Family – To put it bluntly, married applicants with children are something of a liability. They take more time off work, expect to earn more, need more insurance, and often place their priority on family, rather than career. While there’s nothing wrong with that, if an employer is forced to choose between a married, and unmarried applicant, it’s an easy choice as far as money is concerned. Make sure that you keep all family information as private as possible in an interview. Employers can’t legally ask your marital status, so don’t volunteer anything you don’t have to. Force them to choose based on merit, rather than on convenience.
Gender – There is a lot of gender discrimination going on in the workplace, but not in the way many would assume. Sometimes an employer will bring their own preconceptions into an interview. For example, some employers prefer female employees because they’re viewed as more personable, dependable, and statistically, women are less likely to ask for raises. Some employers prefer male employees, because they think they will be more aggressive, and more willing to take charge of projects. If possible, show up to the interview early, and try to meet a few people in the office if anyone is accessible. Get a feel for the gender mix and the personality type of the employees that already work there, and do your best to project that personality in the interview.
Age – Young or old, there are a lot of hang-ups employers have in regard to age. Every employer wants someone who’s there to work long-term, because training a new employee is an expensive investment. If you’re very young, you may not have much experience, but what the interviewer will really be looking for is you potential anyway. They may not be keen on hearing that you intend to return to college, or that you are planning on getting married soon – these are all things that could make you leave. Never volunteer more information about your personal life than absolutely necessary. Also, if you are reaching social security age, make it clear that this *is* your retirement, and that you have no plans to stop working any time soon.
Education – Often, a college degree means absolutely nothing in terms of how prepared you are for a job, but it does show that you are educated, not to mention able to make it through four years of disciplined study. Those without a degree will have to work twice as hard to seem more educated than their degreed peers, and that means going the extra mile. If you don’t have a degree, make sure your resume includes plenty of relevant educational experience, like managerial training, classes you’ve taken, and specific work training courses. It may also help to work with a public speaking coach for a few sessions, in order to help you articulate yourself well, and maybe even quash a strong dialect, if you have one. Dress is also important. Having an off-the-rack suit tailored for you is a cheap and good way to look well put together. If you look affluent and successful, it will help remove the stigma that those without a college degree are doomed to be stuck in blue collar jobs.
Regardless of the job you’re looking for, do your research. Get a feel for the company, and try to look at as many current employees as you can. Try to find any common threads between them, and use that to your advantage. If nothing else, the more you look like you already belong in the office, the easier it will be for the employer to imagine you as part of the team.
Summarize your career achievements and experiences at the top of the resume. Human resource people receive sometimes hundreds of resumes to fill one position. Don’t make them hunt for the meat of your work. Create a snappy, one paragraph summary that captures the essence of your strengths and experience to be the first thing that is read. Make it creative and enticing, luring them to want to know more about you. Follow it up with a keyword, bulleted list. This will catch the employer’s eye, as well as, a keyword scanning machine.
Be timely. In this very competitive job market, potential employers want to know your latest and greatest experiences and strengths. While they will be looking at our college degrees and educational experiences, they will want to know what was your last greatest achievement, and how it relates to what they are looking for. Keeping everything fresh and timely will catch their eyes far more than listing all the things you did ten years ago that helped get you to where you are today.
Include all your experiences, even if they weren’t job related. Sometimes employers look for a well-rounded prospect, someone who has taken time to volunteer with a local nonprofit, or community organizing for your neighborhood. All relevant experience will show them your potentials for doing great work for them. This works especially well for entry-level jobs!
Put the most important information that is most relevant to the work first. Don’t make them hunt for what they are looking for. Human resource people don’t have time to read through every resume they get. Help them by showing them first and foremost what you have that they want. Even if it was done a while ago, you can create a “highlights” box on the front page and add your accomplishment there.
Be positive in your language. You don’t want to overdo, but you can certainly put a much more positive spin areas where you lack certain skills or have not completed your education. Instead of, “no experience” say “willing to learn anything needed to get the job done.” Or, focus on what your expertise is in.
Personalize every cover letter. There is nothing colder or less attractive to an HR director than getting a stale, canned letter. Don’t be afraid to personalize it with your own character. Instead of, “I would be willing to work extra hours,” say, “I have never been able to change the earth’s orbit, but I would try for you.” Have fun, be personable and research the company’s mission statement to align your letter with it.
Edit, edit, edit. There is nothing worse than sending out a resume or cover letter with typos or grammatical errors. When in doubt, ask a second set of eyes to look it over and comment.