Before getting too deep into resume writing, I’d like to review some common resume mistakes to keep in mind before you start to build your resume. In no particular order, here are what I consider to be the top five resume mistakes.
Mistake # 1: Writing a resume that is too long and visually too complex. I don’t mean to imply that hiring managers have a short attention span (we do!) but your resume must grab the reader’s attention in 30 seconds or less or it will in all likelihood be tossed into the “no action” pile. Thus, it should be no longer than two pages in length and one page is sufficient if you have less than five years of experience. Reduce the visual complexity by using bullets instead of paragraphs for the majority of your resume. Where you use paragraphs, make them short and easy to read.
Mistake #2: Not customizing your resume for each position to which you apply. In today’s very competitive job market, if you write a generic resume and try to use it for all your job applications, your chances of getting an interview are extremely slim. Most hiring managers today want to see a resume that immediately shows them why your skills are a good match for their opening. Yes, it’s a lot of work to tailor your resume for each application. But if you don’t, the hiring manager will immediately go to the other 100 plus resumes that were likely received.
Mistake #3: Focusing on responsibilities in your previous jobs, instead of accomplishments. Responsibilities only explain what you did. Accomplishments prove you were successful at it. As a hiring manager, I don’t want to read that you simply “were responsible for all sales in the northwest region”. I want to read that you “increased sales by 35% in your territory last year, while the rest of the company was down 10%”. That’s the kind of statement that will keep me reading. Always try to state each responsibility in terms of an accomplishment.
Mistake #4: Using fancy fonts, font colors other than black, or using colored paper. These are all gimmicks that do not belong on a resume. It’s the content that should catch the reader’s attention. Use white paper and black ink, along with Times New Roman or Calibri as your font. This is not only a sign of professionalism, but by far the easiest format to read. When I open a resume that is printed on blue paper, with blocks of type in red and an unusual font, I immediately groan. And it better be one killer of a resume before I’ll even bother to finish it.
Mistake #5: Including personal information about yourself. By this, I mean your hobbies, how you spend your free time, your likes/dislikes, etc. Many people feel this adds a personal touch to a resume, but in my opinion it adds a lot of risk without increasing your chances of being considered. By and large, hiring decisions are made based on experience, education and accomplishments. How you spend your free time and your hobbies are irrelevant. And in fact, what if one of your hobbies is offensive to the reader? You may feel that hunting is a fine hobby, whereas the hiring manager may be an animal rights activist. An extreme example perhaps, but you get the picture.
Next time I’ll expand on this a bit by reviewing other things that are important to leave OFF of your resume.