Most articles on this topic list blunders that very few people are dumb enough to actually make. Maybe we’re making a bold assumption, but it’s not likely that very many people are “stating that they work well in the nude”, as one resume blunder article cautions against. Nor are very many job seekers likely to “use pale blue paper with teddy bears printed around the border”, as another article warns of. Very helpful! But nevertheless, there are quite a few real resume blunders that perfectly intelligent people commit, which you should be aware of, because they can diminish you in the eyes of employers.
Letting typos slip through
Possibly the easiest resume blunder to make, letting typos slip through is almost one of the most dangerous. A recent survey indicated that 84% of hiring personnel toss a resume in trash upon spotting just one or two typos! Understand this for what it is: the HR people do not have some type of vendetta against spelling errors in and of themselves. Rather, what they see when they come across as a spelling error is a lack of conscientiousness. They see someone who apparently did not even take their application seriously enough to proofread it before clicking the “Send” button or mailing it in. This isn’t the impression you want to give off, so be sure to eliminate all spelling errors before submitting your resume.
Inappropriate e-mail address
It is common today for applicants to leave an e-mail address on their resumes. Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, many applicants make the mistake of leaving personal or inappropriate e-mail addresses rather than professional ones. Put yourself into the HR guy’s shoes. You are looking at two very impressive applications, but one them lists their e-mail as “firstname.lastname@example.org” while the other lists theirs as “JohnSmith@gmail.com.” Which person are you more likely to hire? If you don’t already have a professional-sounding e-mail address, just visit one of the many free e-mail providers (like gmail, yahoo, and hotmail) and sign up for one.
Listing irrelevant, non-job-related information
Too many applicants try to get “cute” and show how eclectic they are by listing non-job related information in their resumes. This can be anything from the vacations they’ve taken, the hobbies they enjoy, or even (in rarer cases) the pets they own! It’s understandable to want to “liven up” your application, but remember this: the HR person who will eventually read it reads thousands of applications each year. They have trained themselves to relentlessly skim through applications searching for only the very relevant details.
Remember: employers and their HR staffs scan resumes. They do not painstakingly read each and every word. Being that this is the case, the best thing you can do is make your resume scannable. This means using one of the many free resume templates that come with Word or that can be downloaded on the Internet. These are the formats employers are used to reading, and it’s one easy way you can take friction and hassle out of their reviewing of your resume. Don’t get “cute” with formatting!
Use of personal pronouns
Remember back in college when your professor didn’t let you use words like “I” or “me” in essays? Keep this rule in mind when creating your resume as well. Like a college essay, a resume is a formal document (albeit a business document rather than an academic one.) For example, rather than saying
I oversaw the creation of a new department that generated $5 million in sales and increased pre-tax profits by 15%.
Say this instead:
Oversaw creation of new department that generated $5 million in sales and increased pre-tax profits by 15%.
If this seems like a lot to remember, just pretend that you are someone else, describing yourself to another person. This rule will help keep you on track.
Trying to sound “well-rounded”
Some applicants believe they will look better to employers if they seem well-rounded. Such people typically play up how many committees they’ve served on, how many different and varying job titles they’ve held, different industries they’ve worked in, and the like. Unfortunately, this does not work as intended. Most employers see such people as not being great at any one thing, and they are thus unsure of how to evaluate them. Most often, such applicants are simply passed over in favor of those with more specific skillsets.
Too many resumes have self-deprecating remarks and phrases. While it’s understandable to not want to be seen as bragging on your application, you still want to look good. It is for this reason that statements like “graduated in the top 66% of my class” and “self-employment: what a disaster that was!” will not make you look good. Rather, they will make you seem like a potential threat to the organization, someone who probably shouldn’t be trusted with much power or autonomy.
Of course, the other side of the resume blunder coin are applicants who excessively brag about themselves or their achievements. Again – you do want your resume to make you look like a strong candidate. What you do not want is obnoxious arrogance, as seen in statements like “you will never find a better candidate than me”, or “my job performance is unsurpassed”, or “if you don’t hire me, you’ll regret it!” Such statements make you seem cocky and indicate a potential lack of team spirit (or even narcissism!)
Focusing on responsibilities instead of achievements
The best resumes draw attention to what you as an employee have achieved – sales growth, cost-cutting, higher customer retention, etc. The worst resumes talk only or mostly about what responsibilities you have held – manager, committee supervisor, etc. Take a good, hard look at your resume and determine if it is primarily responsibilities or achievements based. If it is not already achievements-based, make sure it is before you send it in to employers!
Important skills buried at the bottom
Some otherwise good resumes handicap themselves by listing important skills at the bottom – say, computer skills. It should go without saying that the skills most relevant to the job you want should be listed top, front, and center in your resume. Read over your resume a few times and put yourself in the position of a busy, beleaguered HR person. Would your job-specific skills jump out to them? If not, re-arrange your resume so that they will.
Lack of bullet points
As alluded to earlier, scanability is essential to creating a good resume. One of the most critical elements of scanability is the use of bullet points. Do not make the mistake (which many applicants do) of writing everything in as a “wall” of text, hoping that whomever reads your resume will painstakingly peruse your every word to extract the important parts. They will not. That being the case, be sure to use bullets early and often!
Listing references directly on the resume
You should list your references on a separate sheet of paper or, ideally, only provide them when asked. Including them within the resume itself only adds bulk (which makes it more tempting to rush through) and does you little good, since references will only matter if and when the employer decides to interview you and advance the process beyond the resume-reviewing stage. When in doubt, leave the references out!
The “more is better” mentality
An article listing the 100 funniest resume mistakes says that one woman divided her resume into acts as though it were a play: ie, Act 1 of the resume, Act 2 of the resume, etc. We realize this is rather extreme and ridiculous, but it’s telling because of how many people (albeit less dramatically) adopt a “more is better” approach with their resumes. This is absolutely false. In fact, research would probably show that resumes are read less often in proportion to how large they are. Whenever possible, try to include only the essential details necessary to convey your main point.
Resume sent as an attachment without you knowing how it’ll look
We’ve all been there: you send something out as an e-mail attachment, only to have it look different (sometimes drastically) on your recipient’s computer than it does on yours. This can be disastrous if the random factor and chaos of the Internet messes up your resume’s formatting or bullets! Luckily, this need not become an obstacle. Before sending your resume via e-mail, simply “test” send it to a few of your friends and verify how it looks on their computers. If it looks as it does on your computer, send it to the employer. If not, find out why and fix it.
Not every job applicant has the benefit of writing a resume with a sparkling job history. Some have been fired numerous times or been involved in conflicts with bosses at one or more jobs. There is a strong tendency among such people to demonize their ex-bosses in the resume, blaming them for their own failures. But while you might think this makes you look better, it rarely has this effect. Rather, most employers will read something like “I only got fired because my boss was an unrealistic jerk” and imagine themselves being in that boss’ shoes someday. You will be seen as a “problem-person” and probably ignored. The far more effective and mature approach is to simply acknowledge any past difficulties you may have had and exude an honest, sincere willingness to put those things behind you.
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