Preparing your resume for your next job search may seem like a daunting task. Competition is fierce and employers often screen hundreds of resumes per job opening. In order to get your foot in the door, you need to put that best foot forward!
I’ve reviewed over a thousand resumes in the past 10 years, and any one of these blunders is an immediate turn off. Whether you are starting from scratch, making significant updates, or simply adding your most recent experience, do not fall into any of these five traps:
1. Including irrelevant information.
Space and attention spans are limited, so make every word on your resume count. When I screen resumes, it usually only takes me 30 seconds to determine if I think that person is qualified. If part of those 30 seconds are spent reading about your job as a paperboy, then you likely won’t make it any further.
What information is relevant? Anything you’ve done that demonstrates your skills, experience, leadership abilities, and depth. For skills, only include the ones that will help you perform the job you are applying for. Don’t include violin playing unless your job is somehow related to music. Same goes for experience. Only include previous jobs that in some way have prepared you for the one that you are applying.
If that leaves you with nothing to put on your resume, you’re not out of luck! Most hiring managers love to see other things that would differentiate you. List academic achievements, leadership roles you’ve held in clubs or extracurricular activities, and even athletic accomplishments. Mention work you’ve done abroad or volunteer work that shows a depth of character. And if you do play the violin, don’t list it as simply a skill, but talk about what you’ve done with your violin playing. There’s a huge difference between calling out a skill and talking about how you developed that skill, worked hard, and persevered.
Even if you are light on relevant skills and information, leadership abilities and activities that show a depth of character are great resume builders, if you talk about them in the right way.
2. Typos, misspellings, and incorrect grammar.
Having been an English major, I could potentially be biased here. But these mistakes are huge red flags because they show a lack of attention to detail. If you didn’t take the time to proofread your resume and make sure everything was correct, then you certainly won’t take the time to error-proof your work product.
The best way to ensure that your resume is error-free is to have a few other people look at it. You’ve probably looked at your resume so many times that you wouldn’t even notice a small mistake. But a fresh pair of eyes probably would. Share your resume with your parents and maybe a few friends to make sure there are no typos or mistakes.
3. Cramming too much information on to one page.
Your resume is a marketing piece and it should look like one—not a technical document. Remember what I said above about 30 seconds. When I receive resumes in an 8pt font and half-inch margins, I don’t know where to begin and am immediately turned off. Choose only the most compelling, relevant information and make sure it stands out with plenty of white space around it.
I’ve seen rules about keeping your resume to one page if you have less than 10 years of experience. If you have enough relevant information that requires two pages and you have less than 10 years of experience, then just go ahead and use a second page. I would rather review a two-page document that has “breathing room” than a one-page document that hurts my eyes. But if those two pages are full of fluff or things that don’t speak to the candidate’s potential to succeed in the job I am hiring for, it will go into the circular file.
4. Failure to have a LinkedIn profile.
This won’t necessarily hurt you, but it definitely could limit your opportunities. Many employers actively search LinkedIn for qualified candidates as their primary recruiting vehicle. I do. I post jobs that I recruit for on popular job boards, but most of the resumes that come in aren’t a match for what I’m looking for. The most efficient way for me to find top talent is to scour LinkedIn. In fact, the past five people I’ve hired have been people I proactively reached out to on LinkedIn.
That said, I wouldn’t turn down resumes that came through the application system just because I didn’t personally source them. But if I found a resume I liked, I’d probably go to LinkedIn to see who we knew in common so I could get a reference and see other information that might not be on the resume.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and is complete as possible.
5. Inflating your skills, titles and experience level.
Doing this is wrong for so many reasons. If you misrepresent your abilities on your resume and are hired under false pretenses then you will likely fail at your job. You may end up with poor performance reviews or worse, getting fired.
Even if you aren’t lying about your experience, be careful about your word choice. Don’t call yourself an “executive” unless you’ve held a significant management position. Don’t refer to yourself as an expert unless you truly are an expert in a particular area. If you’ve used a particular software program one time for one project, then don’t make it sound as if you know that tool inside and out.
Employers who are looking for candidates with 1-3 years of experience don’t expect you to be a master of everything. In fact, if I’m looking for a junior candidate and I see a resume with extensive skills and experience, I might assume that the applicant is too expensive for my hiring budget and pass on that person.
To sum up– keep it real. Keep it relevant. Keep it readable.
Post by Elizabeth Clor (CLAS 2000)
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