While job search techniques and tactics have changed a lot over the years, one thing is still true: Having a killer resume is key. Your resume is quite often your first point of contact with the employer–your first impression, if you will–and it’s usually competing with hundreds of other resumes. Within a few seconds of looking at your resume, the hiring manager is going to decide whether to call you for an interview or move on to the next candidate. So it’s absolutely crucial to get this document right.
And yet, you’d be surprised how many job seekers create resumes that fail to hit the mark. Quite often, a resume gets put in the trash, not because the person isn’t qualified, but because of an avoidable error that caused the resume to get overlooked. Let’s take a look at six common mistakes that people make on their resumes so you can avoid them.
Mistake 1: Using the Same Resume for Every Job Application
When creating your resume, your goal is to convince the hiring manager that you are a good candidate for the role. If you use the same boilerplate resume for every job you apply to, you’re inevitably going to include information that is irrelevant to that employer, and that’s not going to help your cause at all. To make matters worse, many employers now use an applicant tracking system for resumes submitted online. These tracking systems look for certain phrases and keywords related to the job description they’ve posted, and if your resume doesn’t contain those keywords…it might be filtered out so it’s not seen by human eyes at all!
The way to avoid this problem—and something I repeatedly tell all my clients—is to customize your resume to fit the job description. You don’t have to rewrite the resume every time—just create a template where you can edit the resume with a few clicks and keystrokes. In this digital age where it’s so easy to edit documents, there’s just no excuse for not customizing your resume to fit what each employer is looking for. Tailor each resume so that it presents you as the ideal candidate that matches what the employer is looking for.
Mistake 2: Overloading Your Resume
Many people mistakenly believe that a long resume tells employers how experienced you are. In reality, it sends a message that you don’t know how to keep things focused on the job description. It’s very easy to get carried away when creating your resume by including one too many details you think would impress the employer.
These days, if the resume is more a page and a half long, it’s going to carry less weight. If it’s more than two pages, chances are it will be overlooked.
One reason people make this mistake is that they don’t know the difference between a resume and a Curriculum Vitae, or CV. A resume summarizes only the most relevant points about your education and work experience. A CV goes into more detail about your academic and professional accomplishments, including education, awards, achievements, places where you’ve been published, etc. CVs are primarily used in academic and medical professions, and they can easily be several pages long—and in many cases, the longer, the better!
Bottom line—if you’re asked for a CV, pack it with as many of your professional accomplishments as you can. If it’s a resume and not a CV, limit it to only the most relevant items.
Mistake 3: Revealing Salary Expectations on Your Resume
Talking about salary can be a delicate matter. Doing it too soon can either price you out of the position or cause you to sell yourself short. You’ll need to talk money at some point in the process, but posting your expected salary on your resume basically takes negotiation off the table. That’s why salary negotiations should come later in the hiring process, once the employer is interested in you.
As an alternative, if you’re asked to provide salary expectations, I recommend giving the employer a salary range—a low number to a high number. The reason is that you might not yet have clarity on the scope and depth of the job, and this gives you more negotiation power when you find out those details. Do some research to learn the market value of the job you’re applying for and recognize the value you bring to the organization. That way, you won’t sell yourself short when discussing salary.
Mistake 4: Listing Job Duties Rather than Accomplishments
I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen resumes over the years where the applicant simply listed their job responsibilities under every job they held. That really does nothing but make the resume longer. The employer isn’t interested in your prior job descriptions–they want to know you can do good work for them. The way to convince them of your viability is to give concrete examples of how your efforts made things better at other companies you’ve worked for. Think in terms of the PAR formula (Problem-Action-Results). So inane details like “Managed filing and paperwork for the entire office” becomes “Addressed paperwork issues by completing a full revamp of the office filing system for greater efficiency.” Remember, try to use examples that are relevant to the job description to help grab the employer’s attention.
Mistake 5: Using Cliches, Buzzwords, and Fluff
In the past, it might have been a good idea to pepper your resume with industry jargon and special buzzwords that were relevant to your field. Not anymore–hiring managers will see right through that! In fact, it’s become so common these days that I’ve seen hiring managers go out of their way to screen for this in applicants. Tired phrases like “out-of-the-box thinking,” “team player,” “results-oriented,” etc. don’t really tell the employer what you can do. Instead, use concrete examples of how you’ve exhibited these qualities at your other jobs. Try to use quantifiable terms. For example, “employs out-of-the-box thinking for improved profitability” becomes “Implemented solutions that resulted in 35 percent increased revenue for the company.”
Mistake 6: General Unprofessionalism
This is really a “catch-all” category describing some of the things applicants do (or fail to do) that make the look and feel of their resume seem less than professional. Common blunders include:
- Typos and grammatical errors.
- Using an unprofessional email address. (Something like “firstname.lastname@example.org” is good; “email@example.com,” not so much.)
- Flashy fonts and colors. (Many automatic tracking software don’t recognize unusual formats and fonts, and they’ll spit out your resume if you use them.)
Here’s the good news: Because these are six of the most common mistakes, if you can avoid making them, you’ve just given yourself a huge advantage over a lot of your competition—namely, everyone else who did it wrong! Sometimes the best way to get your resume to the top of the pile is just by avoiding the pitfalls others fall into.
There are, of course, many other ways you can fine-tune your resume to make it shine. As always, I’m here to help you get in the best position possible to land your dream job. To schedule a free 30-minute consultation, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s chat.