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5 Resume Killers and How to Avoid Them

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5 Resume Killers and How to Avoid Them

Whether you’re hoping to trade up, switch careers, or transition from school to work, your resumé or CV will likely play an important role in your application process. In a competitive economy, recruiters will often receive hundreds of applications for only a few job openings. If you manage to make the first cut, your resumé will form the basis for a first impression of your candidacy. A good first impression can lead to an interview. A poor one? Well… many of us have been down that road. To help ensure that your resumé makes the first cut and impresses your readers, avoid the following five resumé killers:

1. Not targeting the specific position or industry

The vast majority of hiring managers look for specific, verifiable experience that is relevant to the position they are hiring for. Even well-defined positions often vary from company to company. If you are applying to multiple positions, it is always a good idea to tailor your resumé to each application.

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At a minimum, your job descriptions should incorporate industry-specific keywords embedded in descriptive material that demonstrates familiarity with the subject. If your prior experience is not directly relevant, you’ll want to do some research to acquire a working knowledge of the position you are applying for and its responsibilities.

2. Using poor formatting

If you are applying to a larger firm, your resumé may be screened by an applicant tracking system. To help ensure that your resumé is not rejected for formatting reasons, adhere to the following rules:

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  • Do not put content in the header.
  • Avoid exotic fonts. Stick with Verdana, Tahoma, Arial, or Calibri. Use a font size of 11 pt. or higher.
  • Do not paste graphics or use borders.
  • Stick to a one-inch margin on the top and bottom of the page.

At some point, your resumé will be reviewed by a real person, so you’ll want to ensure that your formatting is visually appealing. Avoid a text-heavy approach, use special formatting sparingly, and create adequate spacing between lines to mitigate crowding.

The best resumés create a visual rhythm that allows the reader to effortlessly glean important information and acquire both a general and specific understanding of the applicant’s background. Aim to give the reader that kind of experience.

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3. Focussing on responsibilities rather than achievements

Most job postings list responsibilities, shouldn’t applicants do the same when describing prior experience? Not exactly. Although focusing on responsibilities is acceptable, that approach does little to suggest how you have fared compared to your contemporaries. Keeping the focus on accomplishments helps to reinforce the suggestion that you consistently over-perform, regardless of your specific role. So when possible, re-frame your responsibilities as specific, measurable accomplishments to show how you added value to your company.

4. Making typographical errors

If you were reviewing two hundred applications and needed an excuse to weed out half of them, wouldn’t typos be an easy place to start? Nothing shows carelessness more than a simple typo, so be sure to review your resumé with a fine-tooth comb before sending it out. Even better, have a trusted colleague, friend, or resumé editor review it for you, as a fresh set of eyes is more likely to catch overlooked errors.

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5. Being one-dimensional

Most hiring decisions are driven by a combination of the following two factors: experience and personality. Resumés that focus exclusively on demonstrating relevant experience may come across as one-dimensional. You can balance your resumé by carefully selecting a few key experiences and skills that do not directly relate to the job to which you are applying. Unusual hobbies or skills can be used to spark interest, round out your application, and serve as a conversation starter during the interview.

Featured photo credit: flazingo.com via flickr.com

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