Your resume is the tool that sells you to prospective employers. It should be your foot in the door, but it can also close that door if you’re not careful. Here is a list of the most common resume mistakes, and how to avoid them.
- Resume is not targeted
This is one of the most important lessons to learn about resume writing. It is absolutely essential to target your resume to the prospective employer and their needs. Gone are the days when applicants just had a pile of generic, catch-all resumes that they spammed to every available opening. If you aren’t able to display how you specifically fill a company’s needs, they will pass you up for someone who will. Don’t leave it up to them to figure out why they need you; rewrite your resume in order to focus your applicable skills and work history to the needs of the employer at hand. A targeted resume will sell you to the employer and will greatly increase your chances of getting and interview. A generic resume template will be filed away, never to be seen again.
- Resume isn’t results-oriented
A resume needs to be more than a summary of all past job duties. A resume needs to display to the employer that you are a strong candidate who gets results. The way to do this is to stress accomplishments instead of just blandly listing past duties. Consider which sounds better:
“Served for 3 years as sales manager.”
“Directed the marketing efforts of a six member sales team to increase regional sales by 150% over a three year period.”
The first example lists your job and leaves the rest up to the imagination. The second flies off the page, telling the employer in no uncertain terms exactly what you accomplished in that position. Always list achievements whenever you can in order to set yourself apart as a dynamic employee who gets results.
- Resume is not concise
Readers need breathing room. Consider the article you’re reading right now. Long blocks of text are kept to a minimum. There are numbered headings and short paragraphs. This is intentional. The white space you see is considered breathing room, making this article easy to read and appealing to the eye instead of intimidating.
Your resume needs to be this way, too.
Summarize your past accomplishments and responsibilities using bulleted lists of short sentences. Ease of reading goes a long, long way in making your resume one they will want to read.
- Resume has gaps in work history
Many applicants have gaps in their work history, areas where they weren’t working for some reason. Do not leave it up to the employer to guess why you weren’t working; they may consider the worst case scenario. Explain your work history gaps to the best of your abilities. “Laid off from job, spent 3 months seeking employment,” “sabbatical from work to raise children,” “took time off for education and travel” all look considerably better than a date gap on the page.
- Resume embellishes the truth
This is a polite way of saying “there are lies on the resume.” Simply put, don’t do it. Your resume will be reviewed by professionals. These people can spot an obvious embellishment easily and, even if they don’t, they may discuss your resume with contacts in the industry that could also expose your storytelling. Lying is just too risky. You could effectively be blackballed from applying at this company and even others by being caught in a lie; the business world is smaller than you think. And even if your resume fools them, can you keep the act up when cross examined in an interview? Lying on a resume almost always leads to disaster and it’s just not worth the risk.
- Resume was not proof-read
After writing and rewriting your resume so many times, you know exactly what you are saying and you know what comes next. Or maybe you just think you know. Being so used to your message, it’s easy to miss errors. Find a friend or two and ask them to proofread your resume. The benefit is twofold: they should read it from the position of an employer in order to evaluate the effectiveness of your message, and they should scan for spelling and grammatical errors. An out of focus message or glaring mistakes can easily ruin a good resume, so find a proof reader in order to easily avoid these common pitfalls.