Are you looking for a new job but giving the wrong impression?

Did you know that your résumé may be telling your prospective employers more about you than you truly want them to know?

I recently had a client come to me when they were looking for a new job following the termination of their longstanding role with their former employer.  The company was cutting back and despite good performance on the part of my client, he was a casualty of the process.

My client, Jim*, wanted to know why he was not getting the interviews he should have been getting for positions that were within the realm of his experience, so we sat down together and looked through his résumé.

Now, there are many companies out there that offer to check the quality of your résumé and Jim had used one of them. I was not surprised - though I was still disappointed - that the polished summary of his experience was pretty lacking. He had failed not only to really articulate what he had been doing at work for the last ten years of his life and the value he could bring, but he had also used language that indicated that he was a reluctant participant in the job seeking game.

Moreover, Jim's résumé was littered with statements that both detracted from his experience and signalled to the reader that what he was saying he wanted and what he was applying for were not in sync with each other.  Of all of the issues, the latter was the most pressing to me because readers take so little time to go through each applicant's information and, because of that, they'll be looking for key points that either work for them, or don't. 

I have been involved in recruiting for nearly all of my career - for the most part in professional services - and have seen more résumés and CVs than I know what to do with. A lot of professional recruiters know within a few minutes whether a candidate's application is right - or not. Now, a lot of this happens at the conscious level, though much of their decision may well be based on the feeling they get from their unconscious while they review the presented information, sometimes known as a "gut" feeling. So, if there are inconsistencies in the application (be it, résumé, CV or covering letter), these will cause the applicant to fail to get through the screening stage and onto the next stage.

Leaving aside a few of the more easily corrected issues with Jim's document (such as a typo, insufficient action verbs and a lack of results that showed his true value), Jim's résumé spoke of his ability to do the job but not of some of the core capabilities necessary for him to be successful in the role. He came across as an introvert when the role, which was heavily sales-based, needed someone who at least could act like an extrovert. Jim had also opened up his résumé to appeal to both a contract (1099) and full time (W2) position and although it's great for Jim to be open to both, a company seeking to recruit a person on the basis of one type of employment is unlikely to be enthusiastic about employing them on the alternative basis, and even if they are, it comes across as inauthentic during that initial read through and that's what causes the doubt to build and the applicant to be rejected.

Let's be clear here; the purpose of an application is to open doors and not sow seeds of doubt with the employer, especially when there may be another hundred applicants for that same job.  

After a thorough review and dialogue to get to the value that Jim could offer a prospective employer, Jim's résumé updates got him not just one offer of employment, but two!

In Jim's case, he was given a push to go out and look for another role, but many people choose to do this while still working for their current employer. Regardless of whether you are currently employed or not, it makes sense to get professional help in reviewing the structure, approach and language of your résumé such that it sets you up for success. And for maximum effect, this help needs to go beyond the conscious use of language. Remember, all of the effort you put into submitting applications is wasted if the very first thing people see when you apply makes them move on to the next candidate.

It's also worth recognizing that there's more to your life than simply the work you do. Perhaps, if you're thinking of looking for a new role, you might start by taking a broader look at your life, what motivates you and how you can do a job that you love, rather than just jumping in and doing the same things you've been doing for years. I help people change the course of their careers and lives all of the time, so think about what a fresh perspective and some world class coaching could do for you. And who knows, maybe you'll also get multiple job offers for a role that you love so much, it doesn't even feel like work.

As well as being an experienced management consultant and energetic public speaker, Rob Whitfield is a certified Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a certified Master Coach and a certified Master Practitioner of Hypnotherapy and Time Line Therapy.

*Clearly, this isn't his real name. Indeed, he may be a she, though I was given permission to use this situation.