1. Your Resume Is Boring
You’ve heard this a million times before, but it’s true. If you’re going after a top company—think: Google, which receives over 2 million job applications
per year—you’re entering some pretty stiff competition. Your resume has got
to stand out.
But this doesn’t mean adding tons of swirly fonts or using neon green paper.
One simple tweak that makes a huge difference is changing responsibility-focused descriptions (“Responsible for rewriting the text on the breakfast
menu”) to quantifiable, achievement-focused descriptions (“Revamped
breakfast menu, increased sales by 80%). Boom. Your resume: now 80%
2. Your Cover Letter’s Too General
If you’ve got one cover letter template that you are blasting out to dozens of potential employers—and the only phrasing you’re changing is the name that
follows the word “Dear”—that’s a problem. The person reading your cover
letter will be able to tell that this is a “generic” letter without much heart and soul.
Instead, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and actually customize each
letter. That means spelling out why you’re qualified for this specific position,
as well as why you’re excited to work for this specific company. (Here’s some good advice to follow.)
3. You’ve Been Contacting the Wrong Person
This is such a rookie mistake, but it’s more common than you might think. Triple-check to make sure you’ve been emailing your resume and cover
letter to the appropriate person. If you’re not sure who that person is, you
have two options.
Option one: Go to LinkedIn and search for the person most likely to be the position’s hiring manager. That could be someone in the department you’re applying to, or the company’s talent recruiter. Or, option two: Contact
someone in the HR department and ask who you should be submitting your materials to. It’s as easy as sending a LinkedIn message that says:
“I’m applying to the Marketing Manager position and really excited about
the opportunity. I wanted to double check that I’m sending my materials to
the right place. Can you let me know the best email for the hiring manager? Thank you for your time.”
4. You Didn’t Tell a Good Story
The number one way to captivate someone’s attention is to tell an intriguing story. This isn’t hokey, old-timey wisdom. It’s science! The human mind is
wired to remember details from stories much more vividly than dry, boring
Try to weave one consistent “story” into your resume, cover letter, portfolio, professional website, social media profiles, or whatever your potential
employer uses to scope candidates out.
For example, here’s a hypothetical example from a career-changer’s
“Former middle school teacher turned marketing specialist. Ask me about
how to grip your audience’s attention, even if they’re highly distracted and raging with hormones.”
That’s not only attention-grabbing, but it’s also informative.
5. You Ramble Like Crazy
In a crowded job-hunting space where employers are skimming hundreds of applications, being overly wordy is just not going to fly. No one has time to figure out what you’re trying to say—so you need to spell it out. Force
yourself to trim your cover letter and resume down to one page.
Remember: You can cut out anything that’s irrelevant to this specific
6. You’re Underqualified
If you use phrases like, “This job would be a huge, tremendous honor for me” or “While I may not have the required experience,” it makes you seem like a
newbie without many skills to offer. Switch to a more neutral tone, while
still retaining your positivity and enthusiasm. For example, “I’m excited to apply...” is a better way to show you’re pumped about this position.
7. You’re Overqualified
Getting in front of a hiring manager when you’re clearly overqualified for the
job requires some finesse. Whether you’ve been a perpetual intern, a lay-off casualty, or a career changer, the most important thing is to confront the
issue head on. Lay the foundation in your cover letter, articulating the
reasons for your career switch or why you’re willing to take a job that
appears beneath you.
Remain positive and excited about your situation, while making sure to
highlight all the ways your experience will benefit the company. Last, but
not least, be sure to emphasize why you want to work at this particular
company. Remember that the last thing a hiring manager wants to feel is
that this is a temporary gig for you and that you’ll jump ship at the first opportunity.
8. You Sound Desperate
It’s been proven by science: Your brain is wired to crave things that you can’t have. Annoying but true! That’s why if you seem in high demand—or if you already have a great job—employers often seem more eager to hire you.
When you sound desperate? Not so much.
Even if you’re feeling a bit desperate, do your best to convey a firm,
confident tone. (This cover letter-writing mind trick can help you to tap
into that confident place, even if it seems like a big stretch.)
Good luck out there and try to stay positive. It may seem like an unbelievable
amount of effort just to land a good job—and sometimes, it is—but at the end
of the day, nothing compares to the joy of having a job that you really,
genuinely love. Big effort to get there? Sometimes. Totally worth it? Always.