Eradicate Career Obstacles and Elimination Factors in Client Résumés

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By Sharon Graham.

I regularly coach career practitioners on advanced résumé development techniques. Over the years, I have found that most résumés – even those produced by professionals – can use additional help. In particular, practitioners generally struggle to deal with and resolve two main areas: their clients’ career obstacles and elimination factors.

If your client’s résumé is not getting the results you expect, then there is probably one or more issues with the document. There may be a situation in the individual’s career background that is difficult to explain. Or, your client may have a close-to-perfect career, but there is something else in the résumé that is turning off recruiters and decision makers.

To be effective, a résumé needs to market value by highlighting the best a client has to offer and shifting the focus from the rest. As your client’s résumé strategist, you must not only eradicate serious issues and concerns but you must produce an impeccable, error-free document.

Here is a deeper look at career obstacles and elimination factors that you may need to address before your client starts sending job search documents out to recruiters and employers.

Career Obstacles are barriers to employment related to your client’s employment history. You must deal effectively with issues such as age, periods of unemployment, multiple positions held for short periods of time, and career changes. Here are some examples of career obstacles that often create concerns in résumés and suggestions on how to fix them:

  • Résumé format: You structure your client’s résumé in either the reverse chronological or functional format, however, the gap in their career history sticks out like a sore thumb. Consider using a custom, hybrid format that brings your client’s strengths to the forefront while still being truthful about employment dates.
  • Career path: Your client has a great career story, but is afraid to reveal his or her age by going too far back into career history. If you decide that it’s strategic to not tell the story from the beginning, be careful that you do not omit something pertinent. Even if you don’t include the full chronology, be sure to incorporate the highlights of the career story into the profile or elsewhere.
  • Career context: If you observe that your client is being selected for the wrong roles, think about removing irrelevant information and including role-specific, targeted content instead.

Elimination Factors are features in the résumé that may disqualify your client from contention, such as structural, mechanical, and grammatical concerns. Here are a few elimination factors that commonly occur along with some solutions:

  • Résumé length: When it comes to the number of pages, there is no fixed rule. The length of a résumé needs to fit your the client’s qualifications. If the document is too long, find ways to be more concise. If it’s too short to provide enough meaningful information, focus on drawing out more significant, detailed impact statements (achievements and accomplishments).
  • Readability: Some résumés are just plain hard to read. Review your client’s résumé in detail and select the best font, formatting, style, and structure to ensure that it is easy for recruiters to read, retain, and remember.
  • Jargon: Your client is using abbreviations, acronyms, idioms, and slang familiar to people in their circle, but unfamiliar to the reader. Review every word in the document. Make sure that the language is authentic to your client, clear for the prospective employer, and appropriate for the industry being targeted.
  • Design: The résumé is not designed correctly for your client’s application. Résumés to be uploaded to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) must be structured quite differently than fully branded networking résumés. You should apply the appropriate graphic design or ATS-friendly format based on how your client will be delivering the résumé during their job search.

Ensure that you give your client’s document a careful, critical second and third review. Ask yourself if you’ve done everything possible to mitigate concerns and feature your client’s strengths in the résumé. Be strategic in shifting the emphasis away from obstacles and factors that may eliminate the applicant from contention. Instead, focus on your client’s value proposition.

Every person has career obstacles and elimination factors. Tell us about your clients’ challenges and how you dealt with them. And, if you’re looking for advice on a specific challenge, please feel free to ask for advice in the comments below.


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