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Basic Resume Mistakes I Keep Seeing

I seem to be finding myself on a lot of interview panels lately, which means I’ve been reviewing a lot of resumes (the interview panel members are the ones who screen resumes for candidates to interview).  Even though the job market is slowly getting better, we still get a large number of resumes for every opening and I’m once again surprised (and frustrated!) at the very basic mistakes I see in many of these resumes.

I’ve talked at length in previous posts about the proper way to construct a resume, so I’m not going to repeat all that.  But I’ve been particularly surprised in my screening of these recent resumes by the large number of ones that make two very basic mistakes – mistakes that knock these candidates out of any chance for an interview.

The first one is so basic that it shouldn’t even warrant discussion, yet I’m seeing it time and time again.  Specifically, it’s resumes with no directly relevant experience for the position.

One of the openings for which I’m on the interview panel is for a network engineer (I’m currently a manager in IT).  We screened almost 100 resumes for this position and I estimate that about 25% did not meet even the minimum qualifications as posted on our web site.

Yes, these people for the most part had IT experience, but in a completely different area.  I saw resumes from application programmers, database analysts and desktop support specialists.  While these are all fine areas in which to have experience, that experience did not qualify them for my network engineer position.  It was obvious these applicants were using a shotgun approach to apply for any IT-related position, which is a waste of both their time and the hiring manager’s time.

Instead of applying for 20 different positions regardless of the experience requirements, they would be far better off finding 5 positions for which they are qualified.

The second basic mistake I’m seeing is resumes that are far too long and contain lengthy, narrative paragraphs detailing every skill and experience that person has, whether or not relevant to the position.  Many times these applicants are qualified for the position, but their resume expects the reader to ferret out what is and isn’t relevant in order to determine if they are qualified.  The hard truth is that many managers screening these resumes won’t take the time and trouble to do this and after a quick (and yes, frustrating!) initial skim will simply go on to the next resume.

These applicants are very likely missing out on many interview opportunities by not changing long paragraphs to short bullet points that specifically target the qualifications for each job to which they are applying.

Of course, your resume must also be properly formatted, contain no spelling or grammar errors, etc.  But these finer resume points won’t even come into consideration if they don’t pass the initial “20 second skim” that most hiring managers give resumes before deciding to read them in detail.

The point I want to make is that if you’re applying for a lot of jobs but not getting many interviews, make sure your resume doesn’t make either of the two mistakes I just reviewed.  It takes a bit longer but you’ll greatly increase your odds of getting an interview.

Tip: Get feedback on your resume before you submit it at

1 Comment

  1. Career Sidekick

    I agree that long paragraphs should be replaced by bullet points. Hiring managers aren’t going to read through some 4 paragraph career summary and then 2 paragraphs for each job you’ve held. Bullet points, people! Bullet points!

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