As a professional recruiter with 35 years’ experience, I’ve seen the same mistakes time and again in résumés.
Mistakes in your résumé can damage or even kill your career because a sub-standard résumé can prevent you from ever being called for a job interview.
But don’t worry! If your résumé isn’t 100% perfect, you’re not alone. And help is just below, in this article.
Here are the five mistakes that ruin most résumés (and what you can do to prevent them).
Mistake #1: No objective or summary.
By not describing what job or field you want to work in, you start your résumé off on the wrong foot. Why? You force the employer to read it all the way through to figure out what kind of job you’re suited for. You create more work for your busy reader. This is the last thing you want to do!
If you know the exact job title you’re applying for, say so! Start the résumé like this:
Marketing Manager, where 10 years of sales, marketing and management experience will add value to operations.
What if you don’t know the job title? Start your résumé like this:
Seeking a position where 10 years of sales, marketing and management experience will add value to operations.
By starting your résumé with a clear objective or a focused summary, you tell the reader exactly what you want to do for him or her. This establishes a rapport and sets the stage for the résumé. Which will greatly improve your results.
Mistake #2: Focusing on you and your needs.
This is the worst mistake you can make. Unfortunately, it’s also the most common.
Look, no employer wants to hire you. Employers hate hiring! They only hire employees when they have problems to solve. And no employer wants to spend a lot of time hiring you, either, just as you wouldn’t want to spend more time in a dentist’s chair than you had to.
So, your résumé must quickly answer the one question that’s on every employer’s mind: “What can you do for me?”
Unfortunately, most résumés don’t.
Most résumés start out like this:
“Seeking a position where I can utilize my skills in an atmosphere with potential for career advancement …”
And so on. This sounds fine and logical to the person writing the résumé. But it completely alienates the person READING the résumé. Because this person — your potential employer — has his own problems. They could care less about your career aspirations or desire to make more money.
Instead, tell the employer how you can add value to his/her operations, or contribute to efficiency. Notice this opening summary again:
“Seeking a position where 10 years of sales, marketing and management experience will add value to operations.”
Now, what employer wouldn’t want to talk to someone like you, who’s offered to add value to his operations?
You could also say:
“… will contribute to operations” or “… will add to profitability.”
The exact words don’t matter. What does matter is your focus on helping the employer meet his goals. If you do that, your career will advance and you’ll make more money.
At the end of the day an employer first cares about whether hiring you can make them money, save them money, or increase their efficiency. They could care less about you until they know you can help them. If you’re a Toastmaster then you recognize … WIFM … What’s in It For Me? Very easy to remember.
Mistake #3: Focusing on responsibilities instead of results.
While it’s important to tell the reader what you’ve done at each job, it’s far more important to spend most of your time talking about what you accomplished and how you made yourself valuable to past employers.
It’s easy to do. Just think back on your daily duties. What good things happened when you did your job well? Write them down! Focus on results. The more specific, the better!
Instead of saying this:
“Responsibilities included (but were not limited to) implementation of policies and procedures, training of new employees, interfacing with subordinates and vendors, and light correspondence duties.”
“Worked with staff and vendors to increase product turnover by 15% and sales by 23% in five months. Also trained 14 new employees, five of whom were rapidly promoted.”
Do you see the difference a few specific details make! It’s night and day in the reader’s mind.
Mistake #4: Too many big words.
It’s a shame how often a good résumé is ruined when the author utilizes a superabundance of polysyllabic terminology or uses too many big words.
Don’t hide behind your vocabulary. When your résumé is not clear and to the point, the reader gets bored, time is wasted and your résumé goes in the trash.
Write as if you were talking to a class of sixth grade students. That’s the reading level all journalists are trained to appeal to in their writing. If it works for America’s newspapers, it ought to work for you.
- Instead of saying “implemented,” try “adopted” or “set up,” for example.
- Never “utilize” what you can simply “use.”
- Don’t “interface” with people; “work” with them.
- And never use “impact” as a verb. (Meteorites hitting the moon are about the only thing that should “impact.”) Try “affect” instead.
Mistake #5: Spelling/punctuation errors.
Your spell-checker is not enough! You must read through the résumé once for accuracy (numbers, dates, city names, etc.), once for missing/extra words, and once more for spelling.
Then, show your résumé to several friends and ask them to read it out loud. Listen to where they pause; this could mean you’ve written something confusing or inaccurate. After you get their feedback, revise the résumé so that it’s 100% error-free.