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:
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.
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.
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.
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