If candidates aren't getting interviews, it is common for them to assume there is something wrong with their resume. Having worked with many clients who seek out a resume appraisal with me, this is a common belief that is not always accurate.
Sometimes we aren't putting our best foot forward in a resume, but other times, it's not the resume that is actually at fault.
It's a hard truth to bear, but sometimes, the issue is with our work history or experience. In order to assess the reasons for not attaining interviews, we need to be willing to take off the blinkers and take a good, hard, objective view of our applications and consider what we would think of such an applicant if we were the hirer.
Self-awareness is a critical tool for self-evaluation of application strategy: we need to be just as familiar with our faults as we are with our strengths. This can be a confronting experience, to say the least.
Have you had lots of jobs, never staying for longer than a year or two in a role? Perhaps you don't have any professional referees to include? Perhaps your career history is disjointed and disconnected with lots of seemingly random jobs without clear connection? Maybe you have unexplained career gaps?
All of these issues can lead to problems getting to interview.
An accident of circumstance may have landed you in this position. However, as they say, the first step to solving the problem is admitting there is one.
The labour market is a highly competitive place, and in order to compete with the top calibre candidates you are up against, you might need to take a good, hard look at your career history and find a way to connect the dots.
This doesn't mean lying on your resume, obviously. Lying on your resume is never an option - you will always be found out and the consequences for such an action can be disastrous, including being fired on the spot right up to prosecution and jail time. Yep. Jail time.
So, what do you do when your career history doesn't paint the best picture of you?
None of us is perfect. We have all made mistakes and we've all made bad decisions. You aren't alone in knowing that perhaps you could have handled your career progression a little differently. For many of us, it isn't even our fault: an accident of circumstance may have landed you in this position.
However, as they say, the first step to solving the problem is admitting there is one.
There are different types of resumes for different situations. Chronological resumes are best suited to candidates with clear career progression along a path that has led seamlessly from one role to the next. An educational resume heroes qualifications and work placements or internships prior to looking at career chronology to ensure that the most attention is given to the most relevant experience and knowledge that the candidate has.
Then there are skills-based resumes. This type of document is used to demonstrate transferability of skills and highlights relevant experience, skills and knowledge attained over the course of your entire education and career experience, bringing the most relevant jobs you have undertaken to the fore.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the advice for how to handle this situation is conflicting. Some careers professionals insist on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth with regards to resumes. Others will advocate for leaving off irrelevant, short-term or temp positions and drop the months off your history to enable the career summary to flow.
Everyone has different expectations and opinions regarding what makes a good resume, which makes your job all the harder (sorry about that).
The best advice I can give you is to recognise your strengths, work on your weaknesses and highlight the value that you offer in an opening profile statement that knock their socks off.
Explain your career gaps succinctly and include volunteer work - skills attained without pay are just as valuable.
While the age of 30-year careers with one company is essentially over, loyalty, integrity and commitment are still valued. So, find a way to demonstrate these values in your document. And where possible, have a couple of referees from paid or community work who are willing to sing your praises - that can never hurt.
Zoë Wundenberg is a careers writer and coach at impressability.com.au