In a competitive job market, it’s your resume that makes the first impression and sets you apart. On a busy day, I read about 200 resumes. Some are great, easy to understand, and allow me to quickly determine the fit for a given job. Others are not so great. Resume coach Dawn Rasmussen offers this article on resume mistakes to avoid:
Day in and day out, people are struggling to get their résumé perfectly tuned up before sending it out into the universe, all in search of a job… any job.
But you know what? One of the greatest failings of the American education system is that it fails to train any of us (even new graduates) how to effectively write our credentials in a way that is easily digestible by employers. Ask any human resource manager… they will tell you that somewhere between 70 and 80% (and that’s being kind) of all résumés they see are absolutely terrible.
Here are 12 biggie mistakes that you absolutely must avoid to at least have a chance to make it into the “interview” pile – and away from the circular file…
1. Goofy or Inappropriate Email Address
It’s time to grow up. You don’t have to ditch your ‘princess92’ social email handle but please don’t use your ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ account on your résumé! Names like that can tip off an employer that you aren’t taking your job search seriously – and quite possibly land your application in the “I never received it” round-file.
2. Including an Objective Statement
The 1970’s are calling… and they want your résumé back. I really wish we could put up a giant flashing neon sign on every freeway that tells people to ditch this awful, old-school résumé element. Employers don’t care what YOU want. They care what you are going to do for THEM.
3. Not “Theming” your Document
Now that we have moved into early 21st century, please take notice of how technology is being used to scan your résumé to see if there are enough keywords to warrant a ‘to be looked at closer’ tag. It’s all about critical mass of the right keywords; by theming your document, you’ll get on the right track.
4. Forgetting Skill Sets
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Keywords. Keywords who? Keywords are key to getting your résumé noticed… ok, ok, that joke really sucks but not any worse than a résumé without keyword skill sets included. (Pssst: onetonline.org -= keyword motherlode… pass it on…)
5. Placing Awards and Top Achievements at End of Document
Arguably, most people don’t know what to do with any industry or company awards. They usually stick them under a specific employer or dump the mention at the end of the document. Please… insert a “Notable Achievements” section right after your keyword section in the top 1/3 of the résumé. Remember, the cream rises to the top…
6. Lumping Multiple Jobs at One Employer into One Position
A deal-breaker. Some people have had a wonderful career at one employer, holding multiple positions as they worked their way to the top. However, this does NOT entitle them to lump the entirety of their time at that employer under that one position. Tsk, tsk… a BIG no-no.
7. “Stretching” Your Employment Dates
If you started on 11/2007 and left in 2/2008, my friend, that does not mean you can put “2007-2008” on your résumé. That’s called… lying. Save yourself some grief. Just give the employer the Month/Year – Month/Year. They are going to ask – and verify – anyway.
8. Upgrading Your Job Title
Ask any human resource person; they will tell you a story about someone who decided to ‘upgrade’ their job title to more ‘accurately’ reflect the work that they were doing. True, some companies are stingy in the job title department. However, the title listed on the résumé should MATCH what is on file in the personnel office – or you’re creating a terrible first impression.
9. Including Employer Address, Phone, Supervisor Name and Email.
How anxious are you to “prove” that you’re legit? Employers have this thing called the Internet to research your previous companies. Don’t look insecure by listing EVERYTHING – which actually calls the wrong kind of attention to your employment record, and warrants a cynical second look.
10. Listing Your Job Duties
Here’s a little secret: It isn’t about listing what your job duties were anymore… it’s about what did you DO? Employers will read that laundry list and then say, “So what?” – THAT’S the nugget they are really after. A great résumé tells a story that catches the employer’s attention while showing VALUE.
11. Getting Employers to “Assume” Things About Education
Oh dear … how many times have I seen the following: EDUCATION: ABC College – Bachelor of Science. Me: “What did you get your degree in?” Job seeker: (long pause, cough)… “Um, I didn’t graduate… I took coursework.” Me: “You realize it looks like you’re trying to get the employer to assume that you did complete your degree?” Job seeker: “Um, nooooooooo.” Either you got the degree, are in progress, or took program coursework. Say that. Please.
12. Not Keeping Up-to-Date
If the last class you took to boost your on-the-job knowledge was in 1999, then you need to get cracking. Employers are hiring subject matter experts, and your job, until you retire (I know, tall order) is to always be thinking the professional development (classes, workshops, conferences, etc.) you should be taking to enhance your job knowledge. Since there is no such thing as job security anymore… this is your insurance policy to being employable.
These common mistakes are made by everyone at all levels, in all walks of life, at all economic levels. This is why we need to implement a standardized career training curriculum – to ensure those entering the workforce are equipped with the knowledge to properly build career documents.
Now that you know the mistakes to avoid, you do have a fighting chance to building a more effective document and landing that job you’ve been dreaming about!
I would add Mistake #13 to this list: underestimating the importance of the resume. It may be the only tool that advances you to the next step in the hiring process – perhaps more important to advancement than cover letters, phone calls and references. Your resume should communicate your accomplishments and contributions for each company. In other words, why did each company keep you as an employee? Answers that demonstrate the benefits you brought to previous employers will give future employers the confidence that YOU may be the one to succeed in their new opportunity!
[Dawn’s posts] Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Portland, Ore.-based Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. Clients from across the United States and Canada and from all career levels have benefited from Dawn’s highly-focused and results-oriented résumé, cover letter, and job search coaching services. Many professional groups as well as colleges and universities have appreciated the insights and expertise she shares during presentations on career management topics, and she is a frequently requested national speaker as a result. Dawn also shares her knowledge as the official “Get the Job” columnist for One+ Magazine distributed to over 26,000 people worldwide, and writes as a jobs expert for the “Career Oxygen” feature on Talentzoo.com, a job resource site for creative and marketing professionals. Dawn’s social links: