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How to disguise desperation in your resume

If you're looking for a job and you can't find one, you may be feeling a little concerned - especially if you've been looking unsuccessfully for some time. If this concern leaks into your resume, it will prove counterproductive: no one wants to hire someone who smells of desperation, no matter how faint the odor.

Recruiters have methods of spotting desperation in resumes. You need to know these and you need to avoid them. Your resume will not look desperate, just as long as you adhere closely to the following:

1) Be objective, not subjective

Desperate resumes are subjective about achievements and abilities. They will say things like "an outstanding team player with excellent delivery skills" and "a world class dealmaker with a history of achievement."

Non-desperate resumes do without this effusiveness. They don't make woolly claims in an effort to impress and the claims they do make are substantiated with fact.

"Too much sugar isn't a good idea," says Philip Beddows, founding partner at coaching and mentoring firm The Silk Road Partnership. "Everything needs to be objective. People need a very real idea of what you can deliver to a new employer."

"Desperate resumes often have over-enthusiastic synopses," says a recruiter. "You can spot them a mile away."

2) Apply for roles appropriate to your experience

If you're submitting your resume for roles which don't match your experience, or for roles for which you are over-qualified, you will immediately be deemed desperate by recruiters.

"Last week, I had a resume from a trader who was applying for a role in trade support," says one recruiter. "You have to ask why on earth that was."

If you genuinely can't find a role that does match your experience and are compelled to apply for all sorts of other roles that are on offer, you may feel there is little you can do about this. However, recruiters say you can help mitigate your apparent desperation by adding a covering letter or resume statement explaining why you're interested in making a regressive or tangential career move, and why you're appropriate to that role. You need to get the hiring manager to empathize with you in this.

"If you're applying for a more junior role than you did previously, you will probably be submitting your application to someone at your level," says the recruiter. "For example, if you were a project manager and you're applying to be a senior developer, you will probably be submitting your resume to another project manager. They'll be wondering why on earth you want to take a step back and thinking they'd never do it themselves. You need to convince them on a human level why you're serious about this."

3) Be a little friendly, not entirely formal

When you're desperate, it may seem wise to be as polite and as formal as possible in your resume in order to underscore your professionalism. However, this can also make you seem unintentionally brittle and aloof.

The place for friendliness is in the personal interests section at the end of the resume. Use this to inject an intimate element to the document. Refer to yourself in the first person, advises Beddows. "You need to bring a human element to your proposition," he advises.

4) Don't disgorge your life into it

Desperation is a resume that runs to multiple pages and includes every single career event in a lifetime. The best resumes are short, sweet, chronological and focused.

"You need a focused punch to your resume," says Beddows. "Think through what your proposition is to the market. Why would someone hire you instead of an alternative candidate? There's no point putting in a whole load of detailed stuff which doesn't add any value and doesn't substantiate the message you're trying to communicate."

This article first appeared on our UK site, but applies here as well.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Te
    18 November 2011

    After four months of applications and no interviews, this article has come at a great time. I'm returning to accounting without a CPA after teaching in special education for ten years. I'm also taking a few classes to meet CPA exam requirements, so I would ideally like more of a near entry-level position with future potential. I was wary of spelling this out in my cover letters, but after reading this article, I'll feel more confident giving this approach a shot. A lot of good perspectives!

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