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When Well-Written Resumes Don't Work

by Linda Matias

Job seekers spend more time fretting over their resumes than any other process during a job search. This is because most believe that the resume serves as a magic bullet. But no matter how great you sound on paper, the reality is that a resume can get you only so far in the job search, even if it is well written.

The job search is made up of several key components including your outlook, job search activities, and interview performance. Each component builds on the next and if you lack strength in one area, your search will be handicapped. Below are telltale signs that your job search may be in jeopardy and the quick fixes you can incorporate to increase the chances your job search will be successful.

Signs You Have an Unenthusiastic Outlook

You are quick to dismiss someone’s advice by making statements such as, “That doesn’t work. I tried it.”

Solution: Keep an open mind when someone is offering you guidance, even if you have heard the advice before. Sometimes it takes a few times for a message to penetrate.

After an interview you find yourself making comments such as, “The moment the interviewer saw me, I could tell he wanted someone younger.”

Solution: No jobseeker is the perfect candidate. Some are too old, others are too young; some don’t have much experience while others have too much.

You send out emails that read, “I sent a resume early last week and followed up, and you never returned my phone call. Are you ignoring me?”

Solution: When you feel overwhelmed, frustrated or just plain angry, take a walk and clear your head before you send an offensive email.

You aren’t taking personal responsibility for your own job search, instead blaming external factors for your lack of progress.

Solution: There are some aspects of your job you can’t control, but the ones that you can (e.g. the number of calls made per day, networking events attended), take seriously.

Signs You Are Taking the Passive Approach

You haven’t developed a job search plan and are flying by the seat of your pants.

Solution: Don’t wing it. Take the time to map out a strategy and write it down. Don’t rely on your memory. There is something about writing down thoughts that makes you more accountable.

You’re going it alone without the guidance of an interview coach and/or career coach.

Solution: Partner with someone who will provide objective and constructive feedback. In doing so, you will be able to identify areas of strength and those that need improvement.

You adopt the if-they-are-interested-they-will-call-me approach and never follow up.

Solution: Take the initiative to call employers to inquire about the status of your application.

Signs Your Interview Skills Could Use Some Work

You are always second best.

Solution: Call past interviewers and ask them why you didn’t receive an offer. When you make it that far in the process, interviewers are more likely to disclose the reason you weren’t selected.

You walk out of an interview saying, “Darn it! Why did I say that?” or “I wish I had mentioned my experience in ________.”

Solution: After each interview, jot down everything you said that didn’t work, and how you would rephrase it for the next interview. Then, when you get home or back to the office, write a thank-you note to the interviewer(s) that mentions the lacking information or carefully revisits what you wish you hadn’t said.

Every time you leave an interview you believe your performance was strong, but you never receive a job offer.

Solution: Work with a Certified Interview Coach or a professional who specializes in interview training who will be able to assist you in discovering and correcting the problem.

Linda Matias is President of CareerStrides and The National Resume Writers' Association. She has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and Visit her website at or email her at



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