5 resume mistakes experienced job seekers need to stop making

Resume mistakes are easy to make—but they’re also easy to fix. Here’s how to avoid five common (and easily-avoidable) resume flubs.

5 resume mistakes experienced job seekers need to stop making

Experienced job seekers shouldn't be making these mistakes.

When you wrote your first resume, your biggest challenge was figuring out how to fill an entire page. Years later, that’s probably not an issue. Senior-level and experienced job-seekers have other challenges.

You’ve got to find a way to be concise, yet let the world know the incredible work you’ve done throughout your career. But how do you show years of experience, without appearing outdated?  And how do you give important details without being overwhelming? It’s a tall order.

Fear not: With a little strategy and smart editing, it can be done. Here are five common mistakes experienced job seekers make—plus how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Listing every position since college

It can be tempting to include every bit of professional experience you have. “There’s a lot of emotional attachment to the various accomplishments we’ve had in our career,” says Mary Fox, chief executive officer and founder of the San Francisco–based career-coaching service Marlow.

Instead, keep your resume to the past 15 years. “Hiring managers care about the most recent years of experience, so you don’t want to go way back in your history,” says Maureen Daniek, a career and small business coach based in Bellevue, Washington.

Mistake #2: Glossing over details to avoid showing your age

As professionals summarize their experience, Fox says they often downplay specific accomplishments in favor of generalities. “They’re thinking, ‘I’ll just give a high-level view of what I’ve done,’” Fox says.

Carlota Zimmerman, J.D., a career coach and success strategist based in New York City, says this may stem from a lack of confidence or fear that highlighting their expertise will give away their age. “I’ve seen older job seekers with clipped resumes that are so short as to leave out important achievements,” she says.

The fix? Be specific about your successes and support them with metrics wherever you can. Fox likes this formula: “accomplished x, y, z, resulting in a, b, c.” Your accomplishments will showcase your maturity and wisdom without necessarily revealing your age.

Mistake #3: Not telling a clear story

Long careers often mean having many different and even sometimes seemingly unrelated jobs. There’s nothing wrong with a less-than-obvious career path, but it can make it difficult for a recruiter to get a sense of what you’re all about, says Peter Yang, New York City–based co-founder of ResumeGo, a professional resume writing service.

But including a laundry list of positions can bore the hiring manager. Instead,Yang suggests finding a way to sum it up. “Include a summary statement at the top that ties together these disparate experiences with a common theme or set of transferable skills,” Yang says. “That way you can highlight your main selling points in a clean and succinct manner that readers will be able to grasp right away.”

Mistake #4: Coming across as out of touch

Using your email address from 2005 likely won’t kill your chances of being hired, but it can be a red flag. “An email address from AOL or Hotmail can signal to the recruiter you’re not as tech savvy as other candidates,” Fox says.

That can work against you since you want to come across as knowledgable of the latest technologies and ways of doing things in the business world, Yang says.

“Even though there may not be any outright age discrimination at play, it's best to use an email service like Gmail that is more in vogue nowadays, especially if you're in the technology sector or applying to companies with younger employees,” Yang says.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to polish your social media presence so your tweets aren’t months old, and your LinkedIn page has some recent posts or shares. If your posts are applicable to the job you’re applying for, include your social media links right on your resume.

Mistake #5: Not updating your resume for each position

Many companies now utilize applicant tracking systems to filter out unqualified candidates. The system will scan your resume, and if it doesn’t pick up designated keywords, your resume won’t even get eyeballed by the hiring manager, Daniek says.

“[The system will] just dump it,” she says. “So you have to shape each resume to the job you’re applying for, making sure keywords are there.”

Fox has a friend who starts with a blank resume every time she applies to a job. “She looks at the job description and goes line by line and thinks, ‘What did I do that would fit in this role?’” Fox says.

As she writes her resume, she mimics the words used in the job description. “It’s not making anything up, but by using their exact words you’re showing you have that experience that they’re looking for,” Fox says.

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