There are resumes that make it into the “maybe” pile, and then there are those that go directly into the trash. The latter may just come from unqualified candidates, but they could just be screaming “unprofessional.”
If you know you’re a great candidate, but you aren’t getting any replies, it’s time to check your resume to ensure it doesn’t include one of these serious problems.
You Didn’t Get All the Typos Out
Few things scream ‘unprofessional’ more than typos on a resume,” says Maria Katrien Heslin, owner of Independent George. This includes misspellings and incorrect punctuation as well as inconsistent spacing and verb tense.
“With competition for jobs so tight, a typo or two unfortunately can knock a candidate out of consideration because at that point in the process, that is all the person hiring has to go by,” Heslin says. “Typos can give the impression of a lack of attention to detail, sloppiness and an uncaring attitude.”
You Have a Ridiculous Email Address
People pay attention to email addresses, and if yours is unprofessional, hiring managers will notice. “No matter what your experience level, you should always have an email address that is professional,” says Rahul D. Yodh, a partner with Link Legal Search Group. A variation on your first and last name, with random digits if you have a common name, is the safest bet.
“When I see an email address such as surferman86 or jacksmom12, I cringe,” Yodh says. “Email addresses are free, so my assumption is that you are just too lazy to care about your professional image. Laziness is not a quality I look for in prospective candidates.”
It Stands Out -- But Not in a Good Way
This one can be tricky, says Cheryl Rich Heisler, president and founder of Lawternatives. “We tell job seekers to be unique. To be authentic. To ‘keep it real.’ But then we tell them to keep their style within industry norms, don't stick out, don't make an employer wonder about your ability to fit in.”
To strike a balance, Heisler advises you get the basics of grammar and spelling right, “then consider adding in some more creative elements that are within the range of what your target industry allows.” This could include a judicious use of color or a unique, but useful design.
There can be a fine line between standing out and looking unprofessional. "Common mistakes that scream ‘unprofessional’ include pictures, logos, crazy fonts and colored paper, which can't be read easily when it's scanned by computers,” says resume expert Scott Vedder. “I've even received a scented resume! You know what it didn't smell like? 'Hired!'"
It Lacks Substance
Your resume is meant to be a window into your skills and experience, so make sure it’s clear. “We see it all the time -- a person works for Company A, and that's all they put down,” says Kelly Braden, senior project manager at Alphabetix. Include specifics about your job duties and responsibilities, as well as your top accomplishments.
“Employers want folks who can manage execution and get things done,” Braden says. “Show us some examples of getting stuff done.”
It’s a Solid Wall of Text
You have to include a lot of information in your resume, but it needs to be visually appealing as well. Packing words onto the paper creates a wall of text that’s hard to read, says former recruiter Colin McIntosh, who now works at Spoon.net.
“Left-to-right, top-to-bottom; these resumes are one word after another, yet seemingly say nothing,” he says. “If a resume is a chore to read, it won't be read, so make your resume clean, concise, and relevant to the job.”