A resume, by definition, is a summary of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience one provides when applying for a job. If you are submitting an application for a position you want to put your best foot forward, after all this is the company’s first introduction to you as a possible candidate. First impressions are important. The status of your resume can either make a great or lackluster first impression which can impact your eligibility for progression through the hiring process. Applying for a position can impact your future and handling it properly can greatly affect how the application process proceeds. The difference between a bad resume and a good resume could lead to closed doors or open opportunities.
We will be listing some common mistakes we’ve encountered when going through resumes and how to avoid making those same mistakes when crafting your own.
1. The resume that’s too general
This is is a fairly common resume mistake and the conversational equivalent of when someone asks how your day was replying with “it was okay”. If someone asks about your day they are probably looking for a little more information than that, but they also aren’t looking for a play by play of your entire day’s activities. Professionally, as someone who reviews resumes fairly regularly I don’t need to know that you “attend meetings”, but I would like to know if you transcribed, lead, or organized meetings. Details can make a difference in the information you provide to the resume reader. If you list a place of employment it is important that you include details, key tasks, and responsibilities you pertinent to the skills and capabilities you are trying to get across. Vagueness is not your friend, however you should also NOT list every single thing you do like “turn on the lights” and “pick up lunch”. Be thorough but not redundant, you don’t want to overcompensate with being too specific. Your best bet is to make lists of information and pare them down to important pieces.
2. The resume that’s way too long
When going through the hiring process it is quite common that a company will receive hundreds of resumes, maybe more depending on the company and position. This makes it important that your resume be edited to get your message across with just the right amount of words. A resume that exceeds the front and back of a page, is most likely only being skimmed. If you can include your personal and education information, and any previous professional experience and skills on the front of a page, great! However if you have more related information to provide and can keep it to the front and back of a page, that is acceptable. A resume that is almost 5 pages long will probably be skimmed and if nothing makes you stand out as an ideal candidate, your resume may be tossed aside.
3. The resume that’s poorly organized
A resume that is all over the place or sloppy sends the message that you are uninformed, unorganized, or simply did not put in any effort. No one wants that to be the first impression you give a possible employer. The ideal layout will have your most recent information first and go backwards chronologically. You would also group the information provided in sections; work or professional, school or education, personal or other. It might seem obvious but in the professional section you would include your recent and relevant work experience, job roles, and information.
4. The resume that feels ’embellished’
Honesty is always the best policy. You should never lie on your resume. There could be severe repercussions and you’ve wasted both your own and the company’s time. Depending on the state you live in and what you have lied about, you could not only be fired, but face legal repercussions, not to mention a tarnished reputation. Don’t be tempted to make this resume mistake; it is always best to be truthful about your accomplishments, skills, and experience. Say you get hired, and tasked with some responsibilities you have claimed to have the skillset for, when in reality you do not. When it comes time to get to work, how do you complete the tasks? This is not a situation for “fake it ‘til you make it”. List honest facts and achievements, if there is something you think might make you seem undesirable as a candidate it’s best to be honest and provide explanation than to get caught in a lie and have to face the consequences.
5. The resume that has spelling and grammar mistakes
Nothing will make you seem less capable than rampant spelling and grammar errors in your resume. This is a professional document, make sure you treat it accordingly. Take your time, make drafts, have someone edit it, use spell check, read it aloud to yourself, have another person take a look, utilize workshops and if necessary, hire help. When you have reviewed the same document multiple times it’s best to have a fresh pair of eyes take a look at it. You might be automatically be correcting mistakes in your head, but not actually correcting them on paper.
And don’t forget…
Don’t forget a cover letter if the company asks for it. This is also your opportunity to tailor your “why”. You can point out why you are interested in the open position or explain why you would be a good fit.
Personalize it. Make sure your resume is a reflection of you. Now that does not mean hand write it with crayon on construction paper, cover it with glitter, or write it with blacklight ink, but by all means use font, italics, bold letters, and headings to add some flair. Please remember to keep it professional, but adding visual interest makes your resume stand more memorable in the sea of resumes.
Parting thoughts on how to keep your resume in shape
- Start with your name and contact information.
- Write a small blurb describing you and your professional goal.
- Include the most recent information and work backwards.
- Be sure to list your professional, education, and personal info and include important details.
- Create a cover letter based on where you apply and who the application is going to.
- Use bullet points or short descriptive paragraphs, do not drone on.
- Triple check your spelling and grammar.
- Keep your resume up to date.