According to most resume writers, career coaches, and even some recruiters, job seekers’ resumes might be poor at best. This statement is based on a poll on LinkedIn where the aforementioned weighed in with their vote and some thoughts.
Margaret Martin is a career coach for women who are in their 50’s and above. She writes:
“The majority of clients I have come to me to update their resumes and then there are those who are assigned to me in their career transition programs. I have read / edited thousands of resumes over 15 years and very few are well written when I read them for the first time. Frankly, the majority are poorly done“!
In case you’re wondering, the poll asks the question: How many resumes have you read that are well written? The answers to choose from were: most resumes I’ve read shined, some resumes I’ve read shined, and few resumes I’ve read shined.
The sad fact is that 56% voted for few resumes they’ve read shined.
Margaret Martin isn’t the only commenter who bemoans job seeker’s resumes. Following are others who voice their opinions on the common resume problems:
Difficult to read
This is not to say there’s no hope for job seekers. However, how they should write their own resumes takes some common sense. Take readability for instance. Wayne Schofield is a technical recruiter who writes:
“People think that tables, color, flash and flair stand out…well it does, but not for the better.
“What stands out to someone like myself who reads and reviews hundreds of resumes each day is something easy to read, easy to traverse in order to find years, level, education and more.”
Being presented with an easy-to-read document is important. Consider that a recruiter like Dan Roth says the average recruiter glances at a resume for seven (7) seconds before deciding to read on. He, on the other hand, might take more time to read a resume based on the stage of the interview. He adds:
“Sometimes I will look at a LinkedIn profile first. Then based on what I see, if I am having trouble identifying which of my roles the candidate falls into, I can spend 5 or so minutes going through the resume searching for details that will help me determine role and level the candidate fits into.”
Another consideration that escapes many people is writing a resume that’s easy to read on a smartphone. Virginia Franco, a resume writer and career coach, writes:
“I‘ve seen a bit of everything—some great, some horrible and plenty in between. The majority, though, aren’t written with the mobile or small-screen reader in mind. They are chock-full of dense text.”
Don’t show job seekers’ greatness
Some job seekers are cognizant of what they’ve accomplished and know how to express it through their resumes. But many more don’t get it. They write boring, duty-oriented documents and think it will impress employers. Laura Smith-Proulx, an executive resume writer begs to differ:
“We are taught to be good at what we do, Bob McIntosh, but not to promote it or explain our own value proposition. That’s what I see in most “before” resumes… which are just scratching the surface re: the candidate’s ROI to an employer.”
I see this all too often; a resume that reads like a grocery list of mundane duties, where there are opportunities to show my clients’ greatness. Someone who is in charge of implementing an SAP system must go beyond the obvious and talk about:
- their role in the process
- why it was installed
- how quickly it was installed, and the result of the installation.
Following is an example of how one can add a few facts to turn the above duty statement into an accomplishment statement.
Increased companies efficiency 67% by orchestrating the installation—3 weeks before deadline—of SAP to replace antiquated CRM system.
Marisol Maloney, a talent acquisition specialist in the military sector, has a unique challenge with her clients who need to express their greatness to employers in the civilian sector:
“Since most of my candidates tend to be veterans or transitioning service members, many of the resumes I get from this population lack metrics. I totally understand why this population falls short in selling themselves because I am former military myself.”
She gives as an example a part of a veteran’s accomplishment:
“Provided the Group Commander, Troop Command Commander, and five Adjutant Generals and their staff with timely and accurate information on deployment and re-deployment data, logistics, personnel and equipment status.”
Which can simply be written:
“Directed 300 personnel of multiple levels, providing senior management with timely and accurate operations information pertaining to data, logistics, and personnel and equipment status.”
Not written to the audience
Many job seekers write a resume for themselves, not employers. This stands out like a sore thumb and will often make hiring authorities disqualify resumes. They can spot a resume that lacks relevance simply based on a candidate’s titles. And upon further inspection, resume readers notice that the duties don’t match the requirements.
Shelley Piedmont, a former recruiter turned career coach, has read thousands of resumes and finds resumes that don’t address the audience to be a prevalent problem:
“What most people don’t get about resume writing is to write the content for the audience. I have read so many resumes with extraneous information that has no relevance to whether you are qualified to do the job. Stick to that, and you will be on the way to having a resume that shines.”
Lisa Rangel has also read a ton of resumes prior to becoming a resume writer and emphasizes that resumes are marketing documents that need to meet the following objective:
“Resumes are marketing documents and I see many job seekers don’t understand how to market themselves.
“Often, these marketing documents are too focused on (1) what the job seeker can do and (2) not how well they did it and (3) not addressing how it’s relevant to the employer. When a job seekers can elevate to include #2 abd #3 in their document, this is what to separates themselves from competing candidates.“
Here we have the three major problems resume writers, career coaches, and hiring authorities, former and current, share in the poll comments. Job seekers need to make their resumes easy to read, show their greatness, and be relevant. But there is another problem that comes to mind.
What about work history length?
Of the hundreds of resumes I’ve read, work history length is another problem I see with my clients’ documents. The average age of my clients hovers around 55 years, so they have up to 30 years or more work history. Naturally they want to taut their experience; they’ve worked hard and have accomplished great things.
However, what they accomplished beyond 10 or 15 year isn’t relevant. The technology and processes used today is different then that which used used back in the day. In reality, employers want to know what you’ve accomplished within the past five to seven years. Okay, 10 years.
The second concern is ageism. I tell me clients that the job of the resume is to get them to the interview. Why hurt your chances by giving away your age I tell them. Unfortunately some ignorant employers don’t value the benefits older workers will bring to them.