Why I didn’t interview you

I have an opening on my team and so have been staring at resumes all week. Most of these resumes are not going to turn into interviews. Some may think that’s terrible as an interview surely must be a better way to know if someone is right for the role. I get that. As someone who has been refused interviews because I don’t yet have my degree despite the fact that I have 8 years more experience in the field than most with the degree I’m in school for, I get the frustration. But the job I’m hiring for doesn’t require a college degree, it requires strong written communication skills and attention to detail. I absolutely can judge those from a resume, or at least narrow the pool a bit. And while I would love to give people a shot at redemption, the fact is I don’t have time to do so.

Let’s look at this mathematically. My management position takes an average 50 hours a week for my standard responsibilities. Being a person short staffed adds an additional 10 hours a week to my work load, minimum. I then have to set aside an additional 4 hours a week to read through numerous resumes plus 2 hours for phone screens of the top candidates. I’m now working 66 hours a week and I haven’t even started interviewing. Now assume I have to set aside an hour per interview, am I really supposed to interview all 40 candidates I’ve got in my queue that week? No, it’s not possible. Also keep in mind I am at the lower end of management, there are going to be managers reading this going “WHAT? Only 66 hours of work before interviews? I WISH I could work that little!” Hopefully that gives a little more perspective on why your resume needs to stand out as one of the best.

So here are the top reasons that resumes got tossed out this week:

1. Misspellings

This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised. I’ll let a misspelling go if the person looks great otherwise (only one y’all. You give me more than that and I can’t trust your attention to detail, sorry). Best way to eliminate misspellings is to read your resume backwards. Forwards you know what you said so your brain fills in corrections; backwards and you’re forced to consider individual words since the sentence doesn’t make sense. Give it a try, it’ll help.

2. Bad formatting

I had a resume where formatting would change mid-sentence. It’s hard to pay attention to a sentence that randomly changes formatting. Just saying. But beyond that, pay attention to the little things. Just because your sentence structure is good and your formatting consistent doesn’t mean it stands out as great. Make sure there is a flow, use bullet points systematically, emphasize your best qualities with strong placement.

3. Plagiarism and lies

I had someone who listed skills on his resume by listing something general like “computer skills” and then following it with what was obviously a description of a course he took in school. “Utilizing computers to learn more advanced tools within Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. Must complete CMP102 to take this course.” How this resume got past the recruiter I don’t know. But that was an immediate pass.

Even if not copy and pasted I may still catch you in a lie. I’m especially good at this in interviews, and yes I will have a copy of your resume with me when we meet. “It says here you consider yourself an expert in Microsoft excel. What are some things you’ve used it for?” “Primarily tables and spreadsheets for keeping track of things.” “Nice. Did you make any of these spreadsheets?” “No, they were pre-made, but I needed to understand them well enough to use them. I also trained others on using them.” “That’s great to hear. What are some formulas you’ve used?” “Uhhhhhh…”. FYI, that’s not expert level. Tell me you’re average but learning and I’m thrilled with these answers, tell me you’re an expert and I’m highly disappointed in these answers. An expert should be making spreadsheets, using formulas, and experimenting with macros.

4. Too long

Ideally a resume should fit on a single page. I don’t need your life story, I need to know what skills you have that best fit this position. I interview plenty of 2-page resumes, but when it starts hitting 3 I’m usually done. Wondering why? Look at the math above. The 4 hour estimate is based on no more than 40 resumes, individual resumes averaging a page and a half. Three page resumes doubles my time. Here’s a tip, make your resume a clean looking one and a half to two pages. Then when applying for the job go through and eliminate anything that doesn’t apply. I’m looking for key words, and those key words can be found in the job description. Make your resume match my description and you’re going to be among my first calls for an interview.

5. Listing too much work history

Similar to it being too long, I don’t want to read through all of that. But more importantly, it shows a lack of tenure. I reviewed a resume this morning that was 2 full pages of jobs listed. That’s a lot of jobs. So I started analyzing the dates and the person never stayed with one company longer than a year. I need someone that can be dedicated and last for a while. Now obviously you can’t go back in time and change your work history, so use my lack of time to your advantage. Specify the last 3 jobs only, and format them in such a way that my eyes are drawn from job title to skills and unknowingly bypass the dates. If I don’t have a list of 10 jobs making me nervous about commitment, then I probably am not going to analyze the dates because that takes additional time. Want to emphasize skills that were used in job number 5 and 6? Simply create a “skills” section of the resume with quick bullet points. I don’t care where the skill came from, only that it exists.

Hopefully this sheds a little light on the importance of your resume and how to format it to work for the hiring manager. Always remember that your resume is your first introduction, so make it a good one.

Sometimes you’re paranoid for a reason

Just over a year ago I posted this. A description of my fears into the void in hopes of easing my own mind. My husbands blood work came back with some abnormalities. He was doing monthly blood work at the time to keep an eye on his response to a new diabetic medication, so to have abnormalities show up suddenly within a month was concerning to say the least. His GP referred him to a hematologist, whom we quickly discovered was actually an Oncologist. Fears grew. He was also scheduled for some additional tests and scans. I continued to “accidentally” find my way to WebMD through google searches, and continued to find he had symptoms of a few serious illnesses including colon cancer. I kept reminding myself that if we diagnosed purely through WebMD we’d all be diagnosed with cancer. So I pushed back my fear.

Day of the appointment came, tests results from the few they did were available, and the Hematologist/Oncologist showed no concern. “It’s just Anemia, the other abnormalities are from the lack of iron. Sometimes this pops up suddenly, don’t be worried we just need to get you on iron supplements.” He went on iron and followed up exactly on schedule. No change. “Your body just doesn’t absorb it well. We’ll put you on a higher dosage.” The next follow up appointment showed the iron in his blood went down. “Don’t worry, we’ll get you in for an iron infusion. It’ll take care of it and you’ll feel much better.”

So hubby walks into the office the day of the infusion and they explain that it’ll cost $5000. He asks what kind of payment plans we can do and they say none. The amount must be paid in full before any treatment is done. He continues to try to work with them as we don’t have the money and the doctor had said he needed this. “Sorry, but we don’t do these infusions until paid in full. We’ll go ahead and cancel the appointment and reschedule for when you are ready.” The doctors office continued to call for a while to explain he needed to go in for the infusion. Once he did they would schedule his follow up with the Hematologist. He stopped responding to the calls after a while as they still wouldn’t do a payment plan. He continued to work with his GP, continued to do blood work, always was honest when describing health and symptoms. The GP never seemed any more concerned than the Hematologist/Oncologist, so we trusted them.

April of this year his GP bumped up his iron supplements again as he still wasn’t absorbing it and a week later the occasional stomach pains he’d had for so long grew more severe. After a year of unspoken fear and trusting the doctors instead of my instincts I finally got him to agree to go to the ER. He had been unable to move for 3 days because of the pain of what he assumed was iron poisoning from the increase. The admitting nurse said “well, that could be it, but they’ll run some tests I’m sure to determine the cause.” She looked concerned. The ER doctor listened to his symptoms and asked questions finally asking “And your doctor hasn’t looked into this further?” She got him in for a CT scan. The scans showed dark spots on his colon. She said he would be admitted for further testing, but until they get the results from a biopsy there is still room to think positive. She too looked concerned.

Within 5 minutes of getting to his hospital room he had a gastroenterologist, hospital GP, and his previously seen hematologist/Oncologist standing in the room. They all looked concerned. As the first two spoke on what tests they would do and then left to go schedule them the Oncologist stayed and said “this is why you were supposed to do the iron infusion. So you wouldn’t end up in the hospital.”

Five days, two biopsies, three iron infusions, two blood infusions, and one major surgery later we had answers. Colon cancer, stage 4. A year ago I feared his symptoms were colon cancer or similar, but I choose to trust the doctors instead of speaking my fears. He now has no chance of remission from one of the most treatable cancers because it took too long to diagnose. It is so easy to beat myself up for not pushing for more tests, but that takes energy away from a family that needs me. It is even easier to be furious with the doctor, but he doesn’t care so why bother. Instead I focus on treatment, on hope that doesn’t exist, on taking care of my two young children while my husband lies in bed suffering the symptoms of cancer, surgery, and chemo.

But I learned from my paranoia mistake. The Oncologist wasn’t answering our questions, and was ignoring other symptoms. I didn’t ignore my instincts this time, I changed doctors. The new oncologist had the same reaction as the ER doctor. “He didn’t look into these new symptoms? He didn’t run more tests after your diagnosis? He started chemo that soon?” Turns out the original Oncologist did not preform standard scans to find a baseline which would show the effectiveness of chemo, he started chemo two weeks sooner than he should have after surgery, and he ignored pain that showed possible signs of spread to the bones and spots showing possible signs of spread to the lungs. He also omitted information on a more cost effective way to do chemo that has the same results.

Hubby got all the scans done with the new Oncologist and he has tumors covering his liver and lungs, but fortunately none in his bones. He now has a baseline and while they can’t switch chemo types yet they will with his next round to save him both time and money. He now has a pain specialist, a new GP, and a psychologist who all partner with his new oncologist. He now has the treatment he needs. Too late because of my ignoring my instincts, but hopefully soon enough to elongate his life.

WebMD won’t always be right. It’s usually not cancer. But it is better to ask and push for tests. Be sure to rule it out before assuming the doctor is always right. Trust your instincts even if they turn out wrong. I learned a hard lesson and my husband will now pay the price for that. Beating myself up steals energy from my family but secretly I may never forgive myself. Don’t make the same mistake I did.