Here is a list of the most common mistakes our resume team sees every day to give you an idea of what NOT to do in order to create the perfect resume for this challenging job market.
Everyone has the same objective – to get a job. Years ago, before employers had more than enough applicants to choose from, an objective or goals statement was a welcome beginning to a resume. Now that the demand has reversed, your objective statement does little for you beyond taking up precious space on the top of the first page and showing you're still following old-school ideas. Don't waste space on your resume telling employers what they already know – you're looking for a job where you can use your skills. Here are some objective statements from resumes our team has recently reviewed, ranging from cliché to downright painful (all spelling errors kept intact):
The next offense (committed in several of the objective statements above) is using first person pronouns in your resume. Professional resume writing requires mastery of "resume speak" – a concise, hard-hitting approach that eliminates unnecessary "filler" words, including I, me, we, the, a, an, their, his, her, etc. While your resume needs to be written in first person (we'll cover the mistake of writing in third person in the next blog), never use the extra stuff that makes your resume read more like an autobiography. Compare the following:
I am a highly knowledgeable Sales and Marketing Professional with more than 15 years of experience in high-volume retail operations. I have an extensive record of initiative and leadership resulting in measurable contributions to store profitability, productivity, efficiency, and strategic objectives. I have strong communication and organizational skills, the proven ability to work collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams, and the talent for managing key accounts.
Highly knowledgeable Sales and Marketing Professional with more than 15 years' experience in high-volume retail operations. Extensive record of initiative and leadership resulting in measurable contributions to store profitability, productivity, efficiency, and strategic objectives. Strong communication and organizational skills, proven ability to work collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams, and talent for managing key accounts.
See the difference? Save the pronouns for your cover letter.
Another previous trend that has fallen into the unnecessary category is including "references available upon request" at the bottom of your resume. Similar to the objective, employers know that you are both looking for a job with their company and will supply references when they ask for them. More importantly, NEVER include your references or supervisors' contact information on your resume. Create a separate document for this information and do not post it publicly. You don't want your references' contact information falling into the wrong hands – especially with so much of your job search being done online.
Bullets can be our friend, but their services are often abused on a resume. We see so many resumes that are either entirely or close-to-entirely bulleted – every statement is part of a lengthy bulleted list. The reader has no idea where to start and may decide not to bother. Can you quickly find the achievement in this list without reading every line:
How about now?
Provide day-to-day financial reporting and general ledger accounting. Processed payroll, handled accounts payable/receivable, and prepared federal and state tax forms. Conduct year-end closing functions and complete corporate income tax forms. Assembled and presented consolidated financial statements and relevant efficiency reports including ad hoc reporting.
Save bullets for the exciting details – results, achievements, and accomplishments.
Take a look at this description of a job seeker's previous position:
Sous Chef: Jefferson Hotel & Resort
Seeing double (or triple)? This person used the same verbs over and over again – this bores the reader and shows a lack of vocabulary and creativity. Don't forget about the usefulness of a Thesaurus. For example, there are numerous synonyms that create more excitement than Manage – Facilitate. Supervise. Direct. Spearhead. Orchestrate. Variety is the spice of resume writing!
You've crafted a beautiful resume, uploaded it to an online job board, and suddenly your contact information disappears. Why? Because you misused the First Page Header. Placing critical information, such as your name, in the header on page one is a big mistake. Most online job boards don't process or "read" headers or footers, so that means the ATS and the HR manager on the other end won't either. Make sure your contact information is in the body of your document, NOT in the header.
Writing in third person about yourself is not only a bad choice on a resume – it is awkward and inappropriate in almost all forms of communication. After learning that one shouldn't use first person pronouns on a resume, many job seekers opt to write in third person, which is worse. Employers may start to believe you have multiple personalities:
Mr. Davis is an exceptionally talented and award-winning Architect and Project Manager with 20+ years' experience in large-scale commercial, residential, and institutional design. Mr. Davis is a seasoned professional with commitment to quality craftsmanship and thorough understanding of materials and constructability. Mr. Davis executes extensive schematics and ensures accuracy and compliance of organizational standards.
See how strange that paragraph reads? Remember, this is YOUR resume and you're writing about yourself in your own voice. Using third person makes it seem as though someone else has said all these great things about you – if that's the case, you need a "works cited" page.
Word processing software offers us extensive choices in terms of font styles, however there are only a handful that should be used on a resume. The following are tried-and-true fonts that are attractive, easy to read, and universally compatible:
Arial | Book Antiqua | Century Gothic | Georgia | Microsoft Sans Serif | Tahoma | Trebuchet |Arial Narrow | Bookman Old Style | Garamond | Lucida Bright | Palatino Linotype | Times New Roman | MS Verdana
I know it's tempting, but do not use highly decorative and "expressive" fonts that are unprofessional, distracting, and challenging to read:
Algerian | Chiller | Papyrus | Kristen ITC | Brush Script MT | Lucida Calligraphy | French Script MT | Goudy Stout
We see quite the variety of interests and hobbies on the resumes we critique and rewrite: knitting, karate, ancestry, fixing old cars, staying in shape…
And even highly personal information: gender, age and/or birthday, spouse and children's names/ ages, religious and political views, dietary preferences…
And the list continues. 99% of the time your interests and extracurricular activities will NOT be relevant to your career objective, so don't use up valuable space on your resume telling employers how you like to spend your free time. Bring up these subjects during the interview if you identify a common interest with the interviewer.
Ageism (n: 1. discrimination against persons of a certain age group) is a very unfortunate yet very real obstacle for today's job seeker. With so many candidates to choose from in the applicant pool, employers can be as picky as they want, knowing chances are the exact candidate they're looking for is in their resume pile – the right location, the right salary requirements, the right education, the right experience, and the right age.
Does your resume tell the reader how you old you are, or how old you could be? Do you have years listed from earlier than 1995? Do you include graduation dates earlier than 2005? Do you mention "30+ years of experience" in your summary?
While you can't change your age or experience level, you can employ a few strategies to make sure you are judged on value offered and nothing else. Drop "incriminating" years, shorten extensive timelines, even leave off outdated software or technologies – remember, this document's purpose is to get you an interview, not tell your complete history.