9 Tips to Help Overcome the Challenging Resume

Common Resume ChallengesEvery job seeker has some kind of past issue, no exceptions. Sometimes called “elephants in the room,” hiring professionals know where to look; they know how to uncover the truth.

This is how they can eliminate a candidate in seconds. And this is why even “perfect” resumes sometimes don’t result in a job interview.

Some of these issues are obvious, while others are somewhat hidden. Here are some examples as well as how to explain the situation so it becomes a non-issue in the eyes of the hiring decision-maker:

The Job Hopper

Issue: Frequent (and consistent) change of employment throughout the resume, with no obvious progression in career.

Tip: Don’t wait to be asked; proactively include specific information that explains the situation.

Example: “Reason for leaving: Company sold in 2002.”

Mind the Gap

Issue: Longish gaps in your employment history that show it may have taken some time to find your next job.

Tip: You were doing something, regardless of whether you were paid for your effort. What was that?

Examples: “Elder care during a parent’s illness.” and “Spending time as a stay-at-home dad for my young children.”

Some College… No Degree

Issue: Unfinished education when the job requirements specify a minimum of a 4-year degree.

Tip: Explain exactly why you didn’t finish your degree – and explain why your experience makes that a non-issue

Example: “I left school to work in the family business when my father became ill. The experience there made me a great fit for this position because…”

Over or Under-Qualified

Issue: You may be perceived as over-qualified or under-qualified – both, in the eyes of a recruiter, mean you don’t receive an invitation for a job interview

Tip: In your cover letter and personal branding, point to specific, quantified examples of your work and your willingness to mentor and/or self-learn.

Example: “My passion for mentoring more junior members of the team brings me great satisfaction” or “I am a voracious self-learner; Khan Academy shudders whenever I log in.”

Too Young

Issue: You are perceived as too young to fit into the existing culture of the company.

Tip: Tackle this bias head-on by discussing your accomplishments, willingness to reverse mentor, etc.

Example: “My skills with social media created a new channel at ABC Company. In addition, I was able to reverse-mentor the founder of the company, who is now considered a leading ‘Social CEO’.”

Missing “Must-Have” Requirements

Issue: Your work experience shows a lack of critical “must-have” requirements.

Tip: Clearly indicate comparable experience or qualification; articulate your plan for acquiring missing skills.

Example: “My track record for building relationships and my support of sales operations makes me the perfect candidate for this sales role. I am also currently completing a Dale Carnegie course in…”

No Specific Industry Experience

Issue: A lack of industry experience, especially in certain sales, business development or marketing roles, can be a candidate killer; companies don’t have time to train you on medical supplies, software applications, etc.

Tip: Comparable experience should be noted. Provide succinct verbiage to explain the association with the hiring industry.

Example: “During my time at ABC Company, we worked extensively with XYZ Medical, where I became familiar with…”

Cultural Challenges

Issue: Even in our global economy, a surname alone – as wrong as it is – might indicate the candidate does not speak English well, or that their accent will be difficult for colleagues or customers to manage.

Tip: Your communication skills will quickly put this fear to rest.

Example: “I attended college in Huntsville, Texas and quickly became integrated into the local environment; my friends now call me an honorary ‘Texan’.”

Digital Dirt

Issue: Inconsistent messages between your stated brand and your online image.

Tip: Clean it up! Also, begin sharing industry or company relevant content that show you are a mature professional ready to take on your next challenge.

Examples: “I love this post by Seth Godin… it says exactly how I feel about the importance of building real relationships from social roots…”

Yes, these issues can be career killers. However, when you manage the issue to the hiring professional’s satisfaction, they become a non-issue. Next step: job interview!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Forward Motion Careers!


Forward Motion Careers


Marcia LaReau AuthorAbout the Author: Marcia LaReau, Ph.D. is President of Forward Motion. The founding mission: help students transition from college to career! With the impact of the Great Recession, services were extended to all jobseekers. Forward Motion teaches career management so jobseekers can successfully navigate the new rules of the hiring industry to find jobs that fit. A former college professor, Fortune 500 HR Specialist, and entrepreneur, Marcia LaReau is the creator of the Forward Motion Differentiation Workshop.



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