Here’s a fact: very few people like reading resumes, especially those who read hundreds of them a week. Ask any hiring authority (recruiter, HR, hiring manager). I critique and write resumes as part of my job. I’ve read hundreds of them, but I’ve got nothing over hiring authorities.
The only bright spot in this whole process is reading a resume that doesn’t give me a sharp pain between my eyes, one that is relatively sound. A resume that is outstanding—now, that’s a WOW moment.
Once you understand that hiring authorities are not dying to read your resume, you can focus your attention on writing one that pleasantly surprises them, one that prompts them to recommend you for an interview.
To entice them into inviting you in for an interview, you must avoid making the following mistakes:
1. An apathetic approach to writing your resume. Don’t let your apathy show in the quality of your product, which shouts, “I’m not into writing a resume because I’ve got better things to do.” This results in typos, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes.
This sentiment comes across loud and clear from people who feel this way. They resent having to write a resume and would prefer others to do it for them. Do not rely on others to write your resume; it’s your responsibility.
Note: if you simply can’t write your own resume, be sure that you hire someone who will take adequate time to interview you and get to know what you’ve accomplished in your career.
2. Your resume is a tome. It’s a five-page document consisting of every duty you performed within the past 25-years; and it’s so dense that the person reading it puts it in the “don’t read” pile simply because it’s nearly impossible to read.
I recently glanced at a resume that resembled what I’ve just described. I made no false pretense and simply put it down after two seconds saying, “I can’t read this.” My customer nodded with understanding.
3. And it’s hard to read. Make your resume easy to read by writing short paragraphs, no more than three or four lines. Shorter paragraphs allow the reader to grasp important information easier. I’m also a fan of using bold text to make words for phrases stand out.
Remember that recruiters take approximately 6-10 seconds to glance at your resume to determine if they will read the rest of it. Thus your resume must grab their attention quickly. Make sure they see the accomplishments within those six seconds.
4. It lacks accomplishments. I know, you’ve heard this a thousand times. But it’s worth repeating because you want to stand out from the rest. Recruiters and employers relate to quantified results with dollars, numbers, and percentages. Many people mistakenly think accomplishments should only be highlighted in the Experience section or under Career Highlights.
One or two of your accomplishments should be stated in the Performance Profile. “Develop processes that improve operations and result in double-digit revenue growth.” A statement like this is meant to grab the reader’s attention. This assertion must then be backed up in the Experience section with explicit examples and dollar amounts.
5. It includes clichés or unsubstantiated adaptive skills. The rule is to show rather than tell. Yes, you may be innovative; but what makes you innovative? Did you develop a program for inner-city youth that promoted a cooperative environment, reducing violent crime by 50%? If so, state it in your profile as such.
Recruiters and hiring managers can see fluff a mile away. They’re turned off by words like “dynamic,” “results-oriented,” “Outstanding,” “driven,” and other clichés.
6. Failing to show hiring authorities what you’ll do for them. Recruiters and employers don’t want to know what you did; they want to know what you can do. You’re probably thinking, “If my work history is in the past. That’s what I did. How do I show employers what I can do?”
It’s what we in the field call prioritizing your statements, or targeting your resume to each company to which you apply. In other words, illustrate how your qualifications and accomplishments match the employers’ requirements in order of importance.
7. You don’t know what hiring authorities want. Many people don’t take the time to dissect the job ad to discover the most important skills and experience the employer wants to see on your resume. If the ad is skimpy, go to the company’s career section on its website.
Better yet, if you know someone at the company or know someone who knows someone at the company, call him/her and ask more about the position. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding influential people at companies. The bottom line is that you can’t write a targeted resume if you don’t understand the requirements of the job.
8. You lack keywords and phrases. Much has been said about the applicant tracking systems that determine if your resumes will be read by human eyes. While true that you need to have industry-standard keywords, the ATS won’t automatically place your resume in the circular file cabinet.
Nonetheless, your branding headline, much like the headline on your LinkedIn profile, is the first place on your resume where you’ll utilize keywords. Then you will make sure they’re peppered throughout the rest of your resume. Do this for human consumption to make it easy for hiring authorities to spot the skills they’re looking for.
9. Your resume isn’t smart phone friendly. For you Millennials this should be no problem, as you go nowhere without your iPhone or Android. (I’m the same way, even as a Boomer.)
The job search is increasingly used more on the go, rather than at a computer, so your resume (stored in Dropbox) must be legible to recruiters and hiring managers. Recruiters and HMs want your resume fast, so don’t disappoint them.
10. You apply for a job for which you’re not qualified. I know the urge to find a job, any job, is great; but don’t waste the time of a recruiter, employer, and you by applying for a job for which you’re not qualified.
You may think there’s an inkling of hope that you’ll get an interview. But if you have only five of the 10 requirements necessary to do the job, there really is no hope. And this can be determined within the first 10 seconds of reading the resume.
A woman in HR recently related this story to me, “I received a resume in a USPS photo envelope (heavy duty mailer) certified mail. The resume is on lovely cream-colored card stock, beautifully formatted. The problem, she is applying for the Assistant Town Accountant position and for the last 10 years she has been a dog groomer.”
These are but 10 faux pas you must avoid if you want to write a powerful resume that is enjoyable to read and gets you a spot in the hot seat. Once you’re at the interview, you’re one step closer to a job offer.
Photo: Flickr, ssunnymorgann