So many people are looking for jobs these days, and many of us are lucky enough to be hiring. So why is it so hard to find the perfect matches?
I’m no longer a high school English teacher guiding students toward creating their first resumes and college applications. Still, as a hiring manager, I would love to be able to give some of the same advice. Unfortunately, the (potential!) brilliance of so many great candidates is obscured by minor errors and issues. While no single tiny issue should prevent the best candidate from being hired, the reality is that many hiring managers are looking more for reasons to exclude candidates than to include them.
Even if you’re not looking for a new role, your online profile might benefit from a refresh. Nobody’s kicking you out, but a solid profile looks good for both you and your employer. Don’t drop the ball on profile maintenance, and don’t let the side down — your professional contacts are very likely to check you out, too.
A few points to keep in mind to avoid profile embarassment
Notice that this isn’t organized a top-10 list, and it’s not presented as The Universal Truth. It’s completely accurate to say that hiring decisions — while hopefully as objective as possible — are as subject to quirks as the humans making the decisions.
Make the form functional
1. Spelling actually does count. There’s nothing worse than — well, maybe there is, but spelling errors spilled all over a resume or online profile are a bad sign. This post was inspired by a profile on which a candidate identified being responsible for HR work regarding “contract and direct higher positions”. Yes, along with spelling, choosing the right homophones counts, too (so there — not their, not they’re).
2. Don’t space out. That is, space out appropriately. While it’s important to get the right letters and words in place, the space between is pretty important, too. Extra spaces between words or sentences is just as bad as missing space, and either will distract from the most important stuff: the actual content about how great you are.
3. Format matters. You have plenty of control over how you format your resume, and even sites like LinkedIn allow you to make decisions about how you present yourself. Ensure your formatting choices are consistent throughout, and especially within sections. Italics, bold, underline, and other text features should be used consistently, not to mention font and font size. Are you using commas or semi-colons to separate items? Are you using colons or dashes — and if you’re using a dash, is it an em dash or an en dash? (Please don’t use a hyphen unless it’s inside of a multi-part word. Please.)
Goal with it
4. Dive in head first. On LinkedIn, for example, you have the chance to include a header/title that summarizes who you are or how you see yourself. If you’re currently in a role, it’s probably your title. If you’re searching, think carefully before exploding a long-winded summary into this space. You just need to include enough information here to get someone’s attention, not to share your whole life story. I can’t tell you that it’s a terrible idea to use this space to be clever — some employers might be really into that — but I can say that you should think carefully and look at lots of other examples before you summarize your earthly hopes and desires into five or six words writ large over all else.
5. Go with the goal. If you present your goal — in your profile title, summary, cover letter, or anywhere else — as something that doesn’t match at all with the position you’re applying for… what? Imagine that I’m hiring for a marketing writer and in your profile you identify yourself as “searching for the perfect product development role”. Why would I hire you for something you’re apparently not interested in?
6. Keep it current. To continue on with the idea of consistency, make sure the preferred locations and job types you’ve listed on your profile match — at least broadly — with the positions you’re hiring for. It’s okay to list multiple locations (Austin, TX; Portland, ME; Seattle, WA) and multiple job types (full-time, part-time, remote) as long as there’s an overlap. If you reach out to apply for a full-time job in the Washington, DC metro area and your profile says that you’re really looking for a part-time role in Manhattan, why should we hire you?
Do due diligence on details
7. Toot your own (specific) horn. When sharing details about your past roles, do exactly that: share details. What are you most proud of? What did you achieve? What were you responsible for? One of pet peeves is finding that a candidate has simply described an overall business rather than their actual responsibilities or accomplishments. If you were employed by SolarX for three years, you should probably be able to share more specifics than a boilerplate line about how “SolarX is a global leader in helping companies look on the bright side”, etc.
8. Prioritize and trim. Over time, you’ll have more to say about specific roles, and some past details will seem less important. On a resume, of course, cater to the role you’re applying for. On an online profile, review regularly and trim as needed. You’ll have new accomplishments to share, and others to tuck away. Keep in mind: You don’t need to include every single thing you’ve ever done here. You just need to interest someone eneough to start the conversation.
9. Check your impression. I won’t tell you that you must include a profile picture, nor will I say you absolutely shouldn’t. Personally, I would never judge a candidate by a picture or a lack of a picture, but you make your own decisions. Check your profile URL. Check the order in which your sections are presented — education first, or past experience? Are your roles ordered chronologically? I’ve seen candidates who have the same degree listed multiple times on the same profile. Details add up.
See? I told you it wasn’t a top-10 list.