Google the word “resume” and you get about 636,000,000 results in 0.72 seconds. That will give you close to one billion different opinions and options on how best to build a resume. With that many different options, resume mistakes are bound to occur – that is very overwhelming!
In the words of Heidi Klum: “Keep it simple. You don’t want to overdo it with too much makeup or crazy, over-the-top hairstyles. Let your natural beauty show through.” This is exactly what a resume should do, allow your “natural beauty” and capabilities to show clearly, without all the extra fuss.
Mistake #1: Too much!
Your resume isn’t a menu for a diner, not everything needs to be listed on there. Your resume should be no longer than two pages, preferably a single page. (Unless you are writing a CV, but that’s a blog for another time!) You should be choosing the best accomplishments and results you have to offer on your resume. This should not be a list of tasks! A resume is a sales piece and should showcase your value and impact, quickly & simply.
You have about six seconds to catch the reader’s eye. You want your resume chockful of your most results-oriented skills, not a list of tasks and other information not relevant to the job. Plus, you want to leave room to expand your narrative over the course of the job search and get the chance to tell the stories connected to the results!
Mistake #2: Using the same resume for every job
You need to hone in on the skills and results you want to showcase, for THE PARTICULAR JOB YOU ARE APPLYING FOR AT THE TIME.
I already hear the groaning, but it isn’t as hard as it sounds. Format your resume in such a way that the bottom two-thirds (from experience down) stays basically the same from application to application. The top third (your summary, key skills and notable accomplishments) can change to accommodate the language and needs listed in the job description. This is called optimization.
It starts by acknowledging that the applicant tracking system (ATS) exists and it is likely that your resume will need to go through one! This is a computer system that is programmed to look for key words and terms in your resume so that it can determine if you are a good candidate for the job, based on only those terms! (Think Google and search engine optimization!) The challenge with this is that it is static and doesn’t allow for you to explain a lot of things. (And yes, even smaller companies use it!)
The best way to work with the ATS is to give it what it wants. Be sure that you are using the language and lingo that the job description uses! One way to help with this is to build a word cloud from the job description and then be sure that your resume features the terms used most. (As long as it is the truth!)
Mistake #3: Stylized, Graphic Resume
Not everyone needs a stylized resume! If you are in a creative career space, feel free to show off your skills with a stylized resume. Be sure that it is going directly to a person’s email, and not through the ATS.
Remember the ATS is a computer system programmed to parse out information into a standard form that works for the viewer. Very often a stylized, PDF document will trip up the system. As the user, you have no idea how robust the system is and how it’s set up to grab your information.
Take away the first barrier to getting your resume seen. If you are applying online and are not 100% sure it is going directly to someone’s in box, then go with a word document. Remove as many of the graphic elements that you can. This can be vertical separators, symbols for phone, email, socials, horizontal separators, columns, tables, highlight boxes and diamonds. Use bullets and commas to separate information. Format with an easy font that most computers have: Calibri, Calibri Light, Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica, Garamond. Stick to the basics!
A stylized resume can seem like a good idea in theory, but can be one of the biggest resume mistakes in actuality. Here is a list of great resources to see if your resume will pass through an ATS easily.
Mistake #4: Physical Address and Objective
Two things that are now antiquated are your physical address and the listing of an objective. There is no need to list a physical address on your resume anymore. If you want to let an employer or recruiter know that you want to stay in a geographical location, then list “New York City, NY” or “Chicago, IL”. With many jobs being location ambivalent combined with privacy concerns and implicit biases, it is no longer imperative to have your physical address listed on a resume.
The same goes for an objective. The employer or recruiter isn’t as interested in what you are looking for, but much more so what you can bring to the organization. This is where you want your summary to do the hard work! Be sure that your summary is a show your impact rather than a tell what you want to do! It is also important to get specific and personal in your summary. This is a three to five sentence paragraph to show off your value and contribution that you will bring to this employer!
Mistake #5: Lying
This is an absolute no-no and one of the biggest resume mistakes! It will always come back to you negatively. Be honest and clear about who you are and what you can do. Feel free to use action words, clear numbers, percentages and qualitative words to describe your skills. You want to be able to talk to your resume confidently and comfortably once you secure an interview!
No need to wade through over half a million Google results to create a great resume. Avoid these resume mistakes by reading the job description carefully, adapting your language, keeping it simple, telling the truth and showing off a little!
Latest posts by Shari Santoriello (see all)
- 5 Resume Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)! - January 12, 2021
- 5 Ways to Improve Your Active Listening as a leader - November 25, 2020
- Ageism in Job Descriptions: How to Read Between the Lines - October 2, 2020