Résumé Blunders That Cost Job Seekers Dearly
By Brenda Mitchell
Most people view résumés as a necessary evil and I can completely understand why. A good résumé takes thought, some creativity, an ability to “sell yourself” and some basic marketing principles. Yet, the resume is so vitally important. The résumé must evoke an emotion in the eyes of the reader and compel them to pick up the phone and give you a call. Your résumé really is a marketing piece at a very basic level.
Here is what I believe are the top 7 résumé blunders. Trust me. I have seen them all over the last eight years as an Executive Recruiter. In fact, I have a “running” Word document that I add to on a weekly basis anytime I come across a funny, unusual, or bizarre item on a résumé. One day I will share it with the world and you will not believe what I have seen on résumés.
Anyways, back to the purpose of this article. If I were to take all of the blunders I have seen I could place them into 7 basic categories. I would encourage you to take time to measure your résumé up against these blunders and be sure that these are not true about your résumé.
Top 7 Résumé Blunders
1. Lack of Focus – If anything bugs me more it is seeing a résumé that has no focus. I have seen great candidates with bad résumés and a lack of focus on their résumé is what is keeping them from getting in the door for an interview.
SOLUTION: Have a solid summary statement at the beginning of the résumé. Personally, I am not a big fan of “Objective Statements.” I just don’t think they are very useful. However, a nice summary statement or qualifications summary at the beginning can work well. The idea is to have a paragraph at the beginning of the résumé that “sells you” into the position. Now, you may need to tailor this to specific positions before you submit it but the idea is to have compelling statements that are clear as to what you are trying to accomplish and what you are all about.
2. Too Wordy – There are some people who want to put “everything” on their résumé. Their philosophy is that if it isn’t on the résumé then they will think I don’t have the experience. The problem is that your “presentation” on a résumé is just as important. The reader is judging your overall presentation based on how the résumé looks and if you are able to say things concisely.
SOLUTION: If you have less than five years of experience try to stick with a one page résumé. If you are a 5-15 year person then you have earned a two-page résumé. If you have more than 15 years of experience then you can go to a three-page résumé. However, I would normally recommend that you stay to two pages if at all possible. Another tip that is becoming common practice is to list at the bottom of the résumé “Additional Professional Experience Available Upon Request.” This can help those who have a 20+ year career and are struggling with keeping their résumé short. It can also help you if you feel like your age is becoming a factor in your job search (although, it is not supposed to!).
3. Dull job descriptions – Here is where many people make a big mistake! They sit down just list out their normal daily routine and plug that into a résumé. Now it can be an important part of the résumé to describe in detail what you have done. Reason being, in the age of the internet hiring managers are searching for certain keywords so you do want to be descriptive on your résumé. However, look at it with fresh eyes and be sure that the whole résumé is not just one long boring job description.
SOLUTION: You MUST use achievements in your résumé! Make sure there is an achievements section to your résumé. This can either be displayed separately at the beginning of the résumé before the work history section or you can plug it under the various positions. This is critical as it will tell the hiring manager what you are capable of! Also, be sure you are descriptive. Don’t just say you saved the company money by improving a process. Instead say, “Saved $1.4 million yearly by improving…..” Be clear when you list out an achievement. Don’t underestimate this section of your résumé.
4. Poor organization – Some people get in a rush and just hurry through the résumé building process. If you want an effective résumé then you have to give it some thought. You must use words that are powerful and evoke an emotion and there must be a logical flow to the overall résumé. Isn’t this basic marketing 101? Why wouldn’t it be true in a résumé? Now, you need not to go over the top and get “gimmicky” with your résumé, but I think you know what I mean.
SOLUTION: start off each bullet point with a strong action verb. Use strong action words like created, initiated, saved, accelerated, launched, executed, strengthened, broadened, etc. These are all great verbs that can make you stand out on a résumé.
5. Spelling/ Grammar mistakes - This is a big one. I have seen great candidates not make it to the interview phase because of simple typos. Quite frankly, I have even received some pointed and direct emails from readers because they found a typo in my blog post. Of course, I appreciated them letting me know and made the correction, but this is a blunder that can happen very easily if you are not careful. You can even re-read your résumé a few times and miss the typo or the grammar mistake.
SOLUTION: Get someone else to look at your résumé. Fresh eyes will see things that you had not noticed. Most of the time it can be the wrong use of a word that a spell checker would never catch. Most of us are connected to a teacher in some way and I would encourage you to reach out to them. I am sure that either someone in your family is a teacher or maybe even a friend might be one. Email them your résumé and ask if they would read it over and let you know about any area in your résumé that needs improvement.
6. Using a non-conventional format – Please get this point: doing something on a résumé that no one else is doing will not make you stand out. In fact, it can damage you and make your appear like you lack a professional presence. Now, if you are in a creative profession then maybe there is some room for some creativity, but this will not be true for 90% of the audience reading this. There are some creative ways to market and do some other activities but definitely not on the résumé itself.
SOLUTION: Use a standard, conventional résumé format (and font). Again, there is no need to get too creative here. I have received résumés in a Microsoft Excel document believe it or not. Also, remember that your résumé will be viewed for the first time on the actual computer screen 99% of the time. If your résumé does not look good on the computer screen itself then start over with a new format. This is why I am not a big fan of résumés that are in tables on a Word document. To me, it just does not look clean, concise or crisp.
7. Too much miscellaneous information – I have seen some of the most bizarre things on a résumé. A résumé is not for listing out all the hobbies and extra-curricular activities that you are a part of. I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but you are taking a real chance here. It will either work out great or really bad. There really is no middle ground here in my opinion. Of course, I understand that when you are a fresh graduate that you need to fill up your résumé and put as much as you can in there in order to just get started in your career and convince someone to give you a shot.
However, letting a future employer know that you call bingo for a retirement facility every Tuesday night might not help you land the interview. Listing all of your hobbies out on your résumé is not a good idea in my opinion either. Again, this can go either way for you so why risk the chance. Also, know when it is time to drop something off of a résumé. If you were a state champion in wrestling and you are now 35 years old it is time to let it go. Companies are looking for people who are forward thinkers.
SOLUTION: When in doubt, leave it out! Simple advice, but I think I have made my point. If you have a spouse, ask them if you should include the information on your résumé. They will tell you the truth!
So, how did you do? Does your résumé contain any of these top blunders. If so, remove them immediately. Like I said in the beginning, I have met great candidates with bad résumés. Do not let your résumé be a roadblock to getting your foot in the door.