Pick up any business or human resources magazine or newspaper; or click on any internet news feed, business or career blog or website, and you will see an article about how soft skills are the number one skill that is missing in today’s business culture. Younger generations used to emailing, texting and posting communications from their digital devices lack the experience, or even desire, to take the slow route and communicate person-to-person, face-to-face. Older generations have to follow suit to make a connection. Social skills have gone the way of snail mail as the primary method of communication.
Why bother wasting time on a real conversation that can drag on and go off track when you can get your message across in 140 characters or a quick text from anywhere at any time? Why schedule meetings in advance and then have to reschedule when you can have a virtual meeting or just send an email with a few attachments? Unfortunately, not everything translates well to the virtual world.
You may not need soft skills for every job, but you do need them to get a job. How to navigate and communicate through the job search process depends a great deal on soft skills. This is the first in a series of articles on soft skills for the job search, with examples taken from real applicants trying to get a job. Even after years as a Human Resources professional, coach and consultant, I am still surprised when I find yet another example of a job search faux pas.
Since most companies start their job search online, an applicant can expect to complete one simple and predictable task—attach a resume. This can be done by attaching a file to an email, uploading to a job posting on a company’s website, or even cutting and pasting into the posting itself. This isn’t advanced computer technology we’re talking about. As simple as it seems, some people manage to find a way to mess it up:
- “Please find my attached resume.” But there is no resume attached. This phrase usually follows a statement about how the applicant is detail-oriented. Really? So if they’re so detail oriented, what about that little detail of actually attaching the resume? Will an employer send an email asking for one? Maybe, but probably not. No resume = no call for an interview.
- Attaching the wrong resume. If you’re conducting a high-test job search, you’ve got to be organized. People can be multi-talented and have several versions of their resume. In fact, a resume should be customized to the job. But sending in the one highlighting your event planning skills when the job is for computer programming is a red flag. That pesky little thing about being detail-oriented. Into the circular file it goes.
- Resume file won’t open. You may like to use an unusual or obscure software program for your document files, but if an employer can’t open the file, the experience can be frustrating instead of enlightening. Stick to Microsoft Word or a PDF file for your resume. There are other versions that suit themselves better to online applications or cutting and pasting online, but there is nothing like a crisp, clear Word .doc or .pdf file. Don’t expect HR people to be up on the latest technology. We are so busy weeding through the hundreds of resumes we get for each job that if your resume won’t open, we’re likely to let it pass by.
- Attaching an outdated resume. These are easy to spot. The applicant’s work history ended five years ago. What have they been doing since? It’s easy to go on LinkedIn and check out an applicant’s profile to see what they’ve been doing lately. Leaving out work history is a red flag. Trying to hide something? Or just too lazy or (here’s that detail-oriented thing again) absent-minded or disorganized to pick out the current resume from your file list?
You may be the very best person for the job. You may be qualified, organized, and even detail-oriented. But an employer doesn’t know you until you make the first move, and we form opinions by what you send for consideration. You’re email introduction may be worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, but without a resume attached, we can’t even get started.
Next Blog: How to avoid the horrors of ghost-written resumes