In my last couple of posts I mentioned that I’ve been on quite a few interview panels lately, which means I’ve read a lot – and I mean a lot! – of resumes. And since we’re heading towards year-end, a time when many people may be brushing up their resumes in preparation for starting out the new year by seeking a better job, I’d like to once again give some resume tune-up suggestions.
Here are four resume mistakes I’ve seen multiple times recently. Take a close and objective look at your resume to make sure none of these are present. Better yet, have a trusted friend read it with these in mind.
The first one is not highlighting your most relevant skills first. By relevant skills, I mean of course the ones listed in the description of the job for which you’re applying. This does not mean you should misrepresent having skills that you don’t really possess, but rather framing the skills you do have in a manner that most closes matches the job. Even if the most relevant skills are not your major skills, you still want to showcase them up front. Remember: you only have about 15 seconds on average to catch the hiring manager’s attention with your resume. If some skills specific to the requirements for that particular position aren’t evident in that first 15 seconds, chances are your resume will be placed in the “do not consider” stack.
The second mistake is listing too much work history. This is particularly an issue for mid-career people who may have 20 or more years of experience. For many jobs, experience from 20 years ago is simply no longer relevant and can be a yellow flag as to age. The farthest back you should go is 15 years. For industries where knowledge changes rapidly – for example, information technology – experience older than 10 years is not relevant.
The third mistake is using too many general terms. By this, I mean terms such as “problem solver”, “goal oriented”, “self-starter”, etc. Vague and general terms such as these weaken your resume because they tell the reader nothing specific about your abilities or accomplishments. As a hiring manager, instead of “problem solver”, what I want to read is a specific example of a difficult problem you faced and how you solved it. That’s what will convince me you’re a problem solver. Instead of “goal oriented”, tell me how you exceeded your sales goal by 25%. Instead of “self-starter”, give me an example of how you identified a business need and initiated a project to address that need. Substituting specific examples such as these for vague terms that everyone else uses is what gets your resume put in the “to be interviewed” stack.
Finally, I’ll make this last mistake short and sweet: use a chronological resume format, not a functional format. By chronological format, I mean listing your experience one job at a time, starting with the most recent first and going backwards. This is the preferred format of almost every hiring manager, because we’re most interested in your recent experience and accomplishments. The functional format, where you list all your skills first and then your past jobs as more of laundry list, forces me to guess which skills are your most recent.
Avoid these four resume mistakes and you’ll have a more happy new year with your job hunt!