5 Helpful Resume and Job Search Tips from a Headhunter

5 Helpful Resume and Job Search Tips from a Headhunter

Job searching, knowing where to search for jobs online, or finding the best resume advice, can be a confusing and daunting task. Especially, if you haven't done it for a long time.  You’re changing industries and functions, or are getting to a point where your options are limited.

A lot of people ask me to look at their resume to help them understand why they aren't getting callbacks. They ask me to talk with them and figure out why interviews aren't panning out. A poorly written resume speaks for itself, as does an unpolished interview style.

However, many people I speak with have a great demeanor and a great resume. So, why are they (at best) getting very little interview traffic and no offers? Overwhelmingly it’s because they're either over or under applying.

1. Be honest with yourself about your career trajectory

Some candidates feel like they’re underemployed and that they should be in a bigger role, which in and of itself isn’t the problem. Sometimes that feeling is right, they are ready for the next step. The problem is when someone applies for a role much, much bigger than what their experience can justify.

When you over-apply you’re making bold assumptions about your career trajectory and ultimate worth to a client. Many people think, for example, that a Director role is what they must have despite not having the strategic and leadership background to support it. They strictly apply to Director level roles and get frustrated when they get no response.

Now, I have no issue with you making bold career assumptions, but they must be grounded in reality. You need to be able to strongly show why the company should take a risk on you.

2. Do not misinterpret the lateral title moves

Even lateral title moves are often misunderstood. A Director of HR with a 500 person family-owned retail business isn’t the same level as a Director of HR running a $500M division of a Fortune 500 manufacturer. Same job title, yet drastically different duties.

The flip side of this issue is when a candidate thinks that since they have so much experience, applying to a lower level role would make them a shoo-in. I often see this with people making career changes and/or industry moves.

Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager:

  1. You get a resume from someone asking you to hire them for a position level they’ve already surpassed.
  2. “Why?” you ask yourself.  Is the candidate not confident in themselves and their potential?
  3. Are they only looking for lower level roles so they can cruise a little instead of putting in the work in a harder, more strategic role?
  4. Maybe they are only looking at this role as a bridge to something better?

Now, I’m by no means agreeing with the average hiring manager here. I write these typical responses because I’ve literally heard them 1000 times from my clients who all happen to be senior HR and Talent Acquisition leaders.

3. Consider a lower-level job with a tailored resume

Can you apply and get a lower level job? Yes. Is it a decent method for transitioning fields/functions/industries? Yes. But your resume must be specifically tailored for this (that’s another article altogether) which most people do not. Instead, they highlight too much experience thinking that by overdoing it they’ll for sure get hired.

Regardless of level, the best way to look at your resume and give interview answers is to assume that every other applicant has the exact same experience as you; same jobs at the same companies etc.

If that’s truly the case, how do you set yourself apart?

4. Mention quantifiable achievements

Quantifiable achievements, or the unique things that you did while in each of those roles.

Example: Saved the company $1M by decreasing turnover by 35% within my first 6 months at the plant. A bullet like that shows results. It shows that you didn’t just maintain the status quo, but worked to improve your situation.

5. Perform a self-evaluation

You must take the time to self-evaluate and truly understand what you offer professionally (not your potential, but what you can justify today), and how that fits into the current job market.

Titles and scopes are vastly different from one company to another. Being a Manager today doesn't guarantee you that same title at another company. Focus on the duties and the scope when you read a posting.

Make sure you understand how the size of your current role/company compare to the one you’re trying to move into. Have you done most if not all of the duties listed under the “preferred qualifications” heading in the posting? And most importantly, can you give very specific examples?

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