Job Seeker No-No

A reader writes…

Dear, Anita,

I like to think I am a determined, ambitious, and outgoing person. I’ll practically do anything to get a job at this point (okay not “anything,” but you know what I mean). I have applied to online job listings and have even called to follow up (thinking I’ll stand out) – despite instructions not to do so.
Nothing seems to work. What am I doing wrong?

Dear, “Ambitious,”

I know you are eager to get the job and stand out, but if an online ad specifically says not to call directly… then don’t! By doing so, you are merely showing the potential employer that you do not know how to follow directions – probably not a good first impression!

Hiring managers and recruiters are likely being contacted by hundreds, maybe even thousands, of candidates, and they do not have the time or desire to speak with every single interested person.

The best thing to do when is applying (to help you stand out) is to:

  • Have a concise, professional cover letter that addresses your interest and explains how you can contribute to the position.
  • Tailor both the cover letter and your résumé to the actual position you’re applying for. Doing so shows that you’re paying attention to the unique requirements of THIS job and not just sending the same-old generic résumé you send to every job. Believe me, hiring managers notice!
  • Carefully check for typos.
  • Make sure your contact information is accurate.
  • Do your best to tailor your résumé for the specific position.

Good luck to you!


Lazy Lookers

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita,

I manage my company’s website and frequently receive webmaster emails with a résumé attached. No subject line. No explanation. Nothing. It drives me crazy. What would you say to people who are clearly just throwing their résumé at the wall to see what sticks? As a hiring manager, would you even consider these “candidates?”

“Dear, Webmaster,”

My answer to you is plain and simple. NO I would NOT consider these unsolicited candidates, and I would say to these people that they should stop being so lazy. (Job seekers… I hope you are paying attention!)

No company (that I’ve heard of) would welcome a random résumé that doesn’t include some sort of introduction, salutation, or cover letter explaining its purpose – or even the job of interest. The “spray and pray” technique (in which job seekers blast their résumé at any and every website in hopes of getting a call) has no chance in my book. As most of my readers would attest, the hunt for a job requires a lot of leg work, strategy, practice, and determination. While I realize people are desperately trying to get their name out there… I am not a big fan of this approach and would be surprised if any hiring manager actually took such résumés seriously.

Maybe I stand alone on this one.

Hiring Managers / Supervisors / Recruiters… how do you feel about receiving résumés on your website (sent to the generic “webmaster” email address) without a subject line or any explanation whatsoever?

Look forward to hearing from you!

Résumé Required?

A reader writes…

Is it necessary to bring a hard copy of my résumé to an interview?

Dear, “Above and Beyond,”

Now that résumés are so often submitted through online applications, posted on job boards, or emailed directly to potential employers… many job seekers have stopped bringing a hard copy with them (assuming it’s unnecessary).

Well, you know what they say about people who “assume…!”

The fact is, you absolutely SHOULD bring a copy.  Even better, bring a handful of copies – after all, you never know how many people may be meeting with you during the interview process, right?

It is the polite and professional thing to do.  Not all hiring managers are well prepared.  (Ok… there are a few out there who would not only have your résumé printed out – but they would have notes, questions, and comments hand-written in the margins!)  Not everyone is on the ball like that – though I can name a few people!

By handing over a résumé, you are simplifying the process and leaving behind a tangible piece of information that will sit front-and-center on the hiring manager’s desk. You probably won’t lose points for not bringing one, but you just may earn big points for being extra prepared and thorough!

Be sure to have it printed on nice, quality résumé paper – no flimsy typing sheets, nothing glossy or hot pink, and for heaven’s sake… no sprits of perfume or fragrance!

If you need any help with content or formatting, I highly recommend this professional résumé writing source.

Good Luck!

How education impacts your job

A reader writes…

Hello Anita,

I have a degree in Anthropology and a minor in Latin America Studies… how am I going to find a job with this background? Please help! 

Dear “Margaret Mead,” (only the Cultural Anthropologists out there will get this random reference!)

Interestingly enough, I too, have a degree in Anthropology and a minor in Spanish Literature.  Who knew I’d be working in the employment services industry for so long?!?  Sometimes it’s not WHAT your degree is in but the fact that you HAVE a degree that matters.   Unless you plan to get a Master’s or Ph.D. so you can become a professor, continue research, or work in a museum…. your specific area of study may not pertain to your future job.

It’s your education and the skills you’ve obtained in school (learning, writing, communicating, analyzing, etc.) that will play an important role in any career path.  If you’re just starting to build your résumé and lack actual work experience, you should definitely include internships or community services.  Focus on your contributions, the skills you had to apply, your level of involvement, tasks you had to manage, or people / projects you supervised.  These are attributes that will transfer to several types of positions and industries. 

Remember, you need to be realistic as you’re starting out in the working world.  Be open to entry-level (and often lower-paying) positions to get your foot in the door.  In time, as you learn new skills and become proficient in your particular trade, the possibilities for growth and advancement may be endless!

Good Luck!

Including volunteer work in your resume

A reader writes…

If I volunteer in the community, should I include that in my resume?

Dear “Volunteer,” 

Hands down, no question about it, you should DEFINITELY include volunteer work in your résumé. In fact, sometimes the skills, experience, and responsibilities associated with your work as a volunteer will be more relevant than that of your previous jobs.  Just because you were not paid to do something, does not make it any less relevant or credible.

For those of you who are just starting your job search and do not have an employment history, you will want to list your volunteer work under the category, “Work Experience.”  For others, you may want to include a separate section called, “Community Service” (or something similar). You should probably present your Community Service as secondary in importance to your Work Experience, in this case.

The key is to present the information in such a way that it documents and supports your career goal.  In other words, you want to feature the skills and experience (whether paid or unpaid) that make you unique – and that ultimately emphasize to employers why YOU should be selected for the position.

My friends at posted a detailed article on “How to Leverage Volunteer Work on Your Resume.”  It includes several pointers that I think you’ll find interesting and helpful!

Take a look:


Résumé Advice

A reader writes…

Is it a good idea (or a bad idea) to include an ‘Objective’ at the top of my résumé?

Dear, “Good or Bad,”

This is an excellent question that comes up all the time – To have (an objective)… Or not to have!

Let me tell you, objectives are a bad idea. They are a thing of the past and can actually decrease your chances of getting called for an interview.

Why, you ask?

An objective can either be so vague and generic that it doesn’t have a lot of meaning and basically takes up space on your résumé. On the other hand, it can be so specific that you become pigeonholed into a certain (and very limited) job category.

Plain and simple… I object to the objective. Instead, I propose another idea for the top of your résumé

 Consider a “Summary” or “Profile” statement that consists of a short overview (1-3 sentences) that describes your experience and key strengths. (Even though this will appear at the top, I suggest you write this part AFTER you have completed the rest of your résumé to ensure that it effectively sums up everything.)

Next, within your summary, carefully choose your words. Since keywords are used by hiring managers, recruiters, and in online résumé mining, your wording here is key…. pardon the pun! Here’s a tip, read the job description that’s being posted and incorporate some of the buzz words you see. Be honest, however. In no way am I suggesting that you put so much buzz in your summary that you get stung when you’re caught lying about your background. Keep it honest, but with a nice spin.

 When preparing your summary, imagine that you’re in an elevator and you’re asked what you do. Quick – the elevator doors are about to open! You need a clear and concise answer that highlights your strengths.

For more help with your résumé, the folks at Select Staffinghave a Résumé Writingservice that offers great insight and is sure to make you stand out in the crowd. Take a look!


Conflicts with Upper Management – How to address in an interview?

A reader writes…

I recently quit my job due to conflicts with my manager. 
It was not a pretty situation. 
How do I explain this in a job interview, without sounding like I can’t respect upper management?

Dear “Conflicted,”

I am so sorry you experienced this predicament.  Leaving a job on “bad terms” with your manager never feels good and can certainly make upcoming interviews a little awkward… to say the least.

The fact of the matter is some people just don’t mesh well.  People are different, personalities vary, and work styles don’t always jibe.  Heck… that’s what makes the world go ‘round, right?

Just because you conflicted with one person, does not necessarily mean you can’t, or won’t, work well with another – and it certainly is not a reflection of your skills, abilities, or accomplishments that are (hopefully) listed on your résumé.

Here are a few thoughts to consider when the inevitable question, “Why did you leave your last job?” comes up:

  1. Be open and honest (without sounding negative, resentful, or bitter). Explain that you were unable to progress in your current position due to differences of opinion with your direct supervisor.  You can elaborate on attempts you made to work together and be flexible… but that in the end, it just wasn’t a good fit.  From there, you can go on to say how much you think the company you are applying to is a perfect fit for you.  Do your research about the company and sprinkle in some details you learned…  ALWAYS impressive!
  2. Try to turn the negative situation into a positive one.  Okay, I know I may sound like a Pollyanna right now… but hear me out!  Conflicts with your manager taught you a lot about yourself.  What you can (or cannot) tolerate, Things YOU should probably change or improve about yourself, what types of work environments suit you best, etc.  From this experience, you now know what you want (or need) in a manager.  It’s the perfect segue for YOU to be the one asking questions during an interview.  You know, tap into the management style of your next potential boss!  You can simply address the question by stating that your working relationship with your previous manager was an “invaluable learning experience” but that you’re ready to make a change.
  3. You could refrain from explaining the specific situation about your manager and simply state that you were ready for a new challenge – That you had learned all that you could in your current position and felt ready to move on.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful and wish you the best of luck!

Hey readers!  Anyone else been in a similar predicament?  How did YOU handle explaining the situation in an interview?  Post your comments here!


How to Overcome “Overqualified”

A reader writes…

I am a 62 year old accountant former controller. I think it is time I dumb down my resume because I feel hiring managers think I am overqualified and/or will not stay when the economy improves.  What do you recommend?

Dear “Overqualified,”

Don’t you just cringe every time you’re told:

  1. You have too much experience
  2. Your previous position was much more senior-level
  3. You’re too highly paid
  4. Or (another “classic”) you have too much education?

Being coined as “overqualified” (which, by the way, is code for “not a good fit”) is a problem that many people encounter. In fact, sometimes you won’t even know this is what a potential employer is thinking… you’re just simply never called back!

Now, should you “dumb down” your résumé?
Heavens NO!

However, you should ensure that your résumé is tailored for the specific position you are going for.  I’ve written several posts that include résumé tips (take a look at this post I wrote earlier this month — “How to Tailor Your Résumé” 

There are ways to get around this issue without discounting your previous experience or qualifications.  Consider the following:

  1. Draw attention to your skills and accomplishments – NOT job titles
  2. Do not discuss salary. Make it clear from the beginning that your previous salary is not relevant to your current job search.
  3. Demonstrate loyalty. Let them know that you’re looking for a long-term career.  Point out your longevity with previous employers, if it’s relevant.  This may help overcome the fear that you’re going to jump ship the minute the economy changes or a “better offer” comes along.

Let’s do a little role playing, shall we?

The Interviewer: Thanks for your interest, but you seem overqualified for this position.
You: Can you please elaborate?  What are you specifically concerned about? (Find out why they’re making this assumption and nip it in the bud right away.)

The Interviewer: We think you’ll be bored on the job.
You: Before applying for this position, I seriously considered the job duties and responsibilities.  I actually think I would be a perfect fit.  Here’s why….

The Interviewer: You have held much higher positions, including management. Here you would be reporting to a direct supervisor and would have to handle a variety of projects and tasks.
You: That is EXACTLY what I’m looking for. You need a team player, someone who is ready to roll up his sleeves, take direction, and contribute to a common goal…  (Don’t get too carried away and overwhelm the hiring manager with your experience and qualifications – this can be particularly intimidating to younger hiring managers – remain confident and keep things in moderation.)

The key is to come to each interview prepared to address this concern. Be honest and upfront about what you’re looking for and why the particular position is of interest to you.  Remember, you may need to adjust your résumé (emphasizing skills, qualifications, ways you generated revenue, saved money, etc.) more than job titles.  You should be proud of your role as a Controller (for example), but seeing such a prestigious title in a résumé may prohibit you from being considered before you even have a chance to explain your situation in an interview.

Hey readers, have you been told you’re overqualified for a position?  How did YOU overcome that?
Look forward to hearing from you!


How to Tailor Your Résumé

A reader writes…

Dear Anita, what are some tips on tailoring a résumé for a specific position?

Dear “Tailor,”

Tailoring your résumé for a specific position is a great way to stand out in the crowd.  In fact, unless your résumé includes certain “keywords,” it may not even be picked up by recruiters’ automated keyword searches (such as online résumé mining).

I know people who have 3 or 4 different “versions” of their résumé – certain skills or experiences are simply featured in each (that are relevant to the new job they are seeking).

Here are 5 quick and easy tips for you to follow:

  1. Study the job description and pull out a few important keywords.  You basically want to “talk the talk!”
  2. Incorporate these keywords or phrases into the body of your résumé.  If you have a “Profile” or “Summary” toward the top… that’s an ideal place to sprinkle in a few.  Whatever you do, don’t OVERdo it!  You don’t want to appear as though you’ve copy / pasted the job description into your “Experience” section! I’ve seen it done….  and it wasn’t pretty.
  3. Downplay items in your résumé that do not seem applicable to the position.  You may even want to remove these items completely.
  4.  Proofread your résumé carefully.  Sometimes making changes can result in formatting errors, typos, or unwanted duplicates of information.
  5. Last, but not least, ask a family member or close fiend to review it before sending.  A fresh set of eyes is always a good thing!

For more help with your résumé, check out this Resume Writingservice that offers great insight and suggestions.

Another way to go is to create a functional resume that focuses more on your skills and experience than a chronological list of jobs and associated duties. This type of resume may fit more job openings. THEN, you can tailor your resume based on the job you’re applying to. For example, you can reiterate your understanding of the position based on the ad and how your specific skills match up.


Job Hunting Strategies

A reader writes…

Happy New Year, Anita!
I am graduating from college this spring. What are some good job hunting strategies? 

Dear “Go-Getter-Grad,”

Ahhh… look at you, all grown up!  It’s time to trade the backpack for a briefcase and the late-night parties for mid-day lunch meetings. 

Pounding the pavement as a new grad can be exciting, yet very frustrating.  Though competition is tough, jobs are out there… believe it or not! You just need to put on your thinking cap and follow these words of wisdom:

  • Stay active
    Continue to search for open positions that make sense for you and approach people or places of interest. Sitting around and waiting for job offers to come to you is just plain dumb.  This is the real world, kid…. employment will not be handed to you on a silver platter! 
  • Be confident
    Without actual work experience, I know this can be tough – especially during an interview.  Don’t fake your skills or abilities.  Emphasize what you’re passionate about (professionally speaking), your motivations, time management skills, etc.  Keeping up with the syllabus in college took persistence and initiative.  These are traits employers look for.  Remember, your first job out the gate may not be your “dream” role.  Try a few temporary positions to gain some exposure to the working world (… It’s time well spent (as opposed to watching YouTube all day!)   
  • Network
    Network as much as possible… all over the place! Social Media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Facebook are good places to be as you can speak to directors and professionals in the relevant areas of your career. Some staffing firms, like my buddies at Select Staffing even post open jobs on their company profile pages.  Who knows, it could be your gateway to a new career!
  • Watch your attitude
    Stay positive, professional, and realistic.  I crack up at these grads expecting to land 100K salaries in entry-level positions.  Keep it real folks!  You need to show enthusiasm for a position while staying polished and focused.
  • Practice makes perfect
    Do a little research on frequently asked interview questions (I’ve addressed several on my blog for your reference) and rehearse your answers.  Practice with your friends!
  •  Brush up on your own knowledge
    Stay up-to-date on news. And research companies, industries, the job market (in general). You never know what type of interview questions may be thrown at you! Be prepared to talk about recent books or business / trade magazines you’ve read. Even refresh your memory on college curriculum you completed. 

You have a wealth of knowledge, a lot to contribute, and a whole life ahead!  Good luck with your career search, grad!

Have a wonderful New Year!

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
%d bloggers like this: