Dear Sam: I have had four interview requests within the past six weeks. While this is encouraging, the application process may disqualify me as a candidate. The application reveals my age by asking for my birthdate. I handle the age issue by reminding the interviewer that I do not intend to retire for many years. But, when the application asks for my past employment history, I am listing higher salaries than the jobs I am interviewing for. I feel this is a disqualifier, but I do not want to lie. Do I leave my salary history blank? – L.J.
Dear L.J.: Salary questions are so touchy. The school of thought is that whoever brings up salary first loses. If you do not have to include salary history data, I would avoid providing that information. Unfortunately, however many applications require those fields, and if completing the application online, sometimes the application will not proceed to the next question without certain answers being completed. When this is the case, if there is a space for comments—or if you have direct access to the employer via an introductory email or in-person interview—I would make it clear that while your salary history reflects a certain level, you are not seeking compensation in that range for your next role. Being honest and forthright can only help your chances in this case, given you feel you are being disqualified based on this information alone.
Now, another thing you may be able to do is not to provide information on every job you have held since the infancy of your career. Be sure to read the application language carefully. If it is calling for you to enter every position ever held, you must do so, but it may only ask for 10 years or maybe the last 5 jobs. Just be sure you are not giving away more information than required based on a careful review of the application language. However, I understand that when an application asks for your birthdate, there is little you can do not to convey your age. Sometimes I find that candidates expect to have to present “everything” on an application when the language doesn’t demand such detail. Try to emulate the more strategic picture you have created on your resume when at all possible to ensure the application does not serve as a potential disqualifier.
Dear Sam: Should I open my resume with a qualifications summary or an objective statement? Does it depend on the position? I feel a qualifications summary is not specific enough and doesn’t say what you seek. — Peter
Dear Peter: Any expert in the recruitment or personal branding industry will agree that objective statements are outdated. An objective statement states what you want out of your next position, doing nothing to convince the reader why you are qualified for the opportunity in question. A qualifications summary presents the information critical to convey during a 4- to 7-second screening process; how you are qualified, why you are unique, and how you fulfill the requirements for the types of roles you seek.
Objective statements used to open every resume. Over time, these statements became incredibly self-serving and vaguer and vaguer. In essence, what happened was that resumes opened with “stuff” that did nothing to differentiate the candidate. Typically, the statement would state the obvious, and candidates would simply change the title they were seeking with every resume they sent out of the door.
With a qualifications summary, you provide an executive summary of your resume. You must present this information; regardless of the length of your resume, the reader will not get past the first half of page one. Because screening processes have become so brief, this section will allow you to pull forward all the essential highlights of your candidacy. The summary is essentially your elevator pitch or the answer to the question, “Why should I hire you?”