Why Your Résumé Will Be Overlooked Even Though You're Completely Qualified

A strategic, high-impact résumé can help you earn a pay increase, assist you with articulating your value and give you immeasurable confidence and joy that comes from seeing how you’ve built your career and made an impact. I’m not a fan of résumé writing without speaking to individuals or writing résumés as a "hi and bye" service. In my opinion, a résumé is a tool needed for one’s career journey, so it’s useful to have a conversation about where you want to go with your tool. Perhaps, you want to change careers, get promoted or start working at a new company. If your document is strategically written with your career goals in mind, it can help you achieve your goals quicker, and you want your résumé to produce a return on investment. While I don’t believe a résumé is all you need in your journey to greater career success, it is a piece of the puzzle that can help set the foundation for a career change or career raise. Here are some problems that maybe present in your résumé and the tactics you can use to stop getting overlooked.

The content needs to convey high-impact.

Numbers aren’t just needed in sales, director and executive résumés. By asking insightful questions, you can elicit a wealth of information to quantify your accomplishments. Your numbers quantify how and what and they are a crucial part of your bargaining power helping you negotiate a higher salary. To help you get a feel for your impact regarding the numbers, think about where things were before and where they are now. Percentage increases, awards, regional performance rankings, direct reports and client or customer caseloads are all useful things to mention that can be quantified with a number. Employers are accountable for justifying their hiring decisions with facts – it’s harder to argue with numbers. Show how you've increased profits, cut costs, improved how resources are used and saved time. Time is money, too.

Your words give off the wrong connotations.

I know we have the applicant tracking system which is important to consider when you’re writing your résumé because large companies use it, but eventually, your résumé will be seen by a human. Leave a positive, emotional impression and don’t use phrases that are not appropriate for your role like ‘dealt with customers’ if you work in a customer facing position or handled complaints or transactions. The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, published in 1989, contains full entries for 171,476 words. We’ve got a lot of words to choose from when writing. There are industry-specific words, words that are powerful conveyors of your leadership skills and words that are important to specific employers because they align with their corporate culture.

The content structure lacks proper thought.

You may have the two aspects above down pat, but how you present and structure information is just as important.The top third of the first page of your résumé is crucial because first impressions count. Catch the reader’s eye by putting relevant content in the right place. You also want your sentences to be compelling and easy to read.

It’s missing your distinct value.

A job description is used to measure up what you have with what is wanted. Your value has to be distinct and memorable enough in the areas that matter to an employer to get an interview. When you have a well-written résumé, you are better prepared for an interview. I know you have a lot to offer and it’s so exciting to unpack and uncover it. Your distinct value is unpacked through a combination of proven career coaching skills (such as what I call ‘non-judgemental’ listening, strategic career planning and labor market information and application). Even if you know what sets you apart, it’s important to leverage your value and display it in the best way.

Ask yourself these three questions as a starting point to exploring your unique value?

  • What do you have that very few people you’ve met in your industry have? – Trust me you have something special because you are wonderfully unique.

  • What three words describe how you accomplished the biggest problem you solved in your current job? – These words help form the connotations that you want your résumé to exude.

  • What are your three biggest accomplishments in your current role? - Your résumé is about showing why an employer should invest in you.

A version of this article first appeared on my Forbes column.