Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Often I refer a résumé to a recruiter or hiring manager for review. In some cases I send the résumé as one of potential interest to that employer or recruiter, in other cases I submit a résumé for consideration relative to a specific position. While I am a player in a networking chain, I am not the decision maker for the organization. Sometimes the person with whom I interface is another layer of liaison between the job seeker and the final decision maker. So, he/she is also beholden to the process. In the case of an external recruiter, he/she is being paid by the hiring organization to source only those résumés which meet the specified requirements. Even the hiring manager who makes the official decision will ultimately be accountable to his/her boss, subject to a post-hire question of “what were you thinking?!” As mere liaisons, there is only so much that we can do. Sometimes I will get feedback from the other party on the résumé. Other times, I will not. Below are five recurring themes, beyond obvious formatting and typo snafus, which have come back to haunt the job seeker. Any one of them might be the reason for an applicant’s rejection as a serious candidate. Aspiring job seekers might want to take these to heart.

(1) Employment Instability: When someone has had five jobs in three years that will usually raise some questions, loosely paraphrased as “what’s up with that?” Even less frequent transitions than that might be perceived as “job hopping” and have a negative stigma. In a rare case, there might be some extenuating circumstances which came together to create that result. But, at face value, such a résumé is a tough sell.

(2) Degree: For better or worse, a hiring manager might insist on only seeing résumés of individuals who have Bachelor’s degrees from accredited institutions. Now, could someone whose degree is pending a year from now or someone without such an end in sight be able to perform the job in question adequately? Of course, but that’s not the point. In a job market in which hiring managers can be very selective, it is what it is. In some cases (e.g., Law), hiring managers are very selective, often asking for top GPA’s from top law schools. So, not all degrees are created equal, even among those which are technically accredited.

(3) Experience: A job description might stipulate having a certain quantity of experience (e.g., 5-7 years) or a specific type of experience (using QuickBooks to run financial reports). If the words “must have” appear before a specific skill or requirement, then that’s what the hiring manager is looking for and will communicate that to the one screening the résumés. It’s not about “potential” or “just get me in for an interview and then I will wow them.” Passing along such a résumé is essentially ignoring the hiring manager, and that’s not well received.

(4) Tools and Systems: A company might have a certain way of doing things. It might be a reporting system. It might be a software package. In general, larger companies use systems with a higher level of sophistication, either industry standard or proprietary. So, the person reviewing the résumé is seeking someone who has been-there-done-that. Could a savvy person be trained and get up to speed quickly? Yes, but that’s not the point. Companies today are for the most part not interested in investing time and resources on training when they can get someone who already has had it.

(5) But, isn’t that just an irrelevant piece of paper? Industry certifications mean that you have had training and taken a test of some sort. Often the hiring organization assumes a level of legal liability if they hire someone without certification. So, they won’t. It could be a license, bar admission, or C.P.A. certification. For government agencies and contractors where a security clearance (or eligibility for one, if stipulated) is a requirement, there are no ways around that. You cannot obtain a security clearance on your own. You must be hired by an organization that is willing to sponsor you in the process.

So, it’s is not about whether the person described by the résumé can do the job. It is not about potential, up-side, charisma, or anything else you bring to the table. In fact, I might like you, believe in you and might be willing to forward your résumé. But, it’s about being able to get through the front door, regardless of the referral source. The referring party has to be comfortable doing so. Therefore, in your job search, you might have to adjust expectations. This might mean “passing” on jobs for which you don’t have 10-out-of-10 or maybe 8-out-of-10 requirements. In a competitive job market, the rules have changed, and getting the benefit of the doubt is a scarce commodity.

Elly D. Lasson, Ph.D. leads a nonprofit organization called Joblink of Maryland which supports employment objectives of members of the Jewish community. He studied in Yeshivas Ner Yisrael (B.T.L.) and earned his B.A. in Psychology from UMBC; his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Organizational Psychology from Wayne State University.

By Elly D. Lasson, Ph.D.

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