same accomplishments with us, we'd be in great shape."

Therefore, describing your experience only with descriptors like "creative," "passionate" and "innovative" may not be enough to distinguish your candidacy from those who illustrated value add in measurable business terms.

--How to avoid this pothole. Use examples to back up your claims. If its a sales role, explain how you're not only assertive and hard working, but how you led your region in closings last year. And rather than just stating you're creative, explain how an integrated marketing campaign you developed tripled website traffic in three months and generated five times as many conversations year over year.

Bottom line: Pulling your application from the trash pile is hard and you may fail dozens of times before getting one to hit. Embracing such, remember few things in life worth having are attained easily and that with a little bit of customization and a lot of willpower, getting noticed is a surmountable task.

Ben Weiss is the digital marketing strategist for Infusive Solutions - an NYC-based IT staffing firm in the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in the placement of .NET, SharePoint and SQL Server developers as well as Windows Systems Engineers, DBAs and help desk support professionals in verticals such as legal, finance, fashion and media. Connect with him on Twitter: @InfusiveInc or at Facebook.com/InfusiveInc.

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