Avoiding Common Resume Blunders and Interview Gaffes

an interviewer looking skeptically at a resume and an embarrassed woman sitting on the other side of the table

A recent HIMSS Early Careerist webinar titled “Shape Your Resume and Solve Your Interview Mistakes,” was so full of advice for health IT professionals, we decided to do a deeper dive by catching up with its featured subject matter expert, Bonnie Siegel.

A former high school biology teacher, Siegel has 25 years of experience recruiting executives in the arena of healthcare information technology. According to her LinkedIn page, Siegel has “has placed over 300 technology leaders and executives at over 200 different healthcare and higher education organizations in the United States.”

Honesty is the Best Policy

Siegel is well acquainted with the challenges facing job seekers in this dynamic and fast-changing field. For example, job titles tend to be fluid in health IT, with new ones frequently being added and older ones being redefined just as often.

The industry’s rapid growth has expanded the number of job titles but narrowed the definitions of older positions. Duties handled by one professional in years past may require full-time work from three or more employees today.

Even if a title you had at a previous workplace has come to mean less than it did when you held it, it’s important to be accurate on your resume.

If not, “there’s going to be verification of previous employment and if there’s a discrepancy, it’s going to be a problem,” Siegel said. “You don’t want to have that kind of snag come up because they’re going to think, ‘What else did they either make up or change in their resume?’”

Don’t try to guess “what the hiring exec might want to look, at,” Siegel advises, and don’t give yourself a title you didn’t have, even if you were covering the duties now associated with that title.

One option is to list the current title parenthetically. A better way, though, is a list of your accomplishments in that position.

If a job-seeker “held a director title but managed 50 people and had different teams and lots of projects and was very important, that could all be bullet-pointed underneath the title and someone could conclude that, ‘Oh, OK, this was a very accomplished, responsible person,’” Siegel said.

Siegel understands why a job candidate might be tempted to juice a resume, particularly if the candidate has little experience or is in an especially competitive field.

“It’s hard to get your foot in the door.” Siegel said. “It can be kind of frustrating if you don’t get a call back or a response.

“But the resume has to be truthful, it has to be readable, and it has to highlight as much as you can about what you did,” Siegel continued. “If you don’t do it no one else is going to do it for you unless you’re working with a recruiter.”

Don’t Neglect the Basics

“Typos,” she responds – with notable lack of hesitation – when asked about the most common problems with resumes.

“It needs to be spell checked,” Siegel said. “It needs to be edited for grammar, which will really show how well you write and how you communicate.”

Another resume basic that gets missed a lot these days: a home address.

“They’re putting their name and they’re putting their email and their phone number, and maybe their LinkedIn account on top of their resume. But to really state your case you need to put your address, city, state – you know, where you live – in your contact information,” Siegel said. “I was kind of amazed how many people were just dropping that off and I thought, ‘Wait a minute, that’s really important.’”

Make sure any certifications you have that relate to the position you’re applying for are featured prominently.

“If you are certified and have certain advanced degrees, those are almost like keywords on a resume,” Siegel said. “That is great to put next to your name on top of the resume because they are searchable keywords that people will be looking for.”

When It’s Not About You

Resumes aren’t the place for opinions, although Siegel has encountered them there. Speaking ill of a former employer, for example, isn’t a good course of action.

“I’ve seen resumes where people will actually say something about how poor the organization was, or they didn’t like being there or something very odd, very negative,” Siegel said. “No negative points of view!”

Prepare for the interview by learning as much as you can about the organization with which you’re seeking employment.

“The more you know about the company,” Siegel said, “they’re going to think, ‘Wow, this person really knows a lot about us. That’s great.’”

And while it’s a good idea to listen more than you talk in an interview, you can put that research to work if there’s a lull in the conversation. “That might be a time when you could have a list of questions,” she said.

Above all, look interested.

“I’ve heard clients say they were stunned when candidates came in and didn’t have a notebook or weren’t even taking notes,” Siegel said.

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