8 pitfalls to avoid with your job application.

1- Online Profile Check

An interesting development these days in looking for jobs compared to 15 years ago is that your online profile can haunt you years later. Remember that every time you post information about your current or previous positions it is available to others as well. When applying for jobs, be sure to make sure that any online profile you find when searching on yourself does not reveal embarrassing or contradictory information that weakens your job application.

2 – Certain level of education required

Education is not something you can fake. Employers have been burnt by this so they check applicants often and the process for validating education is becoming easier. In some cases, companies will not hire you until the education has been validated. The old trick of picking an education establishment in the middle of nowhere does not always work anymore and at the very least they will want to know why you got your education from this far off place.

Some warnings from the BBC about resume checks.


How to handle Education:

Compromise here is to at least be attending a course that leads to the qualification required. Employer will see that you are in the appropriate education and may let you get to the next stage of the job application. As to when you actually complete the education and how long you have been studying it, that is up to you.

3- Years of Experience more than currently experienced

If you are lying just to get a job, you don’t have the experience and are not a quick learner you can be sure it will be worked out quickly that you are not a fit. Even as a quick learner you may not be given the time to learn the job before they are onto you for lack of experience.

I read a resume once where the person had a master’s degree, was 27 years old and had 9 years of relevant work experience. Where you might ask is the problem? This person had 7 years of full time schooling with 9 years of work experience coming to a total of 16 years and they did not start college at 11 but at 18. It gets murky here. Some people will consider a working month; week or even a day in a calendar year as 1 year worth of experience and put such on their resume.

Understand that no two persons will have the same experience for the same time period. Someone who consults will have a larger variety of experience compared to someone who works in the same job / company for the same period of time. However someone who works in the same job / company for years may have more depth of experience since they have been totally focused on that role.

A lot of time, employers put years of experience required to exclude the candidates with no experience at all or based on their judgment of what experience brings to the role. As stated above, someone with one year of experience may have the equivalent of another person’s 10 years just depending on the jobs that they did. In the 80’s the rule of thumb for consulting was 2.5 years experience before you could become a consultant. The number of years has been increased significantly for job applicants due to lies that people have been putting around experience. An average of 5 years seems more like the norm these days.

How you can get caught with lack of experience:

– You go into a role where other colleagues have the experience so your lack of experience is obvious. I worked at a site where on the first day of the job I was asked to perform a simple task under the eye of the manager who hired me. Failure to have successfully performed that task would have led to a quick exit.

– You are not a quick learner. If you do not have the experience and you can’t pick it up quickly, you will end up being found out.

– During the interview, you could be asked to describe the projects that are relevant to the experience and how long you spent on each. Mistakes in duration will quickly add up to not matching your resume experience. Explaining that a project lasted for months or over a year could also trip you up if the normal experience for the role is short projects.

– When hired, you ask too many basic experience questions making it obvious you do not know your stuff.

– Employer has an acquaintance from your previous employer who states in their opinion what your work role was at your previous employer that does not tie with what you stated you did.

How to handle years of experience:

Nobody asks if you did 2000 hours in a particular role over a calendar year, they just want to know that you held a job in that role for the particular year combined with whatever else you did for the remainder of the year was related. Putting it plainly you have to look at the months/year when you did not have the role and translate the experience of the role you were in into the position you are applying for. Unless the employer has a direct acquaintance at your previous employer it is unlikely that the new employer will get the exact project by project details of what you did.

4- Job skills required are specific

I have been to interviews where specific skills were requested but that was because the employer had gap in skills that needed to be filled. Other times I have gone to employers where the skills were already present so the employer was looking for someone that would fit in with the existing team.

How you can get caught with lack of specific skills:

– Testing of your skills during the interview process.

– Monitoring of you as you put your supposed skills into action.

– Ask you to describe previous projects where the skills were used.

How to handle lack of specific skills:

If you don’t have experience in the specific skill requested you need to at least get an understanding of it. Understanding can either be obtained thru training or via reading a book on the subject. Any training you take can be easily added to your resume under training. If you only read a book, then you will need to tie the specific skills back to projects you have worked on so that the skills will at least appear on your resume. Sometimes as you learn the skill you may find that you were already using it in your job anyway, you just called it something else. In both cases (training or book reading), where appropriate, any work that you did that is relevant to the skill, you should mention.

5- Job title is not one you have held

Maybe you are trying to change career from being a Project Manager to a Business Analyst and as a Project Manager you performed Business Analyst tasks. So all your employee job titles state Project Manager. When your resume lands on the employers desk they won’t bother looking at it if you state you were a Project Manager so you change it to Business Analyst.

How you can get caught with not having job title:
– Somebody provides a reference stating that you were in a different role. Make sure you references understand the role that you are presenting yourself for.
– Old profiles of you exist on the Internet saying you were something else.

How to handle lack of job title:
Change your thinking to the “title for my job”. Ditch the words “job title” and instead say who employed you and focus on the title for the role you performed. Avoid using the words “Job Title”. If they ask what your job title was at the interview, just state the title for the job you performed as that was really your job. If part of the time you were in one job role and the rest of the time in another for the same employer, don’t break out the experience by role but instead mention you were in both roles and state the years at the employer.

6 -Gap in job years or currently unemployed

How you can get caught with  job gaps:
– You are unable to provide references for a period of time.
– The experience dates don’t add up on your resume.

How to handle gaps and unemployment:
Even if you do not have a paying job, you should be providing your relevant expertise to others. Point here is to have a 3rd party that will vouch that you worked for them (paid or unpaid) in some capacity. The minute you are between jobs or are trying to get back into the workforce, look for those opportunities which can build references. Review your past period of gaps and see if anything you did over that time is relevant to the work you are applying for. Document it all and be ready to provide references that will back you up.

7 -Previous job at much higher level than one being applied for

How you can get caught with level of role in previous job:
– You use terms that may not be applicable to the role being applied – example managed financial budgets when applying to a developer job that is all about pure coding.
– You talk about the people you managed when the role has no people to manage.
– Previous experience is overly impressive – such as worked at the United Nations when job is for a small company.
– You have an internet profile that shows what you were before.

How to handle higher level role in previous job:
It is ironic that on the one hand we are told to play up our successes but the on the other hand we do not get hired because our success scares the employer. Going for a lesser job requires making the employer feel that you are not going to get bored and quit. You need to remove any terms / experience that is not relevant to the job you are applying for. You will have to set the title of your previous job to match the role being applied for. Downplay large companies you have worked for by focusing on describing the small team or department you worked in. Avoid mentioning words that would associate you with large global organizations if at all possible by looking for other ways to describe projects / experience.

8 -Samples of work not your own or incorrect

So your future employer asks you for samples of relevant work and you grab whatever you feel like sharing. This can be great aid but it can also bite you in the butt.

How you can get caught with an incorrect or someone’s document:
– Employer has an acquaintance at your previous employer who can validate the original author of the document.
– You are unable to talk intelligently about the document.
– It contains glaring errors that make you look unsuitable to hire.
– Document sample is way larger than anything the employer would expect you to deliver making them suspicious that others helped you with it.

How to handle document samples:
Best to use your own work. Keep your document samples small and make sure they do not provide confidential information. If needed, mock up some samples based on your experience. A page here or there and never a whole document. Be prepared to talk to every page shared as if you were doing a presentation. Verify that what is present in the document is correct as it represents your best work.

In summary I hope you find this information useful and it helps you get your next gig.

Good Luck


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