These five common blunders can make the difference between landing a job interview or being relegated to the land of lost resumes.
If you’ve been unemployed for six months or more, you are not alone. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that approximately 45% of the nation’s unemployed had been looking for work for 27 weeks or more, as of September 2011.
Is your resume holding you back?
In today’s fiercely competitive job market, a well-crafted resume is essential for highlighting your strengths and job “fit” and can be the key to opening the door to those increasingly elusive interviews. If you’ve been actively searching for more than a month and have not received interview offers, there is a good chance that it’s your resume, not your qualifications, holding you back. Further, technology and job search protocols have changed dramatically over the last 5 to 10 years. If it has been a while since your last job search, your resume might not be optimized for today’s environment.
Some resumes are never even seen by hiring managers
Jody Hughes, a resume writer and human resources consultant for Florida-based HResumes, has reviewed thousands of resumes over the past 10+ years and has identified several common mistakes that prevent resumes from making it to the hiring manager’s in-box. Many of these mistakes have nothing to do with the applicant’s education, experience or ability, but have everything to do with how that information is presented.
The five most common resume mistakes
According to Hughes, the five most common resume mistakes are as follows:
1. Cramming too much information onto a single page
“Many people believe the old theory that a resume has to be only one page in length,” said Hughes, “so they try to squeeze in as much information as possible, using a font that is too small and arranging information into lengthy paragraphs that are onerous to read.” Instead, Hughes recommends formatting text into bullet points and using an 11- or 12-point font. This will greatly improve the document’s readability and make it easier to scan. Also, boldface type should be used judiciously, such as to highlight job titles.
2. Failing to use key words that match the job description
Organizations today are increasingly using automated applicant tracking systems to filter resumes for words or phrases that match the job’s requirements. Therefore, it is critical to match your most relevant experience to the job description. For example, if a job advertisement states that full-charge book-keeping experience is required, your resume should include the words “full-charge book-keeping” as well as terms pertinent to that function, such as “invoicing,” “accounts payable,” and “month end statements.” Otherwise, the tracking system may simply skip past your resume.
3. Failing to show results
Another common mistake that job seekers make is listing duties performed in prior positions as if they were making out a shopping list. Employers are not only interested in what you did in previous jobs, they also want to know how you did it. To be more relevant to a hiring manager, put your past experience into context by demonstrating how previous employers benefited by having you on board. For example, instead of saying, “responsible for accounts receivable and collections,” show how you added value by describing tangible results: “successfully reduced accounts receivable by 75% in the first year from $150,000 to $37,500 by creating a detailed system for 30-60-90-120 day aging reports.”
4. Absence of key strengths and expertise section
When looking at a resume, the eye naturally gravitates to the top of the page. Use that to your advantage. Hughes recommends inserting at the top of the resume a “Key Strengths and Expertise” section formatted as two columns of four bullet points each. This will enable employers to see at a glance what skill sets they will gain by hiring you. Again, make sure the key words in this section match the position’s requirements. Examples of the types of information to include in this section are listed below:
1 – Sales growth & relationship building
2 – Training & team building to bring positive change
3 – Communications & high impact presentations
4 – Sales negotiation & generating revenue
5 – Staff scheduling, P&L statements & payroll
5. Too much clutter
When creating a resume, make white space your friend. Simpler resumes are more inviting to read. According to Hughes: “The average amount of time a hiring manager spends scanning a resume is five to ten seconds; therefore, it must be easy to read.” She noted that because resumes must convey information using a limited amount of words and space, applicants must carefully choose what to put on this document. There should be nothing extraneous; everything on the resume must be concise and serve a purpose.
She further indicated it is unnecessary and usually not worth the effort to include graphics or photographs on a resume. Most automated tracking systems cannot “read” graphics or images, resulting in resumes getting lost in the database. For best results, stick to easy-to-read file types like Microsoft Word or PDF. An exception to this rule would be if you are applying for a job in a specialized field, such as graphic design, where it is important to show your skills in this area. Oftentimes, these types of jobs will require you to submit a portfolio of work separate from your resume.
Using a resume service
Job seekers can improve their odds of getting an interview by incorporating the changes suggested above. However, it can also be helpful to hire a professional resume service (e.g. check this official office address and contacts).
When choosing a service, make sure the service will create a unique document tailored to your specific circumstances, not one that simply plugs your information into a standardized resume template. In addition, the person writing your resume should have recruiting experience and understand the full hiring process, including what constitutes a strategic resume and how resume scanning works. Ask to see copies of previous work and obtain references. Also, be sure to check out the company’s website and social media feeds to get an idea of its writing style.
Remember, every interview you miss because of a poorly written resume is another missed opportunity to earn or increase your income. That makes it well worth the investment of time, effort, and money to ensure it is done right.