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Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?” - (Part 2 of a 3-part series)

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In Part 2 of this 3-part series we will ask you again to ponder the thought for a moment if you are you own worst enemy when conducting an effective job search? In Part 2 we continue to highlight how good people get in their own way.

Here are some of the ways job seekers can sabotage their job prospects:

1. Starting your cover letter with a question that can be answered with the word “No” – For example: “Would you like a project manager who can speak four languages?” “Are you in the market for an aggressive, hard-hitting sales leader?” As simple as these sound, it gives the decision maker an “easy out.” You don’t want to lead someone in the wrong direction, and “No” is definitely the wrong direction.

2. Not having a strong, single focus to your resume – Ms. Smith is good at consumer marketing and Internet startups. Mr. Jones is a quality specialist and a HR whiz. The trouble is that few people are looking for these exact combinations; they tend to want one thing or the other. You also make yourself needlessly hard to categorize in a compartmentalized world of job titles and job functions. The solution is to lead with the experience most relevant for the type of position you’re searching for, while treating the rest as “additional experience.”

3. “Dumbing down” your resume so you don’t look overqualified to potential employers – My advice is this … you can’t land your dream position by presenting a resume with undervalued achievements. Your resume is the first perception a potential new employer has of you, and the only way you can translate your core values and how you’re different and unique from the competition is to write a document that clearly demonstrates all of your accomplishments, skill-sets, education, and core competencies. It’s impossible to do this with an abbreviated one-page resume.

4. Sending companies a video resume – This type of document comes across as if you’re auditioning for “American Idol” or “Survivor.” Video resumes are not an accepted way to convey work experience and using a video resume presents four problems:

  1. For years employers have discarded resumes with attached or included photos of the job seeker, for fear that they’ll be at risk of discrimination charges from a diversity applicant if they don’t subsequently interview the person. A video resume would have the same effect.
  2. Many employers and recruiters lack the software necessary to view a video resume.
  3. An effective video resume can last as long as four minutes. If most hiring managers don’t have time to read a traditional resume, they don’t have time to view a Steven Spielberg production of your resume. 
  4. By using this unorthodox approach, you’re taking the chance that some individuals will see you as a maverick and screen you out. Because you’re not abiding by the commonly accepted method of conveying information about your background, employers and recruiters could see you as unconventional and question your ability to fit in with the corporate culture.

5. Believing that the purpose of an interview is to get a job – You couldn’t be more wrong. Approaching an interview with this attitude will start you off at a disadvantage. There is a marked difference between people who are out to get a job and people who are out to do a job. Employers don’t conduct interviews with the intent to give anyone anything. They conduct interviews to get a job done. If you come across as a problem-solver who can do the job, you have a shot at that job.

6. Lack of preparation concerning questions on past career choices – This isn’t to be confused with a discussion of accomplishments, goals, or ambitions. Smart interviewers constantly look for a common denominator - how the candidate’s career choices relate to or prepared him/her for this job. The interviewer doesn’t want a justification for those choices; that would be a reactive rather than a proactive response.

For example, we heard of a candidate who was asked why he’d taken three similar sales jobs in three years. He fell into the trap of defending himself even though he had a clear strategy. Each new job had supplied a different kind of skill and all were needed for the sales job he wanted now. Had he presented an analysis of why his choices were important he would have impressed the interviewer. Instead, the response he gave raised suspicion, which defending oneself always does.

7. Surrendering leadership of your problems – Have you ever seen two people go through a job search? One delves into it and grows because of this involvement, while the other goes through a search and walks out devastated. What's the difference? I suggest that one big factor is attitude. During a job search many of our greatest battles don't lie in the external world but within us. That's why savvy candidates learn early on to always keep their minds on what they want and off of what they don't want.

If you focus on what you feel you can't do, you hardly notice what you can do. By changing the focus - looking at solutions, not problems - you start to reach for that carrot and stop worrying about the stick. To repeat the words of a steelworker on the 76th floor: "Don't look where you don't want to go."

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