Are You Throwing Away Your Power in Job Search?

Posted by Patra Frame

Far too many people engaged in seeking a new position give up their power. Some of this is mental – fear of unemployment or a job loss leads them to feel the employer has all the power in the process. But often, people throw away their own power without even realizing it. Here are some of the most common ‘unforced errors.’

Resume Errors

Summaries can be a great ‘hook’ to entice hiring managers and recruiters to read further. But too many are filled with meaningless sentences.

Real-life examples to show you what not to do:

  • Results-driven, people-oriented, dynamic, organized senior leader….
  • Driven, detail-oriented, successful manager…
  • Innovative, progressive leader and change agent…
  • Looking forward to bringing experience, leadership, and skills to an innovative, people-oriented technical organization…

This problem also pervades those long lists of ‘Skills’ too many people include under their summaries. Many are filled with the same sorts of buzzwords as above. Demonstrate your skills in your achievements.

The words you use in your resume matter. When you write your achievements, think carefully about your role and be accurate in describing it. But do use active verbs that give you the credit you deserve for your role. When you use a minor verb, like assisted or helped, your reader sees a minor achievement.

Go back and look at what you actually did and seek out the right words to convey your work. Not sure?  A quick online search will bring up lots of lists of active verbs for resumes. Some of the worst are also combinations of words that obscure your work.

Examples to avoid:

  • Responsible for – no-one cares what you might have been responsible for under some job description. They want to know what you actually did and achieved.
  • Contributed to – usually far too vague. What did you actually do?
  • Effected solutions – one does not ‘effect’ – the word itself means a change that results from something – and yet ‘effected X’ is becoming frequent in resumes.
  • Word combinations that clutter the resume without adding value, such as: coordinated the facilitation, collaborated to coordinate, achieved to support, value-added activities. You may have fun playing ‘buzzword bingo’ in meetings but don’t put them on your resume!

Process Errors

When your main activity in job search is to apply for jobs online, you are wasting a lot of time. Companies are inundated with applications and far too many do not even meet the minimum requirements. You are spending time on these activities which could be far better spent:

  • Researching companies that match your interests and values and finding a way to network into them, and
  • Talking to people you know and building new connections to support your research and to help you get employee referrals in the companies you want to work for.

A second major error is to just go to job fairs without adequate preparation. Job fairs can be a smart part of your job search process when you pick those that are most tailored to your needs and you prepare for each event.

Recruiters who work job fairs are actively seeking people to hire so they are a smart part of your process. But if you walk up to a recruiter or hiring manager at a job fair and your first words demonstrate your ignorance, you are not going to get any further. Look at the employers who will attend. Go to their websites and research the jobs they have open as well as what the company/division is all about. Then when you get to the recruiter, have your personal introduction or elevator speech ready with a clear indication of what you want to do and what expertise you offer. Asking “Do you have any jobs for me?” or having no real idea what the company or the specific division attending does is not smart, but we see it all the time!

And while you are at a job fair, talk to the other attendees. This builds your knowledge of the market and can lead to good connections.

Interview Errors

Every interviewer dreads two types of interviewees – those who cannot stop talking and those who barely talk at all. In the first moments of an interview, these reactions can be seen as nervousness but when they continue they demonstrate a pattern that is not desirable.

When you are asked to “Tell me about yourself” or “Tell me who you are” the interviewer is trying to start with an easy question and give you a chance to get comfortable. What they want to hear is a version of your elevator speech that highlights a few key skills and experiences directly relevant to the job and company. Take a minute or two at most. But do not go on at length or tell your entire life story!

For all the other questions, you want to be clear but crisp. Relate your answers based on what you know the position and the company are seeking. Make connections clear between your experience and their needs as necessary, so that your value is evident.

When the interviewer wants more information, they will ask you to continue or add details. If they have to pull even the most basic information out of you, they will question your ability to communicate and are unlikely to want to continue that effort long enough to discover that you actually might be a good candidate. Prepare for interviews by developing your success stories and practicing them with friends or family. Want to know more about how to develop and use stories for your interviews? Watch

Got something in your background you fear talking about? Most people who are involved in hiring are used to people having lost a job or being out of the job market for a time to be a caregiver. Don’t try to cover such events up but do have a short – one sentence is smart – explanation that you can give without sounding defensive or negative.

Remember: you offer something of value to employers. They need your skills and expertise to produce value, to sell to their clients and customers. Don’t throw away your power in the job search process through silly errors you can avoid!

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.


This entry was posted on Monday, July 31, 2017 4:04 pm

3 thoughts on “Are You Throwing Away Your Power in Job Search?”

  1. I have two problems with this entry.

    First of all, “effect” really can be used correctly as a verb. I have no doubt it is overused, but it is simply wrong to say that it is not.

    Secondly, saying that “Tell me about yourself” is the recruiter trying to ask an easy question is astonishing. Are you saying that recruiters live in such a bubble that they don’t realize this is the most hated and feared interview question of all time? I remember reading about how much dread that question summons decades ago. Its only rival is asking about weaknesses.

  2. Mark, always glad to have your comments. Note that I did not say recruiters ask the ‘tell me about yourself’ question as few do but hiring managers and a fair number of SMEs seem to love this question – hence ‘interviewers’. So trying to help folks answer it – most go on and on with whole bio. Suspect the most hated questions are actually, besides the dumb ‘weakness’ one, the ones about ‘see yourself in 5 years’, and those that are designed as stress or puzzle questions — useless but popular still. Thanks for the chance to clarify.

  3. Thanks for the reply and the perspective. My astonishment was not that they would ask the question (it’s almost expected now) but that they would view it as an “easy” one, given the widespread fear and inevitable confusion about the scope of the question.

    Anyway, I forgot to mention that overall, this was a a helpful and informative post.

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