Ah, job hunting. We all love it and can’t wait to get out there and see what the marketplace has to offer us, right?
Not really. Most of us would rather not look for a job if we can avoid it. It’s why so many people remain in careers they don’t really enjoy; it’s easier than looking for something new.
Because it’s not really a fun or sexy subject, many people never really learn what makes a great resume. This lack of knowledge prolongs the job search and leads to endless frustrations.
Here’s the good news: you can tweak a few simple aspects of your resume and dramatically increase your chances of landing an interview. Below are the top 3 mistakes most people make when building a resume, and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Talking about what you can do, not what the company is looking for
Many people, when writing their own resume, seem to think the sheer number of credentials and skills they bring to the table will attract the interests of a prospective employer. They scrounge up every ounce of education, awards, or certifications and pepper the page with them. The items don’t necessarily require any connection to the position, but hey, you’ve got it, right?
Wrong. There is a difference between a skill which separates you from the pack and something which has no relevance to the position you are applying for.
If you are applying for an IT position and you are a Dale Carnegie Communications Course graduate, that’s a difference-maker, because you may have the rare combination of technical and communication skills. This is valuable.
If you won truck-driver of the quarter 3 times and are applying for a sales position, it’s not really relevant. The hiring manager may find it interesting that you can drive an 18-wheeler, but it really has no bearing on the job. If anything, putting it down hurts you because it shows you really don’t understand what the company is looking for.
Instead, focus your mind on what the company is looking for and how you fit their needs.
Write your resume with the tone of “This is what I can do for YOU” rather than “This is what I can do.” When you write your resume with the company’s desires in mind, you will change your wording to show how valuable you are to THE COMPANY, which is ultimately all the hiring manager cares about.
2. Creating a long, boring autobiography nobody is going to read
Ask yourself this question: have you ever really gotten excited about reading someone else’s biography when you have never heard of them and know none of their accomplishments?
Me neither. What stranger wants to read your autobiography? I do, but I’m a professional resume writer. Hiring managers aren’t interested.
98% of the resumes on the market are boring autobiographies. “I worked here and did this, and before that I worked here and did this, and before that I went to school…” It’s so tedious and difficult to navigate through.
Understand, all the person reading your resume is looking for is how you can help them fill their need.
This ties in very closely with point number one. A key point to remember: most recruiters spend less than 10 seconds deciding if your resume will be read or trashed. Make sure the first 10 seconds are your best.
Instead of writing long job descriptions in chronological order, write very short job descriptions and add bullet points of your relevant accomplishments. Don’t hide the fact that you were trained for management somewhere in the paragraph; make it a bullet point. Don’t write a long explanation on how you raised revenue; put in the bullet point “Raised company revenue by 11%.” The person reading this will have a much easier time understanding how you can help them, and are much more likely to call you for an interview.
3. Not addressing gaps or red flags
Times are tough. The economy is bad. Lots of people are out of jobs, and you may be one of them. Some of my clients have been seeking employment for over a year before coming to me. The first thing I notice on their resume is the last position ended months ago, with nothing to let me know what they’ve been up to.
Here’s a bit of advise on how to be a better candidate for a position: DO SOMETHING/ANYTHING!!!
Employers read hundreds of resumes a week and can spot BS and red flags immediately. If you’ve been job hunting for over 30 days and have nothing else to put down on your resume for this time, you are in trouble.
Volunteer somewhere and take free online courses. Keep your skills sharp and relevant. Study a new language. Anything to suggest you are a caring person who isn’t satisfied sitting at home all day watching TV.
It isn’t necessary to list everything you’ve done during your unemployed periods, just a quick sentence. An example could be:
“I have spent the last 9 months volunteering at the local homeless shelter, continuing my professional development through courses and seminars, and learning Spanish. I feel it’s important to always be growing and improving my skills.”
This will go a LONG way when put up against another resume which simply says “Last position 10/2010-4/2012″
And last, but not least, don’t lie. If you’re not already working on some projects to keep you busy while you job search, get some. The worst thing you can have happen is to be caught in a lie. You will not only fail to get the job, but your confidence will be shot as well. Better to be the person you want to talk about than to talk about the person you want to be.