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Posted by on May 26, 2013

Avoid These Mistakes When Submitting Your Resume

Avoid These Mistakes When Submitting Your Resume

A few weeks ago, a job posting from the website BuzzFeed caught my eye and perhaps yours as well. The ad, for a support specialist, seemed straightforward enough. It outlined the responsibilities and requirements of the position and explained a little about the company. But buried near the bottom was this interesting request:

“Instead of a cover letter, please send us instructions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Text, images, video …  the format for your PB&J tutorial is up to you, as long as following your instructions results in a really delicious sandwich.”

How many people do you think overlooked these instructions and forwarded a cover letter instead?

Chances are very good that a potential employer won’t ask you for your sandwich-making secrets (using boysenberry jam, in my opinion). But that’s not the point. BuzzFeed included this request to serve as hurdle No. 1 for job seekers — that was the point. Those who sent in the asked-for tutorial moved on in the hiring process. Those who didn’t were likely eliminated from consideration.

Many job seekers focus so intently on getting their resume and cover letter just right — which is great, of course! — that they don’t think about making an effort to ensure these documents actually wind up in the hiring manager’s hand.

Here are a few common — and easy-to-overlook — mistakes candidates make when submitting their application materials. Be on the lookout for them.

Ignoring the instructions. Read the job post carefully and do what the employer asks. Some will want you to you include the position title or job number in the subject line of your email. Others may request your desired salary or past compensation figures.

That said, pause if an employer asks for personal or sensitive information — your Social Security number, for instance. You’ll need to provide it if hired, but not before starting work. View it as a red flag if a hiring manager presses for these types of details.

Attaching the wrong document. If you’re emailing your resume to a hiring manager or uploading it as part of an online application, double-check that you’re attaching the correct document. It happens more often than you think that an applicant uses an old version of his or her resume or sends a random file. A hiring manager I know said she once received a fact sheet about California’s population from a candidate instead of the person’s resume.

Forgetting about the file name. Despite what some think, the file name you use for your resume matters. Here are a few I’ve received from job seekers: “OhBoy.doc,” “Hey there.doc” and “Jayzzz.pdf.” Were these resumes? I have no idea. Each time, I deleted the files right away because I wasn’t sure what they really contained. And I don’t think I’m the only manager who’s this cautious.

When sending your resume to an employer, make sure it’s clearly labeled. You won’t go wrong with “FirstName_LastName_Resume” or a similar name.

Referencing another firm. If you’re like most job seekers, you maintain “master” versions of your resume and cover letter and alter these documents based on the position you’re applying for. That’s a smart and easy way to customize your materials without having to reinvent the wheel every time. Just make sure any section of your master that references a company name, hiring manager’s name or job title is updated before you hit Send. There’s no faster way for your resume to end up in the “no” pile than by addressing it to the wrong firm.

How are you at avoiding these mistakes?

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About Robert McCauley

Robert McCauley is a career expert with Robert Half, a leading specialized staffing firm that helps skilled professionals find rewarding temporary and full-time jobs in a variety of fields. Robert has been writing about the job search and careers for more than 10 years. Connect with him and Robert Half on Twitter and YouTube.

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