Six Ways NOT to Get a Job

Thumbs Down from the LeftIf you want to know all the stupid things people do when job hunting, ask Ed Navis. He’s been reading resumes for two decades as a human resources consultant to mid-size companies and non-profits. Here are the top six mistakes he sees job hunters make.

Networking only when you need a job, and only with people in your field.

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to dig the well. If you’re an introvert, try reaching out to online social networks to meet real-world contacts. That’s what Tina, a young woman downsized from Bear Sterns’ back office did, Navis says. She posted messages on and, asking if anyone wanted to meet for coffee to talk about careers.

“She wound up networking into a much better position with someone whose brother was a hiring manager for tech people,” Navis says. “She continues to meet with people once a month because she knows networking is about giving.”

Posting your resume online and labeling it ‘anonymous.’

Some unscrupulous headhunters will do anything to get a client or a candidate. “They post bogus resumes on the job boards and label them anonymous,” Navis explains. “If I’m a recruiter and JPMorgan wants me to hire a senior IT person, I’ll access the competing recruiter’s anonymous resume and tell him about the position. The competing recruiter then tries to steal that client and fill the position. Most recruiters will not respond to an anonymous resumes because they’re worried you’re really a recruiter.”

Using an off-the-rack resume to land a custom job.

Resumes are like suits. Who would wear something off the rack if the custom suit cost the same? Re-write your resume each and every time you send it out, tailoring it each particular job. Skip writing a job objective and instead use a career summary that explains exactly how your prior experience fits the current opening. “I already know that your objective is to get the job, otherwise you wouldn’t have
sent me the resume,” Navis says.

Use bullets in your summary. When you list your jobs, expand on what you said in those bullets. “If (the employer is) looking for someone to do XYZ, put in a summary that says how and where you did XYZ,” Navis instructs.

For example, if a job requires managerial skills, say: “I have seven years of managing a multitude of sales teams with as many as 26 members.” Saying “I am a great motivator” isn’t enough.

Navis cites a colleague who was a C# programmer in the back office of Lehman Brothers. The colleague’s idea of customizing was to change his resume’s objective. “When he changed it to a professional summary with bullet points on what the client was looking for, he started getting interviews,” Navis recounts. “And now, he’s an IT manager for a small hedge fund in New York.”

Applying for jobs for which you’re not qualified

“If you have to make up or over-inflate your experience to meet my needs, please don’t apply for the job, because you’re not qualified,” Navis says. “I’m looking for someone who’s done it.”

Recently, Navis ran an ad for a client needing a vice president of sales with 10 years of experience as manager/director, and an MBA. “I’m getting resumes from people who took a course called You Can Sell Anything,” Navis says. “You wonder why you send in a resume and never hear back? Because I’m too busy reading garbage. If you’ve ever sent out a resume for something you’re not qualified for, you’re the reason why.”

Believing that people expect you to lie on a resume

Navis recently worked with a former JP Morgan IT help desk professional who’d been lying on her resumes for the past 15 years. She inflated the number of calls she handled each day, inflated her title to say she was director of the help desk, and said she worked on projects that no help desk person would be called upon to do.

“Human resources people talk to each other and we have our own networking,” Navis warns. “Someone will say, ‘I just hired Mary Smith, she was a director of your help desk at Bear Sterns. And the Bear Sterns person will say, ‘Mary was never director.’ And, HR people know that help desk directors don’t take calls.”

At Navis’ urging, the woman created an accurate resume. “Three weeks ago she started sending out a truthful resume and she’s gotten four solid interviews, and she’ll be able to choose the best offer,” Navis believes.

If you got arrested for drunk and disorderly in college, confess, briefly explain and then change the subject. Don’t lie, because you’re going to get caught when the company runs a background check. “If you got arrested 10 years ago for a stupid mistake, I can live with that,” says Navis. “If you said you had no convictions, that’s a lie you told today and I can’t live with that.”

Giving vague responses when asked about previous experience.

A company needs an experienced SOX accountant. They ask you how you set up controls at your last company and you start telling them you’re great with SOX, rather than getting into specifics. Or, you’re an IT professional who lists every program you’ve ever seen in your entire life on your resume. Either way, you just flunked the employment test.

“I want to know when you used the skill and what were the obstacles you ran into when you used it,” Navis says. “If the interviewer says to you: ‘Are you good managing people?’ say to them: ‘Let me tell you about a time I managed five people on this project. I had this personality and that personality and here’s how I handled it.’ If someone asks you how are you at selling to institutional clients, tell them about specific clients. If you can’t provide that level of detail, you shouldn’t be applying for the job.”

by Dona Dezube
First posted April 14, 2009

7 Responses to “Six Ways NOT to Get a Job”

  1. Back Against the Wall.

    This was very helpful, especially about changing the summary for each job. That’s something that I didn’t do in the past, but will definitely do now going forward.

  2. Regarding this line from Mr. Ed Navis: “You wonder why you send in a resume and never hear back? Because I’m too busy reading garbage.”

    I’m sorry, Mr. Navis, that’s no excuse. It takes 20 seconds to type out a “We received your resume, but we don’t see a fit at this time, thank you for your interest.”, and, unlike us poor job seekers who must customize our resume a thousand different ways for a thousand different employers, you are allowed to send back a form letter. You don’t even need to type it, just drop it in from the Paste buffer.

    Back in the day, before email, this was common, and employers not only spent the time to type out a mailing address on the envelope or card, they spent postage as well. Today, in the age of Free Email, they don’t even bother spending the time click “Reply”.

    It is not only lazy and unprofessional, it’s rude.

    I’m sorry, I know that’s the norm these days, but there’s no excuse. If you’re going to advertise for a job opening, and if you’re going to spend the time and energy to filter out resumes that don’t fit, another extra 20 seconds isn’t going to break the company budget.

    Don’t get upset that we get upset — many of us will spend hours drenched in sweat trying to get a resume and a cover letter “just right” before submitting it. It won’t kill you to at least acknowledge that you received it.

  3. Back Against the Wall.

    Totally agree with you Alvin, it shows job seekers that at least the recruiter or hiring manager viewed their resume, and still have some etiquette as a human being. I have picked up a bad taste for a lot of the people behind the hiring process because they don’t respect job seekers’ time, and efforts to apply for jobs.

    I do understand that recruiters have to fish through hundreds of resumes, but still, there is technology that can send an auto reply “thank you for applying”, note to applicants. I think HR is just too lazy to complete the job.

  4. Dear Mr. Navis:

    I can not personnaly speak for others, however, I have been to job coaches in the past and they have told us to send out resumes to jobs other than from our own experiences. Just because you have not actually done that for a living does not always mean that you are not qualified to do certain tasks. I personally would not apply for an IT position when I am a Paralegal, however, I am willing to apply for the secretarial jobs or the receptionist positions. I may even apply for an assistant positions because I know by reading the job descriptions that I can handle the tasks.


    Another job seeker

  5. I disagree with Alvin – strenuously disagree. While I have submitted many resume’s over the years to many different HR managers I cannot ask them to expose themselves by responding to every one they receive. 1) some people will disagree with the assessment and respond – sometimes legally! 2) if things change a quick word search will bring up the resume and the candidate is viable again, and 3) go with the status quo – no news is bad news. That’s what people expect and what people should do. Rude or not, it is better for everyone.