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Ten Resume Mistakes You Must Avoid

Years ago, one of my job functions was to go to my alma mater’s career fair and collect resumes from prospective future employees. I had a great time because I was only a year or so out of school, I could hang out with my friends, and I enjoyed seeing all different the resumes. In that time, I saw some great resumes and I saw some not so great resumes.

As you read the list below, you might be surprised at some of the mistakes but you couldn’t imagine committing them. With the exception of the “make it readable” rule, I’ve seen them all. Most of the time, I think it’s because the candidate just didn’t notice it or wasn’t aware it was a bad idea. However, if you’re taking a look at your resume, I recommend you review these ten mistakes and make sure you aren’t committing them. 🙂

This article is part of Bargaineering Career Week 2009 [3], a week-long series focused on your career – how to find a job, how to tailor your resume, how to find the job opportunities and how to nail the interview. This article is the first article of day two – resume reconstruction.

1. Untailored Resume

Employers don’t spend more than a few seconds scanning through resumes so your resume needs to be tailored to the job you’re applying for. You shouldn’t try to be a generalist, be as specific to the job as possible. If you are going after a job that requires certain skills, ensure that the resume emphasizes the positions you’ve held where those qualifications have been in the spotlight. You should not be sending the same resume to every job opening, it should be tailored to the position and time spent in this area will improve your response rate.

2. Typos and Grammatical Errors

Much like your cover letter, your resume has to be perfect when it comes to typos and grammatical errors. I always recommend having a friend, preferably one with better spelling and grammar, look it over for any errors before you post it.

3. Make It Readable

If you’re going to submit your resume online, make sure it’s readable. What looks nicely formatted in Word can come out looking horrific when you paste it into a text box. Make sure that what you submit is readable by a human being. It would be awful if a computer made sense of it and selected you only to be discarded because your resume came out as gibberish.

4. Make It Well Organized

When you organize the sections of your resume, be sure to organize it in the order of importance. I usually list my contact information, followed by my objective, education, accomplishments, skills, and then awards. If you’ve been out of school for quite some time, flip education and accomplishments. You want the most important material towards the front.

5. Focus on Accomplishments

When you list your various jobs, focus on accomplishments rather than what the duties of the job were. For example, if you are an administrative assistant, your resume shouldn’t consist of a list of administrative assistant job functions. It should explain specific accomplishments you completed while in that role. Did you plan events? List those events, size and scope, so that hiring managers understand you were in charge of an event with 500 attendees, rather than “responsible for event planning.”

Whenever possible, try to outline where you helped the company earn more revenue, save on expenses, solve a problem, build business relationships, etc. Focus on things that imtract the bottom line.

6. Use Keywords

With the level of competition for jobs and the pace of technology, hiring managers usually don’t see every resume that is submitted. That’s why it’s important that you tailor your resume to include keywords that the job position is looking for. If the job requires certain IT certifications, you should make sure those certifications appear on your resume. Without those keywords, the software searching the database of resumes will never pick yours out from the masses.

7. Scannable

Since a hiring manager is going to spend only a few seconds reviewing your resume, before they decide whether to look closer, it’s important for you to make your resume scannable. That means using bullets whenever possible and vary the font size and boldness to emphasize former job titles and employers. You don’t want to vary it too much (don’t make it look like a ransom note) but enough so that certain headlines stand out.

8. Keep It Under Two Pages

Years ago, the advice was that you should always keep your resume to under a single page. While this makes sense for a college graduate, the reality is that today people switch jobs more often than they used to and they have taken on a lot more responsible. The “one page rule” for resumes is now more a myth than a rule and you should use as much space as you need to list your accomplishments. However, don’t take this to mean that you can write a novel, just keep it under two pages.

9. Correct and Professional Contact Information

Double check that your contact information is correct. All it takes is a misspelling to your email address or mis-keying in your telephone number to take an otherwise awesome resume and turn it into a clunker. If employers try calling and get a wrong number, they won’t try again.

Also, email addresses are free so stop using that 10 year old babygrrrl8888@hotmail.com or hotboi1976@yahoo.com as your contact email address. Sign up for a more professional sounding email address so employers don’t prejudge you or ignore you because of it.

10. Don’t Mention References

Never put references directly on your resume. Companies rarely call references before talking to a candidate and you don’t want your references’ contact information floating around the Internet. If they want a reference, they can ask you for it. Likewise, references are always available upon request, so there really isn’t a point to putting “References available upon request” on your resume. 🙂

Those ten resume mistakes are probably the most egregious, but there are plenty more. What was the worst resume mistake you saw? (or committed?)

(Photo: kafka4prez [4])