Resume Mistakes You Don’t Realize You’re Making
This week, we’re giving you a rundown of the most common resume mistakes that some people don’t even realize they’re making. It’s easy to get whiplash from the tons of advice (often conflicting) you can get about the job world, and we’re here to be a light in the darkness!
Your resume is often the first impression a recruiter or hiring manager has of you, so why not get started on the best foot possible? Here are some quick fixes and food for thought to start.
You’re making a resume mistake if you’re…
Paying no attention to spelling, grammar and formatting. Nobody’s perfect, but when submitting your resume to a potential employer, you REALLY have to try to be. Give your resume a second and third look, read it out loud and scan for any glaring errors. We suggest giving it to a friend or two to look over for you as well.
Making your resume too long. Even with as many years of experience as some people have, their resumes end up being way too long. A recruiter or hiring manager spends about six seconds reviewing a resume before deciding if you’re worth a second look. Our company owner has about 15 years of experience, and his resume is still one full page. Anything over two pages is generally considered an unacceptably long resume, or at the very least it’s very poor form. You should write a resume with the recruiter and hiring manager’s attention span in mind. They’re the audience, and their preferences matter more than ours. Try to get your resume down to at least one page.
Using a distracting template with logos and colors. There’s overwhelming evidence that recruiters and hiring managers prefer a no-frills, cleanly-written resume that focuses on delivering information quickly and efficiently. While there’s always a little room to make a document aesthetically pleasing, you should stay away from the more creative and designer resumes meant to “stand out.” It is our opinion that your experience should be what stands out, not the visual design of your resume.
Including a picture. Photos shouldn’t be included in any resume in the United States (some other countries have a different policy). Including your photo on a resume actually opens a company up to potentially discriminating your application based on appearance. Because of this, most companies will specifically toss out your resume if it includes a picture, since nobody wants to be accused of hiring (or not hiring) you based on your appearance. Even if the company doesn’t have that policy, it’ll likely be seen as a strange move. Do what most of us do: Include a link to your LinkedIn, but leave the photos off the actual resume.
Not including a professional summary, or putting an objective statement or list of skills in its place. These days, a short summary at the top is the best way to begin your resume. Not an objective statement, just a 3-4-line narrative summary of what you bring to the table and who you are as a professional. Focus on making real impact by speaking about your total experience, types of industries or markets, key strengths, and history/background. A good summary paints the full picture of experience, shows the primary areas of expertise, and anchors a few key points you plan to further expand upon later in the document. Putting a chunk of soft skills at the beginning of your resume paints a broad, unclear picture of who you are as a professional. Additionally, most jobs you could potentially pursue may not want everything you list on the page, which means only a portion of your resume will feel relevant to each employer. A well-written summary is a powerful introduction, and primes the reader on a few key tenets before really diving into the actual experience portion of your resume.
Going overboard with your education section, especially if you’re still in school. The #1 problem is that new grads try to get clever and make their resumes sound far too impressive. They end up over-reaching and fluffing their experience up, which makes them sound completely full of crap. Your education section should focus on your degree and graduation date, very little more. When you’re a student or new graduate, it’s tough to have someone tell you to DOWNPLAY your education, but it’s absolutely the right move. The recruiter or hiring manager reading your resume will most likely already understand what courses someone in your major takes. This is counter-intuitive, but it’s also what’s going to help you look like you’re a step above your peers, professionally. Everyone else is out there panhandling for attention, listing every tiny course and achievement they’ve ever had. It looks like begging, and your resume can get much better results if you’re seen as sort of an “anti-candidate.”
Throwing everything you’ve ever done onto your resume and hoping something sticks. Many people are overly vague in their experience points in an attempt to give a high-level overview, but that strategy can often backfire. Go for what we call the “story-driven” technique, where you give pinpointed examples and detailed accounts of a specific project or accomplishment. Zooming in and showing all sides of one particular situation can actually do a better job of uncovering your potential than listing a general description, and it also makes your entire resume more believable. The more info you provide, the more likely people are to simply skim and move on, instead of really taking the time to read.
Listing out tasks with no results. If your resume just reads like a job description, and a basic run-down of your day to day duties, you’re making a mistake. Some of that is necessary, but you’ll never get into the upper levels of a “great” resume by simply showing a laundry list of your daily responsibilities.
Being misleading or dishonest. We get it – you want an awesome resume that will blow the socks off your recruiter or a potential hiring manager. It can be tempting to sprinkle some falsities or embellishments throughout your resume, especially if you don’t have years of strong professional experience to back you up. While it may not be a big deal to list a proficiency in HTML if you don’t have the first clue about it, or go so far as to make up a previous employment position altogether, it’s better for you to be 100% honest on your resume. One of two things will happen: you’ll get caught in a lie and have to keep looking for jobs with your tail between your legs, or you’ll get hired and feel like you’re drowning in a position you’re not fit for. Set yourself up for nothing but success, and be wholly honest.
Featuring buzzwords like “highly motivated,” “born leader” and “results-oriented.” Phrases like “highly motivated”, “dedicated”, and “results-driven” appear on a large proportion of resumes and those words are often ignored by recruiters. They can make the applicant seem generic and unimpressive. Most recruiters are going to think “oh brother, this guy doesn’t really think he’s impressed me, does he?” Recruiters are a very critical bunch!
Mentioning anything about high school (if you’re not still in high school). Since you’ve been a college student and/or a working professional for quite a while now, recruiters don’t need to see anything relating to high school (even if you don’t have a college degree). Use that extra space for fine-tuning your work experience, which is the most important part of your resume.
Letting the reader know that references are available upon request. Three words: they already know!