Paul Di Michiel, Career Coach
Resumes are just about the most subjective document on the planet. Everyone has an opinion about what makes a ‘good’ resume. If you don’t believe me, just Google ‘resume templates’ and see how many results you get: 24 million!
As you can appreciate, putting a resume together, or updating an existing resume is not only confusing, but also fraught with danger given the vast array of conflicting information.
What then are the most common mistakes made with resumes? Steer clear of these resume no-nos and give yourself every opportunity of being invited to an interview and potentially landing that next great job.
- Lying or embellishing the truth – Never a good idea. We live in a world where facts can be quickly and easily checked via social media. I could use LinkedIn to determine who may have worked with you at your last company and could learn that your job title was not ‘Head of Everything’ but was in fact ‘Head of Very Little.’ Also, most companies still conduct reference checks to validate your professional background.
- Not including achievements. Achievements are specific examples of what you have done, and where you have added value in previous jobs. Not having achievements on your resume is a major fail and if you are not getting to interviews, this is likely one of the main reasons. Achievements have two parts: ‘What you did’ and ‘How it turned out’. For example, ‘Implemented a new sales process which increased annual revenues of 40%.’
- Using one resume for all applications. If your resume is not matched to a job advertisement, your chances of getting to an interview are vastly reduced. Ensure that for every job application, you are adapting your resume to fit the requirements of the job. The reader should be able to quickly and easily see that you ‘fit’ their job as a prelude to being invited to an interview.
- Including irrelevant information. Some say that it is important to include hobbies and pastimes on a resume as it gives the reader a balanced view of who you are and what you do outside work. This is rubbish. Most people who ‘read’ resumes do so in around 15 to 30 seconds and it is a very quick and cursory view to gauge if you meet their key job requirements. The fact you play competitive tiddlywinks does not make one iota of difference (and may potentially count against you!).
- Overuse of borders, shading, fancy fonts and other garish ‘window dressing’. You may have heard the expression, ‘Lipstick on a pig’, which is also a good analogy for an overdone, highly formatted resume with little or no substance such as achievements. Similarly, over-done formatting will not easily translate if you are applying for jobs via Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) such that when you copy and paste your resume, all the extraneous HTML will also be copied over with the regular text, making it more difficult for the ATS to ‘read’ and match you to the job. For resumes, the KISS principle is best: Simple fonts such as Arial and Calibri, no shading, no borders, a good amount of white space and minimal formatting. Your resume will be easier and quicker to read and won’t confuse any resume reading software.
- Typing mistakes, spelling errors or grammatical slip-ups. The mortal sin of resumes! The reader will immediately infer that you’re either lazy, don’t check your work, lack attention to detail or all three. Don’t just rely on spellcheck in Word – have someone proofread your resume.
- Not having a crisp summary at the top of your resume. A good summary serves to create a good first impression and to draw the reader into your resume. Think of it as the ‘prelude’ to the main event. It should include your profession, a mix of industries and companies worked in, plus three or four key technical and soft or leadership skills that relate to the job.
- Using buzzwords and clichés. If I hear from one more ‘guru’, ‘thought leader’, ‘evangelist’, ‘ninja’ or ‘expert’, I swear I will do something I will regret! Use of these self-dubbed titles only serves to turn-off most resume readers. Similarly, ‘highly-motivated’, ‘excellent team players’ and other similar terms don’t do you many favours with resume readers as they are heavily over-used.
Other mistakes such as including too much information, including information about political, religious or social affiliations unless relevant to the job), and your date of birth and address.