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15 Mistakes People Good At Resume Writing Never Make

15 Mistakes People Good At Resume Writing Never Make

Job candidates – take note! This is not your dad’s resume! That might have been 3-4 pages long with detailed, prose paragraphs describing his work experience and formatted exactly as every other candidate’s. Like everything else, resume writing has undergone a huge transformation in recent years. What once might have gotten you noticed (and even an interview request) will no longer work.

Gone are the resumes that go beyond one page – long documents are simply trashed because no one wants to slug through content to get to the meat. Gone are the days when a one-size-fits-all resume could be created and sent indiscriminately to any company with an open position. Just as any product is marketed to a target audience, your resume must be aimed at a specific consumer (in this case, a hiring manager).

And if you are a hiring manager, pay attention. If you’re looking to add to your staff, a resume will tell you a great deal about a candidate… if you’re able to read between the lines. You may not have a lot of experience evaluating resumes and determining who deserves an interview, but be watchful of the mistakes listed below. If you spot any, there’s a chance your candidate is lazy, unable to prioritize well, or has difficulty getting to the heart of matters. These aren’t the traits you want to add to your team.

As you know, there are certain things that must go in your resume. They are critical to who you are and what you can bring to the table as an employee. These are things like experience, skills, and accomplishments. The problem is compressing all of that into a very small space. As Kermit the Frog says, “It ain’t easy!”

While you’re finding this balance, here are 15 fatal mistakes that great resume writers will never make:

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1. They never create a resume that is too long

The general opinion is that a resume should be no more than a single page. If you have a lot of background experience that relates to a specific position, yours may go into a second page. That’s fine, so long as your first page is attention grabbing and compels the reader to continue.

2. They never create a laundry list

Recruiters and potential employers don’t want to pour though long lists of your past responsibilities. Learn to get rid of anything that doesn’t relate to the position at hand – no one cares!

3. They never focus on tasks

Tasks don’t say anything; achievements do. Instead of saying, “Responsible for developing a strategic plan for content marketing,” state, “Developed a strategic content marketing plan that increased visitor traffic by 25% and conversion rate by 15%.”

4. They never use a canned cover letter

If you can’t take the time to conduct research on an organization and craft a cover letter that speaks to their goals and the position you’re seeking, then you do not deserve an interview. Don’t be lazy! Engaging your reader immediately is critical. Of all resume writing tips, this may be the most important.

5. They never lack imagination

Both your cover letter and your resume must look unique. Present it creatively – print it on colored or professional resume paper, and use tasteful graphics to showcase your achievements. Worst case scenario, consult with a resume design expert if your imagination isn’t firing on all cylinders.

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6. They never use a template from the Internet

Everyone else is already doing this, and no single template is going to fit your needs and presentation. You should strive to be unique if you expect someone to read your resume for more than 8 seconds!

7. They are never too creative for the organization

Each resume sent out must be tailored to the receiving organization. A resume sent to a conservative company will look far different than one sent to a progressive tech startup! By not changing your resume’s language and appearance, you are simply begging for rejection!

8. They never put an objective statement at the top

So you want a position in your field that allows for career growth while using your acquired skills to benefit yourself and the organization? In other news, the sky is blue.

Unless your hiring manager is a bit dull, it’s safe to assume that they already know these things about you. So why waste the space? Use those extra lines to talk more about your achievements or skills.

9. They never have grammatical errors and typos

These are inexcusable in this day and age and speak, again, to laziness. You’re not writing a scholarly article, but what you do include has to be completely free of errors. It’s impossible to predict your reader’s familiarity with English, so it’s best to assume that they’re a real stickler for proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Use these tips as your personal cheat sheet for resume writing, and avoid the common mistakes that your competition will make.

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10. They never put dates first on employment history

These are boring. State your position and company first, either underlined or in bold.

While you’re at it, try experimenting with other creative presentation methods, particularly if there are gaps in your employment history that you don’t want to highlight. Some newer resume designs that are getting a lot of play these days don’t present your employment history in chronological order. Instead, they emphasize your skills and accomplishments as bold sub-headings, and then list the companies at which you demonstrated these skills and accomplishments. This lets the reader see the important stuff first.

And speaking of those embarrassing employment gaps, be prepared to answer any questions about them. Chances are they will come out during an interview whether you like it or not.

11. They never write paragraphs

Paragraphs are for CV’s. Unless you are applying for a research grant or a position in higher education, dump that prose. Include bullet points that speak to your achievements in short phrases, not sentences.

12. They never lack focus

Here we go with customization again! Each resume you develop for each position you seek must focus on the skills, talents, and achievements that relate to that position. Everything else just takes up space! This same lack of focus can carry over to an interview, and it is often stated as the most common rejection review.

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13. They never include too much personal information

It’s certainly appropriate to include a very short section on your outside interests and hobbies, particularly if they are unique. Avoid mentioning religious, political, or controversial activities. If, on the other hand, you are a skydiving instructor or ran the Boston Marathon, that might pique someone’s interest! Some people prefer to handle this by referring the reader to social media accounts (cleaned up, of course) with interesting info about their activities.

14. They never apply if they aren’t qualified

What’s the point? You won’t get an interview, and it wastes everyone’s time!

15. They never leave out keywords

Many companies require electronically-submitted resumes because they have screening software that scans for certain keywords. You can find these keywords on the company website and in the job description – use them or your resume will be trashed before it even reaches a human being!

It’s nice being able to tell yourself, “I have the perfect resume for this job.” And if you take these tips seriously, you just might! Your resume will get noticed, it will get more “play,” and you will be the one called for that interview! And in case you still don’t feel prepared, here are some tips for you next interview that will help you deal with any other you may be worried about.

Featured photo credit: Career Fair at College of DuPage 2014 36 via flickr.com

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

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Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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