Dear Sam: I have been out of the workforce for nearly two years. I am currently working on completing my paralegal certificate. Before that, I was a stay-at-home dad. I have several years of work experience in a law office. How can I make myself more marketable? I have been on nearly 100 job interviews but still cannot find a job. Would it be a good idea to work in a law office as an intern to improve my legal skills? I have a ton of bills, so it’s hard to volunteer, but would that make the difference? – Max
Dear Max: Wow, that is a lot of interviews! If you are getting in the door for an interview, the interviewer must see what they want to see on your résumé. Something has to be happening at the interview that is turning them off. You don’t get 100 interviews if your résumé isn’t opening doors! Have you noticed adverse reactions to elements of your interviews? Do you struggle to answer specific questions? Are you bringing negativity about past employers to the table? Think back and reflect on past interviews and see if you can identify a pattern of what went wrong. Can you connect with a few of those interviewers and politely ask for candid feedback? I can’t tell you how many hiring managers I have met that would be pleased to provide a candidate with constructive feedback to help the interviewee improve their skills. Or conduct a mock interview with a friend or professional in your network. Perhaps an objective party could provide insight into opportunities for improvement. You may want to set up a video camera to review your responses and look at your nonverbal cues, as sometimes we do things during interviews that we aren’t even aware of. If you focus on getting the interview right, you will be able to close one of those next opportunities.
Dear Sam: I am so worried about the potential of my job search. I have been applying for jobs daily with no success. I think my background is marketable, so I am confused why I never get a call for an interview. I offer 10+ years of accounting experience and several years of experience as a controller, including team leadership, operations management, and IT oversight. Based on these experiences, I am applying for a staff accountant, managing accountant, and controller roles that do not seem like too much of a stretch to me. Is the market just so saturated that I need to figure out a “Plan B?” Help! — Adrian
Dear Adrian: You are entirely qualified for the roles you are applying for; the problem is that your résumé is underserving you. This is a very fortunate situation: your résumé is not marketing your candidacy well, so you have no idea how the market will respond to a well-developed résumé representing your candidacy optimally. It’s time to optimize “Plan A,” not resort to “Plan B.”
You need to bring your résumé up-to-date with today’s best practices in personal branding. You have continued to use the template I fear you used when you started your career 20+ years ago, and it is not working. Today’s value-based résumés serve as self-promotion tools that communicate not only the scope of your roles—this is all your existing résumé conveys—but also how you added value beyond expectations. This is the key to presenting a value-based résumé and a value-added candidacy. Start to consider how you excelled in your roles, went above and beyond your job descriptions, and what you would consider your key contributions. This is what you need to hang your hat on and the key to an effective résumé and successful job search. I urge you to review examples of best practices-based résumés on my website or other expert resources, reengineer your résumé, and re-launch what I am sure will be a much more successful search.