8 Resumé Mistakes You Don’t Realize You’re Making (and How to Fix Them)
Hiring managers and recruiters spend about 6 seconds scanning your resumé to determine whether or not they want to give you a call. Three things make the biggest impact: 1) formatting and organization; 2) quality and relevance of experience; and 3) a demonstrated desire to work for the role you’ve applied for. A single mistake on your resumé can disrupt this 6 second review, and you need to make it easy for them to make a positive decision. I’ve reviewed 1000s of resumés as a professional resumé writer, and these are the mistakes I see most regularly (and how to fix them).
1) Your Objective Summary Doesn’t Say Anything
I’d recommend two brief phrases – no more than two or three lines. I would state the number of years of experience you have doing [usually your current role/type of practice], some of your top skills/achievements, and finally point out the role you are seeking. Do your best to include as much of a story as you can muster into this two sentence statement, such that it describes why your skills/current role make you perfect for the role you are trying to get. Also, avoid using the 1st person.
2) Don’t Separate Your Experience Sections
I see so many resumés with multiple experience sections. There are limited instances where this might be appropriate, such as when you are applying for a role that requires two different skill sets/industry experiences. For example, an applicant for a Patent Attorney role might have one section titled “Legal Experience” and one section for pre-law school “[Lab/Clinical] Experience.” I’d otherwise recommend combining your volunteer experience and work experience into one section entitled “Experience.”
3) Your Experience Descriptions Are Weak
Use bullet points instead of paragraphs. Avoid using full sentences; try phrases instead that focus on metric-based achievements and add a lot more details. For example, instead of saying “After graduating Secondary School, I was promoted to the Supervisor,” try “Promoted from [former role] to Supervisor among an 8 member team immediately upon graduation due to strong work ethic and superior management and money-handling skills.”
Go through each phrase to ensure you’re being as appropriately detailed as possible. For example, you say “Developed new product features sets and design improvements.” What new “product features sets”? How many? For whom? What was the ultimate goal? Did you work in a team or alone? If a team, how many? Did you lead them? etc. Is this really something you want a hiring manager to read on your resumé or will they shrug? You should go through this analysis for each role.
4) Keep Your ‘Education’ Section Organized
If you graduated recently, it makes sense to include your education at the top. Consider, however, moving your experiences towards the top instead if they are relevant to the roles you are applying for.
Avoid large paragraphs of text in your ‘Education’ section, and I would add a line for “Honors” and another for “Activities” under your school/anticipated degree. The Honors line will include academic achievements or relevant high scores. The Activities line will include things like “Co-Captain of Rutger’s recreational tennis team” or “Junior Editor for the SCF Rogue Newsletter” etc.
5) Too Many Roles with Underwhelming Information
Employers don’t care that you have had 8 previous positions in the same industry as the role you want. They care that you have substantive, relevant experience that demonstrates skills required for the job you are applying for. If you have a role with a single line description, you either need to amp up the description or leave out the experience altogether.
6) Poor Action Words/Too Much Flowery Language
Reevaluate your descriptions. Read each one and think about what it REALLY means. For example, what does “Championed staff blogging” mean? Sometimes we get caught up using flowery language while losing the effect of the content. Often simplicity can drive stronger impressions because it’s understood what exactly you did. The hiring manager can then say – “oh, that’s exactly the skill I need for this position.”
7) You List Your References
References should not be on the resumé. They should be provided when asked. I’d recommend creating a separate document with a similar heading as your resumé with your references and their contact information laid out. Also make sure your references are prepared to be contacted in the event you haven’t spoken to them in a while.
8) Don’t Waste Your ‘Interests’ Section
Your Interests are probably a throw-away. Take advantage of this. For example, instead of listing “camping” try a single achievement or a metrics-based note, like “Hiked and camped in over 23 national parks.”