The job market is rough out there.
You’re likely competing for every position with dozens — in a particularly slow market, even hundreds — of other applicants. Everything about your approach to a potential employer needs to be perfect.
If you’re not getting a single interview request for your efforts, check to see that you didn’t make these mistakes on your resume:
1. You Made It Too Fancy
It can be tempting to fiddle with the formatting of your resume so it has a new look, with a unique layout or fancy font. Bottom line, resist the temptation.
An employer who is wading through a stack of resumes doesn’t have time to decipher your oddly formatted page with fonts he can’t read. She wants to be able to quickly scan your resume to find out if you’re qualified, and she likely won’t be impressed if she has to stop and decipher your layout.
Stick to easy-to-read fonts, don’t create tiny margins, and don’t cram your resume with dense blocks of text — use plenty of white space so it’s easier to scan.
2. You Left Out the Summary Statement
This section of your resume needs to be customized for each job you’re applying for, and it’s there for good reason. This is where you make your case that you not only understand what the company does, but why you’re the perfect person to fill this role.
Don’t go overboard on your summary statement (think paragraph, not half a page), but make sure you do have one.
3. You Didn’t Have Someone Proofread It
Nothing screams “Unprofessional!” like spelling and grammar mistakes in a document meant to impress a potential employer. Even if you’re a brilliant grammarian, you can make a typo — and it can be hard to catch in your own work.
Have at least one friend (two is even better) with a good grasp of spelling and grammar look over your resume before you submit it. You’ll be glad you did, if they find something embarrassing.
4. You Focused on Duties, Not Achievements
Listing the duties you performed at previous jobs is fine, but your main focus should be on what you actually accomplished there. Did you score a big new contract for your previous employer? That’s a far more compelling statement than just saying you dealt with outside sales.
Make sure you include any awards or accolades you received as part of your previous jobs, and solid benefits you brought to your employers. For best results, be as specific as you can: “I landed an account that brought X dollars of new business” is better than “I sold our widget to a new customer.”
5. You Lied
It should go without saying, but lying on your resume is not the best way to make a good first impression. Fibbing about which degrees you hold (or saying you’ve graduated from college when you’re still a few credits — or a few semesters — away) is likely to get your resume tossed in the “Don’t hire, ever” bin when it’s found out.
Even if your prospective employer doesn’t catch your lie during the hiring process, the truth may come out later down the line, and still cost you your job. Desperation can make it very tempting to pad your resume with an embellishment here or an outright lie there, but it’s likely to hurt you eventually.
Your resume is your first chance to impress an employer.
Take the time to make it shine, and you’ll boost your chances of standing out from the crowd.
About the Author: Angie Mansfield is a freelance writer covering topics and people of interest to consumers and small business owners. Her work covers things like career management and Gary Crittenden.