Reality TV and the Job Search

By Julie Doyle – Employment Consultant, Thornhill Employment Hub

Imagine…you have just lost your job and you get immediately cast in the reality T.V. show “Survivor.” The premise of the show is to have a group of contestants isolated in the wilderness of a deserted island and they need to compete with each other in order to survive. The weekly shows are a system of progressive elimination rounds where, based on the weekly challenge, contestants get “voted” off the island. Ultimately, in a perfect example of the process of elimination, the last contestant standing wins.


Well guess what, if you find yourself in a job search, you are very much a part of the process of elimination as the reality TV. “Survivor” contestant – the last one standing in your reality wins “employment.”


The job search process, for the most part is a process of elimination. Initially you are competing with hundreds, if not thousands of applicants for the same position and the competition is fierce. Employers do not have the time to read every resume thoroughly that crosses their desk, therefore they need to begin a process of elimination and they start looking for reasons NOT to hire you. As a job seeker, it is important to understand what the employer considers a red flag and barrier to employment and why your resume may end up in the “eliminated” pile.


Red flags for elimination include:


  • Spelling and/or grammatical errors – Your resume is often the employers first impression of you; therefore it is important to ensure accuracy. Don’t tell the employer you have a keen attention to detail, and then have several spelling mistakes which contradicts that fact. Not proof reading your content and allowing errors conveys the message that you may be careless, possibly have poor English language skills and are not professional; more red flags begin to wave.


  • Submitting a generic sounding resume and cover letter – Not taking the time to target your resume and cover letter will not help you stand out from the competition. It is important that your marketing tools are customized to every job posting. Implementing a looking for “anything” attitude, will get you “nothing” as this generic type of approach will make you look desperate which is a huge red flag for the employer.


  • Not matching the objective to the job posting – Many smaller companies do not have an HR department and may have different employees hiring for different positions. If you do not match the correct objective with the posting, your resume may end up on the wrong hiring manager’s desk and therefore get eliminated for having the wrong experience.


  • Lack of relevant experience – If resume data is presented in a chronological format and the job seeker is switching careers and going in a different direction, this type of resume will clearly highlight the lack of relevant experience. A functional style of resume will better market the skills and requirements of the position and will minimize the lack of experience.


  • Experience and education which make you overqualified – Job seekers should sell their top skills, but if you are overqualified for the position, the employer will see you as being “expensive” as your experience would demand a higher salary. Or they assume that you are taking a “survival” type position until another more appropriate job comes along. Either way you will be eliminated from the competition. Therefore customize your resume and match experience with the job posting.


  • Too many positions (job hopping) – Many job seekers have very valid reasons why they have had many positions, however as an employer this is often a great area of concern. Their concern is that why should they hire you, invest time, effort and money in training you only to have you leave after a short period of time. Employers view job hoppers as employees who may get bored easily, or unable to interact with others or resolve conflicts or someone who is a problem rather than a problem solver. Customize your employment history carefully to best reflect your suitability.

  • Employment gaps–A chronological resume highlights the length of time of employment, it also shows gaps in between different jobs. To minimize these only use the year rather than including the months and if there is a large gap of 2 years or more, consider using a functional resume which emphasizes skill sets rather than tenure.

  • Not applying via the stated method – Employers are looking for employees who can read and take direction well. In today’s fast paced business world, they need people who can work independently. If you fail to respond to their requests and go against the direction, this can work against you. Respect their wishes; show your initiative in other areas, but not this one.


  • Personal information (i.e. marital status, age, dependants, race) – Many job seekers make the mistake of giving too much personal information on a resume. Especially newcomers to Canada who are unaware of the expectations and requirements. The Government of Canada protects all potential employees against discrimination through the implementation of the Human Rights Act.


When you are reviewing your completed resume, wear the hat of an employer. Look at it objectively through their set of eyes. Consider any red flags that jump out at you. Would you consider hiring yourself if you were an employer? As with the “Survivor” Reality TV star, you need to perform at your best to stay on the island and keep from being voted off in regards to your job search!!! With a focused and determined approach you too, can win the grand prize of gainful employment!