When it comes to job hunting, there are few things as important when making a first impression as a great resume. You have to tailor your resume both for a computer and for a person because many businesses have several filters. If your resume does not cover the minimum job requirements, it may never reach a person for further review. If it doesn’t stand out, your phone isn’t going to ring, no matter how amazing your experience.
What many people don’t realize is how detrimental little mistakes can be when you are looking for a new opportunity.
Here are some of the most common resume-mistakes job-seekers make and ways to prevent or fix them:
1. Believing a Single Resume is Good Enough.
This is perhaps the most common and most harmful mistake job seekers make. It is like thinking you can prepare a single business proposal and get any contract. The truth is that you have to update your resume for every position you’re applying for.
The changes don’t have to be substantial, but you need to tweak your resume to cover at least the minimum requirements for any job for which you apply. It is usually a safe bet to save each version for future reference or, if you are lucky, for future use.
2. Sending a Resume that is too Long to Review.
A long resume is tied for number one as the worst mistake and is a very good reason why you have to learn to customize your resume. The more job experience you have, the longer your resume would be. However, take it from us: employers are not going to sift through four pages of a lengthy saga masquerading as resume; in fact, they seldom look beyond the first page.
You need to fit the most relevant experience onto that first page, making it easy for prospective employers to find your best qualifications. It also proves that you know how to prioritize what is important, a highly desirable trait in any employee.
3. Applying with Basic Mistakes on your Resume
Mistakes on your resume can be something as obvious as a formatting, grammatical, or spelling error, but it says all the wrong things about a candidate. It is always worth it to pay someone to edit your resume to make sure it is clean and presentable.
4. Failing to Provide Specifics.
When employers post a position, they provide specifics. They are looking for at least that level of detail from their future employees. You should provide generalizations, such as how you programmed apps, edited documents, or trained employees.
Flesh these out to include the kinds of apps you programmed, the kinds of documents you edited (marketing, technical, or web-based), or the nature of training you provided.
5. Focusing on duties instead of highlighting accomplishments.
While you have to cover everything that is required in a position, it is far more impressive when employers can see what you have accomplished. If you worked on accounts receivable, highlight how you did that and improved the process.
If you work on an assembly, highlight how much you can process in an hour and the percentage of your work that was accepted. Instead of saying that you scheduled and ran meetings, detail how you used those meetings to improve the project or resolve issues.
6. Using an Email Address that is Unprofessional.
There are two types of inappropriate email addresses: personal ones that are offensive, or your current employer’s email address. If you are applying outside of your current company, do not use your work email address to apply to other positions. It should be obvious why it is inappropriate. Most people have email addresses that say something about their personality, but ultimately the email address you use to find a new job should sound professional.
There are so many free email platforms that it should not take more than a couple of minutes to sign up for one that is your first and last name, followed by the domain names, such as @gmail.com or your address from your current Internet provider.
7. Adding Graphics When that is not What You do Professionally.
Sure, this can get the attention of employers, but it really just takes up space. Even if you work with graphics for a living, you should provide a link to a portfolio for the employer to review instead of cramming something onto your resume.
Your resume needs to highlight experience, not a headshot or image. The more space that is taken up with this kind of unnecessary information, the less details about your work you can provide, and the less likely that you will be hired.
8. Failing to Add Links that Highlight How Good you are.
This is particularly important for fields that require portfolios, like software and app development, graphics, gaming, writing, or freelancing. Including links in your resume gives employers the chance to find out exactly what you can do beyond looking pretty on a resume, and leaves behind a much more favorable impression.
9. Creating an Unfocused, Unstructured resume.
Sections need to be clearly defined, previous positions should be easy to view (especially the duration of work for different divisions or companies), and bullets should be consistent. Hiring managers average about 6 seconds on a resume during the initial perusal, so they need to be able to find all of the basics so that your resume ends up in the pile for further review instead of in the discard pile.
10. Ignoring the Importance of Keywords.
This includes both -what is in the job description as well as the keywords of your profession. All professions have buzz words and mission critical words that are commonly used. Make sure to show that you know how to use them on your resume to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of your profession.
11. Including Fluff and Weasel Words on your Resume.
Words like very, nearly, and approximately really don’t have a place in your resume. You need to keep it as clear and concise as possible. If a word is not required or does not offer a deeper description of what you did or achieved, delete it.
12. Mishandling Your Objective.
There are two ways to mishandle the objective section of your resume. The first is to leave it out entirely. This can be an extremely easy way for potential employers to eliminate your resume within the first second of checking it. The second way to mishandle it is to be vague. Make it more like an executive summary so that you focus on what is important to you.
You aren’t just looking for a challenging position where you can grow and develop professionally; you are looking for a position at an entry-, mid-, or expert-level where you can use and expand your skills in whatever field you wish to find employment in.
This is particularly crucial if you are switching to a different field because potential employees will want to know why someone with a completely different background is seeking to move to something that does not match their experience.
13. Not Using Enough Actionable Language on your Resume.
Lack of action verbs is a really easy item to fix, but a mistake that far too many job hunters make. The best way to fix this is to change all of your bullets to start with an action verb. This could be as simple as “Assisted with…,” “Developed…,” or “Recorded…” Every task at work requires you to act. That should be reflected on your resume.
14. Omitting Side Projects and Work that is Relevant.
There should be a section on your resume that covers your extra-curricular activities and hobbies, even if you graduated 30 years ago. Everyone has hobbies, and odds are those hobbies require a level of expertise, organization, and planning that can be applied to the job.
This is particularly true if you do volunteer work. Put all of this on your resume if you can tie it back to why it makes you a valuable employee (especially if it helps you meet the minimum job requirements).
15. Making the Resume Painful to look at.
This problem is similar to having unnecessary graphics, but it refers to having different font types (or just a really bad font), more than two font sizes, or too much information crammed into too little space. Your resume needs to be visually appealing to make it past the first 6 seconds.
16. Presenting Your Experience without Considering Logic.
Most people organize their experience with the most recent job at the top, so that typically is not the problem. This refers to organizing your bullet points in a way that doesn’t make sense. What you highlight in your resume should flow in a way that makes sense, such as including meeting related activities together, programming items together, defect-monitoring tasks together, customer-driven tasks together, and so on. Each point should flow into the next one.
17. Including Irrelevant Jobs or Positions.
If you keep your resume to a page or two, this should already be taken care of, but some people still put old, irrelevant information on their resume. Cull things that don’t pertain to the position to which you are applying and delete jobs that you did more than 15 years ago. You can also provide the type of degree you have without including the year.
This information can be added elsewhere or provided when asked. Usually employers are only looking for the last 15 years of experience anyway, so keep your resume to that time frame and it will be easier to work with.
18. Using a Standard Resume Template Without Customizing it.
This defect is far too common because people do not put adequate time into their resumes. Just as you should tailor your resume to a job, you should customize your resume to show a bit of who you are so that it stands out.
19. Treating your Resume as something separate from your Online Presence.
Ideally, your resume should be nearly identical to your online professional presence, whether on LinkedIn or your own website. Your resume could be a shortened version, but it should be consistent with the experience you present on job boards and on your site.
20. Writing your Resume in the Third Person.
Most people are trained to avoid first person except when it is necessary. Your resume is one of those places where the first person is necessary. Ultimately, potential employers know the resume is about you, so you may safely eliminate pronouns entirely (making it a lot easier to begin your bullets with an action verb).
Your resume needs to be an attractive and compelling presentation of yourself and your skills. It needs to both, look professional, and provide only relevant information. It is tempting to do things that make it stand out, but most of the time you aren’t going to have the time or space for extras. Take some time to really look at your resume to make sure that it presents you in the best possible light. Getting some critical analysis, even if it is from friends, family members, and colleagues, can really help you create a successful resume.