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How to not mess up your resume

spot10 most common resume blunders

Resumes are one of the most critical tools you will need in your job search. Most people have a good understanding of what belongs into a resume. However, I am often amazed by the mistakes applicants make in their resumes. To help you avoid them, I made a list of the most common blunders.

#10 Not making your resume electronically compatible

Today most resumes are submitted electronically. If you are lucky, you get to send in a file, like a word document or a PDF. In that case, you should aim to have your resume in PDF format – only then can your guarantee that it will print looking the way you intended it to. Word documents often turn out differently on different printers, and that wonderful 1 page resume you crafted may get printed on two pages. However, there is a high chance that you need to submit your resume in plan text format – e.g. by copying and pasting into an entry box . In that case you need to make sure that the plain text version is still readable – e.g., if all your line breaks are messed up, the printed version will look very different from what you think it should.

#9 Not making it power-readable

When I scan an applicant’s resume, I only spend very little time on it – often less than a minute. A resume that is power-readable – major points stand-out, clear formatting that leads the reader, nice large fonts, etc – will allow me to absorb the key points in that short time. A resume that is poorly formatted with large, winding text blocks, key points hidden away and a confusing layout will not allow me to get the message

#8Making it way too long

A short resume with few words is always more powerful than a long, over-detailed one. For most business-type jobs, you should keep it to one page. Even if you had more than one job. Even if you have so many college awards you want to list out. Older applicants with eons of work experience can get away with two pages, but I personally wonder why someone cannot provide their most critical marketing message to me in one pithy, simple page. Some technical jobs may be exceptions – you may need to list the litany of tools, programs, languages etc you have mastered.

#7 Being too wordy, insistent on squeezing too much in

Even on a one page resume – and maybe especially there – people try to squeeze in way too much. Stick to the most salient points. Think carefully about what you want to say and then emphasize that. Don’t be redundant – don’t repeat stuff multiple times. The fewer words you use, the easier it is to read.

#6 Doing a shoddy job

Recruiters will assume that you have invested serious time crafting your resume. If you resume looks like a bad hair day – bad formatting, incomplete sentences, etc. They will assume you are not able to invest the necessary effort in the jo either and won’t hire you. Your resume should look slick, crisp and professional.  Doing a nice job formatting your resume is important – recruiters expect computer literacy at all levels today. If you lack the skills acquire them as soon as possible.

#5 Typos, spelling mistakes

Avoid typos at all costs. They reflect poorly on you. Especially if they are wrong words instead of typos. For example, instead of writing “there” where “their” would have been appropriate. Your word processor will not point out those kinds of mistakes, and they are worse than mere typos. Typos just indicate that you are too careless or lazy, whereas wrong word choices indicate you lack the education and training necessary to write a simple letter. Have friends and families proof-read your resume.

#4 Disclosing legally sensitive facts about yourself

In the US anti-discrimination laws force employers to treat all potential employees equally. However, by adding certain facts about yourself on your resume you could make discrimination possible. For that reasons most companies reject ANY resumes that include information that can be used for discrimination, especially race, religion, health / disability, age, marital status. To avoid this, your resume should only  include:

  1. Your name and address
  2. Your education history
  3. Your work history
  4. Relevant skills (computer skills, languages etc)
  5. Your interests, hobbies

#3 Not tailored to your audience

As we will discuss in greater detail elsewhere, every employer will look for something different. Different experience, skills and interests. You need to make sure that the specific resume you send in emphasizes the points that specific employer is interested in. Don’t send in a computer programmer resume to a landscaping company. Using the same resume for all job openings for every job application is easy. But it also is utterly ineffective – so don’t do it!

#2 Not highlighting your most critical selling points

One of the recurring themes on this website is that you need to figure out what your marketing message, your elevator pitch is and then relentlessly push that message. Your resume must deliver that punch line very clearly and effectively. The message must jump off the page, not be hidden away. You want to hit the reader with a 2×4 across the head with the message. This is the only purpose of the resume. Don’t miss it.

#1 Lying

Never, ever lie on your resume. Would giving your resume to your current boss, your best friend or mom make you turn red? Feel sheepish? Then you are pushing it too far. If you do lie, exaggerate or fib, you will get caught eventually. And that will kill your application or worse get you fired. When I was a young manager my boss hired a new programmer who was supposed to work for me. He advertised some very specific programming skills in his resume and in his interviews, but when he actually started working for me it turned out that he had lied. He had zero programming skills. He was the 1st guy to let go by our group in over five years. But he had it coming and no one felt sorry for him.

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