12 horrible resume mistakes spell check won’t catch
Get your foot in the door—rather than having the door slammed in your face—by steering clear of these mistakes.
Ah, the all-mighty resume. It’s the key to landing an interview—yet tragically, many job seekers fall short.
“Your resume is the primary gate opener—or gate closer—for your job search,” says David Lewis, president and founder at OperationsInc, an HR consulting firm in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Even the most meticulous job seekers make mistakes. (Spell check can’t catch everything.) Avoid these common pitfalls to make your resume shine.
1. Leading with a career objective... Focus on the employer’s needs—not yours. “Career objectives have gone the way of the dinosaur,” says Dawn Bugni, a professional resume writer in Atkinson, North Carolina. “They’re me-centric statements, but today’s job market demands a ‘here’s what I can do for you’ approach.”
Instead, start with a professional summary that establishes your expertise. “Begin with a ‘wow’” says Wendy Enelow, founder and president at Enelow Enterprises Executive Resume & Career Services, Inc. in Coleman Falls, Virginia. Lead with a compelling achievement (e.g., closed $4 million in sales in 2015).
2. …or your education. While important, “having a degree doesn’t demonstrate your capabilities,” Bugni says. So put education toward the bottom, rather than near the top. New college graduates are the exception, particularly if the job posting requires a minimum GPA.
3. Using Times New Roman. You want your typeface to stand out, says Enelow, who recommends using Calibri or Verdana, which are fresher to the eye. They’re also standard fonts, which ensures your resume will appear correctly on the receiver’s end. (An obscure typeface may not translate from your computer to theirs.)
4. Hitting “caps lock.” Microsoft Word, by default, doesn’t spell check words in uppercase letters, Lewis points out, so either forgo the choice in formatting or change the setting.
5. Sticking to one page. There’s no golden rule for length, says Shauna Bryce, president of The National Resume Writers’ Association: “It needs to be long enough tell your story—and no longer.”
Early in your career? You should be able to consolidate to one page. A worker with 15-plus years of experience, however, may need more space, but “cap it at two pages,” says Lewis.
6. Not customizing for each job posting. A 2015 survey by national staffing firm Addison Group found 90% of hiring managers say they’ve noticed when a resume isn’t tailored to the role in question. Make sure yours reflects the specific job posting and the company’s culture.
Look at the prospective employer’s website to identify the organization’s key values, recommends Bryce. (The “about us” page is a good starting point.) If it’s an entrepreneurial work environment, where employees operate independently, focus relevant work experience in your resume (e.g., highlight individual achievements rather than group projects.) “Include anything that speaks to how you can thrive in that type of environment,” says Bryce.
7. Missing keywords. Many companies—especially large employers—use applicant tracking software to vet resumes. If yours doesn’t have the right buzzwords, it could get tossed before a real person even has a chance to review it.
The best strategy is to copy the language in the job posting, says Nancy Segal, owner of HR consulting firm Solutions for the Workplace, LLC in Evanston, Illinois. What one company calls “information security” another might categorize as “cyber security.” Furthermore, the terms “customer service” and “client relations” may seem interchangeable, says Bugni, but your resume needs to reflect the company’s preferences.
8. Copying your LinkedIn profile. The two should be compatible, not identical. LinkedIn, for one, is less formal since it’s a form of social media, says Bugni.
Your choice in keywords should be different, since you’re applying for a specific job on a resume, versus aiming for online search engine optimization.
9. Forgetting to embed links. Make things easier on the hiring manager by embedding links to your email, Twitter, and LinkedIn profile. Also, de-clutter your resume by creating a custom URL for your page.
10. Having a “skills” section. Don’t give up valuable real estate. Instead, weave skills into your work experience.
11. Using jargon. Unless they’re included in the job posting, avoid industry-specific terms and abbreviations in your resume. “The assumption is that the hiring manager reads the resume right out of the gate, but companies aren’t paying someone six figures to sit and read through 500 applications,” says Bugni, adding that HR recruiters may not necessarily be experts in the field.
12. Not quantifying your achievements. It sounds basic, but “so many job seekers forget to use metrics,” says Segal. If you exceeded sales goals by 200%, or helped double revenue, highlight those accomplishments in your resume.
Similarly, if you had work published, represented the company in a major media appearance, or were recruited by your current employer for your industry experience, mention it.
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