How to Avoid “Resume Jail”

June 13, 2017

Three tips to keep your resume from sinking into the void.



There’s a term in show business called “movie jail.” It’s when filmmaker ends up in a strange kind of limbo where, due to past results or unforeseen circumstances, they’re unable to make successful pitches for new projects to the powers that be in Hollywood. We want to coin a similar term for something we see all the time in our recruitment practice here at Argentus: Resume Jail.

What is Resume Jail? It’s the unfortunate limbo that you can end up in when you’re applying for jobs and your resume falls between the cracks, into a twilight space where you aren’t quite rejected but also won’t get a call to come in for that interview. There are a surprising number of ways in which – even if you’re a highly-qualified candidate for a role – you can unwittingly fall into resume jail, and have your candidacy removed from consideration for a job. Without you even knowing it. Without the hiring manager even necessarily knowing that they’re putting you into the gray zone. You put a lot of work into a resume and job applications (or so one should hope!) so you owe it to yourself to make sure you stay out of resume jail when you’re applying. Here are some tips:

Match Your Resume With Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn Profiles are considered almost equivalent to a resume in today’s workplace. So before you start applying for jobs – or, taking the more often successful route, reaching out to your network and recruiters in your field – make sure you match your resume to your LinkedIn profile. Fill our your profile to have the same information as your resume, and make sure there aren’t inconsistencies – years you worked for a company, or gaps in your employment history. It doesn’t need to be identical right down to the letter, but hiring managers and recruiters often check your social media presence right after looking at a resume, and having incorrect or inconsistent info is a quick ticket to the “maybe/no” pile.

Avoid Company ATS Applications / Job Boards

One thing we’ve noticed in our years of recruiting is that there’s a kind of paradox with job searching in the internet era: the people who need to be the best at it (the ones who are actively looking) are often the least equipped to know the current trends in how to find a job because it’s been years since they’ve had to do it. A few years ago, Job Boards were considered the height of recruitment technology – all those applications, all in one place! – but as we’ve written about a bunch of times, job boards are often where resumes go to die.  And their cousins, Applicant Tracking Systems that companies use to collate results to their online postings, are often where resumes go to languish. The sheer ease of applying for jobs using these methods means that companies are often inundated with applications, many of them irrelevant, and the task of sifting through them all falls to a hapless junior HR person or – increasingly often, a robot. Meanwhile, the company is booking interviews with candidates referred to them through networking, or by a recruiter they trust, or to an internal hire.

Job Boards and Company ATS’s do occasionally work when finding a job, but it’s common to hear about otherwise-qualified candidates spending months applying with this method and not getting anywhere. The other issue, one that’s the definition of resume jail, is if you apply to a post through a job board and later reach out to a recruiter, that recruiter can no longer represent you for that role because your candidacy “belongs” to that company rather than the recruiter. Now your resume is truly sitting in lock-up without hope of escape.

Make Your Resume a Quantifiable Fact Sheet

We’re sympathetic to the difficulty of writing a resume. Similar to above, how are you supposed to keep up with what’s expected of a resume when you’ve spent four to six years at one company and the accepted resume style changes every two to three years? We have lots more coming in the next few weeks about how to build a monster resume, but suffice it to say that to avoid resume jail, your two-pager (three, maybe, if you’re an executive) should be a quantifiable fact sheet rather than reading like a job description. Include accomplishments, and tie those accomplishments into numbers as much as possible. Less is more. Include more white space than you think is necessary. If a hiring manager sees an exhaustive list of text without specific accomplishments, your resume is heading right into the abyss – also known as the “maybe I’ll get around to evaluating this resume later” pile.

These are just a few tips to avoid getting your resume deep sixed. Stay tuned over the next few weeks when we dig into how to supercharge your resume if you’re gearing up for a 2017 job search – especially in Supply Chain or Procurement. 


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