Putting together a well-written resume can be a huge challenge. Resumes provide you with the single opportunity to make a good impression and secure an interview for the job you want, but they are often littered with problems that lead them to be placed in the “no” pile.
Here are 10 common resume problems you may have, and how to solve them so you can stand out from the crowd and land that interview:
You want to change fields, but lack experience
This can be a tough challenge, but it’s not impossible. Look at the job you’re interested in and identify the skills necessary for the job. Design your resume focusing on skills, rather than specific jobs or experience. For example, instead of listing your two marketing jobs, list the skills and knowledge that will transfer to the job you’re seeking. Another way to pump up your experience is through volunteer or freelance work. Both can be listed on your resume. For example, you’re thinking about becoming an event planner, so get involved with a non-profit organization and help out on an event planning committee.
Your college degree isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for
Fear not if your degree has nothing to do with the job you’re applying for. Many people get a degree in one field, but wind up doing something completely different. Focus on your skills and experience in your resume rather than the degree. But don’t leave the degree off of your resume—it demonstrates your knowledge base.
You have a big gap between jobs
Whether your time off between jobs was your idea (staying home to raise children) or circumstances (a tough job market), don’t hide it. The good news is, given the economic slowdown, employment gaps are not uncommon. It still is something that needs to be addressed. A great place to do that is in your cover letter. If you stayed home to raise children or took time off to care for an aging parent, mention that in your letter. If you’ve been trying to find work for a long time without success, volunteer with a local organization and include that on your resume. That experience can go a long way and may even help you develop new skills. Freelancing is another option to help fill in gaps while you’re looking for the next gig. If your gap happened more than five years ago, don’t worry about addressing it. Your work history since the gap says a lot. Regardless, be prepared to answer questions about your work history during an interview.
You frequently change jobs
Having four jobs in five years can land you the job hopper tag. But it’s not all bad news. Let’s say in each case you improved your position—going from a line employee to assistant manager and then a manager. That shows initiative on your part and may be just what the company is looking for. Include all the jobs on your resume (unless you were there less than two months) and address your frequent job changes in your cover letter by saying you are looking for the next challenge to help you build a successful career with the right company. The job changes are bound to come up in an interview so be prepared with a good answer. Saying you left positions because you didn’t get along with a co-worker or boss is definitely a buzz killer.
You didn’t last long at your last job
Did you decide after a month or two it wasn’t the right job or did the company make that decision for you? In either case, if you were on a job for less than two months, it’s best to just leave it off of your resume. If you were there longer than that, put it on your resume, but be prepared to answer in an interview or even in your cover letter why your tenure was so short. Whether it was economic changes or the job wasn’t what you expected, go ahead and say that. It shows honesty, which employers always are looking for.
Your resume is too long, but you don’t know what to cut
Different hiring managers look for different resume lengths. Some want only a one-page resume while others say two is fine. Trying to figure out what to include in a resume can be a challenge, but a good rule of thumb is to only go back 15 years or five jobs, whichever is shorter. Describing what you did on various jobs can eat up a lot of space, so keep it short. Use bullet points or simple action-orientated sentences such as: Managing a team of five people.
You’re overqualified for the job you’re applying for
Whether you’re looking for something completely new or just need a job, you can still put together a resume that can help you land an interview. The key is focusing on your skills, not titles and words like “managed others.” Customizing your resume for the job you want and having a well written cover letter also can go a long way.
You’re short on experience and education
You’ve found a job that you would love to have, but the description mentions education and experience you don’t have. You should go ahead and apply. Job descriptions are a wish list and it’s possible no one out there meets the exact requirements. Be honest and talk about what experience and education you have and express a desire and excitement to learn and grow.
You choose the wrong words
Your resume and cover letter are your opportunity to make a first impression to a prospective employer. You want to make sure that impression is good, so be professional, using the right tone and words. Use specific, action verbs such as “managed,” “processed” and “edited,” rather than bland words like “did.”
Your resume is littered with mistakes
This is an easy problem to fix. Just make sure you run spell check and have at least one other person read your resume before you send it in. Go slowly when putting your materials together. If it takes an extra hour or two to send in that resume, take it. It’s better to take the time to send in a well-written, mistake-free resume than to hit send right away on a resume riddled with mistakes.
Putting together a resume can be a difficult task, but taking your time to think about what to include and how to avoid common problems can help you land that interview.