I have literally read thousands of resumes during my 20+ year career - some good, some bad and some definitely ugly! Now more than ever it is essential that job seekers put best foot forward when applying for those oh-so-scarce roles. Our resume needs to stand out from the crowd.
Here are the top 5 most common resume mistakes I see, and how to avoid them.
1. Making it all about you!
For many people, one of the first things that they include in the resume (after their name and contact details) is an ‘Objective’ – information relating to what they are looking for, or what they want from a role and employer. Listen up – the potential employer doesn’t really care what you want, they want to know what you can offer and how you can help them in their business.
Replace ‘Objective’ with a ‘Professional Profile’ section which summarises in a paragraph what your offering is. A hiring manager should be able to read this and understand instantly why they should get you in for an interview. Outline your specialisms, years of experience and top skills in relation to their job advert - get the manager’s attention.
2. Making it too long or too short.
I kid you not, the longest resume I have seen was a whopping 38 pages – WOWZA! This resume detailed every single project this Engineer had ever worked on in a huge amount of detail. Needless to say, I didn’t get past the first couple of pages. Ok, so this was an extreme example, but the principle remains – people get bored easily, especially when they have potentially 50+ applications to go through. At the other end of the scale, I’m not a fan of 1 pagers. Unless you have just left school and are looking for your first job, 2 pages should be the minimum.
I’m a big fan of a 3 page resume. I realise that every word on the document might not be read, but it says to me that you have a decent amount of experience and some interesting skills to offer. 2 and 4 page resumes are also acceptable but stick within these boundaries. I firmly believe that no one ever needs to go over 4 pages, no matter how much experience you have.
3. Only talking about your responsibilities.
Your duties (responsibilities) are a key component of a resume. These responsibilities explain to the hiring manager what job roles and tasks you have previously undertaken. But often responsibilities are a little generic. For example, if applying for a Personal Assistant role and you tell me that your responsibilities include diary management, travel and accommodation booking, organising meetings, etc. that’s all great (and required) but almost all other applicants who have PA experience will have the exact same information. Responsibilities don’t make you stand out from the crowd.
Include achievements within each role so I can see more than just your responsibilities. Achievements show me how you differentiate from other candidates, where your personal value-add can come from. For example, have you introduced a new time saving process, were you asked to help on a project outside of your normal day to day, did you receive a recognition award for being a great staff member? Think about times within your role where you went above and beyond the norm. These are the things that make you stand out from other applicants.
4. Making a one size fits all.
Resumes are hard work, I get it. They are a bit of a pain to pull together especially if you haven’t looked at the document since the last time you were job searching. It genuinely takes hours of time to make a great resume. So I understand that once complete and you are happy with it, the thought of continually changing and updating it seems like a step too far. Here’s the downside – you have created a generic version which may apply and fit well to some job adverts but certainly not all job roles you apply for.
We need to tweak and tailor the resume each and every time to ensure that the most relevant information is prominent. Start with the job advert – highlight key tasks, skills and personal qualities the employer is looking for, and compare these requirements to your own experience. Now, go back to your resume and review whether this information is easily found within the document. Are you mentioning some of these elements within the Professional Profile section or does the reader have to scroll to page 3, bullet point 6 to find the detail? Because in reality a hiring manager doesn’t want to have to work hard to find this information, they don’t have time. And Applicant Tracking Systems need to pick up on keywords. So be sure to make the most relevant information prominent and tailor your resume each and every time.
5. Not focusing on the details.
By this I don’t mean giving extensive details of every job you’ve ever had, I’m actually talking about spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting. I’ve seen so many resumes that talk about ‘attention to detail’ then will have a full stop at the end of one bullet point and not a full stop in the next bullet. I know this may sound trivial but it’s small things like this that can get your resume culled from the list.
Almost all versions of Word now have a ‘Read Aloud’ option – use this. When the resume is read out loud, it makes it much easier to pick up on small spelling or grammar issues that the brain has missed, especially after we’ve read the document 20 times. Also, check your font type and font size, is it consistent across the document in the appropriate places? Is there enough white space? Have you used colour, bold, and underlining effectively but sparingly? These small details can make or break.
If you need professional help with your resume, please get in touch.