Or, how not to end up in the circular file…..
I have reviewed a lot of resumes over the years – a lot. It only takes a few seconds to grab my attention – either good or bad – once I look at a cover letter or resume. It’s the same with other HR pros and hiring managers; we’re looking for the same things regardless of the particular job we’re seeking to fill. There are common mistakes that will cause your resume and cover letter to hit the "no" pile in nanoseconds. Luckily for you, it’s also very easy to avoid these mistakes with just a bit of careful attention. Most resume blunders fall into two categories: format and content. Here are the most common mistakes (in no particular order) that cause me to toss one toward the (trash) basket:
Typos and Grammatical Errors
Spellcheck is easy to use. It even has a grammar function! Please use it. We all make mistakes, but leaving yours indicates either that you’re too lazy or don’t care enough to check, or that you really don’t know how to put together a correct and coherent sentence. Either way, the chances your resume will make it into even the "maybe" pile are significantly reduced.
Using an Inappropriate Email Address
Email is the accepted and preferred form of communication in today's workplace, so it’s important for it to be visible and convey- at worst - a neutral message, if not professional. Don't use email addresses that contain immature, sexually charged or offensive elements.
Using Crazy Fonts and Color
Stick to black type and basic fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, Tahoma, or Calibri. Don’t use different fonts or colors in different parts of your resume. Also, stick with white or cream paper. I’m not even going to look at a resume that’s on that lovely shade of lavender paper or has the flowers down the left margin.
Incorrect Contact Information
This may not be discovered until a hiring manger wants to contact you for an interview, but make sure your phone number and email address are on the resume and are correct. We’re not going to track you down if you’ve given the wrong contact information. You get one shot with this one.
Visually Too Busy
If your resume is wall-to-wall text it will most likely give the person reading it a headache. So show your resume to other people before sending it out. Do they find it visually attractive? If what you have is hard on the eyes, revise it. White space draws the reader's eyes to important points; use it wisely.
Not Using Reverse Chronological Order
This is important because we can see what your most recent experience is first, which is often what we’re most interested in.
Omitting Exact Dates
Omitting exact dates of employment often raises suspicion and makes it look like you’re trying to cover up something. If you’ve got a large gap in your resume, be up front about it and address the issue in your cover letter (employing the most positive spin, of course). We need to know how long your tenure was at each job – good or bad.
Too Long or Too Short
There are no real rules governing resume length. But, that doesn't mean you should start sending out five-page resumes. Having said that, you should try to limit yourself to no more than two pages. If you can do it in one, great! If you go two and a half, ok! The point is, if we have to wade through too much text in order to get a sense of who you are and if you’re a viable candidate, we probably won’t take the time. If there’s not enough information, we’re not likely able to decide if we want to consider you further.
Not Using Action Verbs
Avoid using phrases like "responsible for." Use action verbs: resolved, managed, lead, implemented, etc.
Lack of Specifics
We need to understand what you've done and what you’ve accomplished. For example, you can say you worked with employees in a retail store. But what does that really tell me? However, if you say that you recruited, hired, trained and supervised 15 employees in a major department store, I have a much better idea of what you did.
Listing Duties-Not Describing Accomplishments
It's easy to simply start listing job duties on your resume. Hiring managers are as much, if not more, interested in what you accomplished in that job. Tell us the result of your job duties – what good things happened when you performed your job duties? Did you reduce errors? Did you increase sales? Save money? Create opportunities for others?
Take a few minutes to tailor your resume to the specific job and company to which you’re applying. Above all, make sure that you review both your resume and cover letter to insure that reference to another company or job is not there! I’ve seen any number of cover letters addressed to someone at a different company, or that mentions a different job. I never get past that; it gets tossed aside.
Using an Objective Not a Summary
Objectives are outdated and usually irrelevant. I already assume you want a challenging position in which you can grow and contribute. Instead, include a summary, which should be like a 30-second sales pitch where you explain who you are, what you're looking for and what you can offer. Use just a few sentences to explain what you’re great at, most interested in, and how you can provide value to my company.
Leaving Red Flags
People often feel they can wait for the interview to explain any red flags or gaps that may be on their resume, but that’s too late. If you have gaps in your history, explain them in your cover letter. If you’re applying from out of state, explain why and what your plans are (moving into area, etc.). Don’t have the degree stated in the job posting? Explain how your experience or other education qualifies you. And don’t simply copy/paste text from the job ad. I know what the ad said; I need to know how you’re going to meet our requirements.
Job hunting is tough enough. Don’t make it any tougher on yourself by making these mistakes.