Your resume is your “hello” to the person who could get you a job. As such, you want to make a great first impression. Think of it like introducing yourself to someone with whom you really want to go out on a date. How are you going to present yourself? What’s your best pitch that mirrors what you think they want, but still represents who you are at the core? Except instead of a date, you want to ask this person for a minimum one year commitment, with a salary, hopefully also some vacation days and at least partial benefits. Plus! You’re one of many. You’re literally competing for this person’s interest.
Here are the pitfalls to avoid coming off like someone who isn’t qualified to walk their dog…
The Right Length
Old school thinking is that you have to keep your resume to 1 page. This is negotiable depending on the job you’re applying for. For an entry and mid-level position, 1 to 2 pages is the max. 3 and you’re in the garbage. Don’t cut off giving important information about yourself to adhere to an old rule that doesn’t apply nearly as much in this market where people with several years of experience are applying alongside people fresh out of a B.A. or Masters program.
This isn’t the cover letter and it’s not an essay contest. Keep to bulleting or short paragraphs. Include the most relevant and recent job experience. Contact info should be at the top, references at the bottom. Keep it clean for readability.
For this one document, you are a writer. Remember who your audience is! The person reviewing your resume is not going over it with a fine toothcomb the first time around. He/She is skimming it, looking for the main points and the buzz words that match up with the job description and qualifications they are looking for. Now, I know you want to get as much information as possible to flesh out exactly why you’re the person they’ve been waiting for. But don’t use 4 words when 2 will do. And don’t get too specific. Nobody cares about the years you spent as a boy scout if you’re applying for an office manager position.
Here’s swinging the pendulum in the other direction: giving too little information about yourself. It’s one thing to describe your duties but don’t forget to describe your successes! You have to talk yourself up because nobody is going to fight for you but you. And when you’re acknowledging your successes, make sure you do so in a way that feels quantitative or qualitative. You have to give some evidence of that success, not just, “I was really great at getting my old boss’ coffee right.” Again, it’s striking that balance of hitting the bold points and making sure that your bold points include what you’ve accomplished at your past jobs. Otherwise it comes off as thin, bland, like you’re putting up a front.
The summary/profile is one of the most important and difficult parts of your resume. Avoid putting too many vague and subjective traits in their. Terms like “hard working” tell the reader absolutely jack squat! EVERYONE is going to say they’re “hard working.” When was the last time you heard of someone saying on their resume that they, “are prone to procrastinate” or “prefer to spend 4 hours of the day at my desk watching cat videos on the internet”? Keep it precise and concise.
APPLY FOR THE RIGHT JOB!
It can be tempting to come up with a general summary and hope it applies to every job you submit for. Except that that kind of laziness comes through to the reader. You look like you don’t give a sh*t about the job you’re applying for. Make sure that key words in the job description from the ad you’re answering are in your summary. Take the time and tailor your resume for the job you’re applying for.
“What have you been doing with yourself for the last 2 years?”
Forgetting to update your resume is killer. Make sure you have the most recent job experience on there and give it some heft. Gaps in your timeline make you look incompetent, unemployable or lazy. This includes updating your skills list.
There’s no acceptable excuse for misspellings or crappy grammar. Not on your resume. Proof it and get a pair of outside eyes — that have some experience crafting resumes — to proof it, too.
Don’t forget the “@”
One of the most common, and costly, mistakes you can make is to get your contact info wrong. This is especially important with your e-mail address, since most HR communications are going to be done on the cyber superhighway. You can have the best resume in the world but if they are sending out e-mails to their top 3 candidates and yours bounces back with a “Message Failed To Send” response, do you think you’re still in their top 3? That was rhetorical, the answer’s NO.
I’m going to stop now. I know I’m only 1 away from a Top 10 list but like I said earlier, don’t use 10 when 9 will do.
Wishing you best of luck with your future endeavors,
[Lead image via faithie/Shutterstock]