Brian E. Howard, CCMC, CJSS, CPRW
Paula Christensen, CPRW, CCMC, CJSS
During a job search, having an
impactful résumé is imperative. It sells your abilities, accomplishments,
professional traits, and establishes the match between you and the open
position. Properly written and creatively presented, it will differentiate you
from other job seekers.
Below are 12 common and some not so
common résumé mistakes that are easily avoidable and can help create a positive
mental impression of you in the mind of the HR recruiter or hiring executive.
1. Not proofreading your document.
spelling and grammatical errors can be fatal. For example, a recent candidate’s
spell check program did not pick up a critical error. His résumé inadvertently
included the word collage (a piece
of art made by sticking different materials such as photographs and pieces of
paper or fabric onto a backing) instead of college
(an educational institution). Proofreading your résumé is mandatory. Have
someone unfamiliar with your résumé read it carefully to check homophones (words having the same pronunciation but
different meanings), run-on sentences, appropriate use of apostrophes
and plurals, capitalization, and the correct use of verb tenses.
2. Unattractive formatting/design.
The very first impression of you that a résumé sends is its
appearance. It must be easy-on-the-eyes, have a straightforward flow, and
capture the reader’s attention. Use a font between 10 – 12 points with larger name
and category headers. Include sufficient white space and be consistent when
laying out categories.
3. Listing job duties rather than achievements.
job to show evidence of how you have gone above and beyond. Recruiters and
hiring managers appreciate achievements supported by hard data. Tell the HR
recruiter what you do, then prove to them that you are good at it by listing
for sales to end users via company website.
Rep – outperformed closest representative by 44%. Exceeded outbound
calling expectations by 60%.
The before example reads like a job description. Being
responsible for sales to end users is the job duty of every sales representative. The after example gives scope, comparing this individual
to both other sales reps and the team’s goal expectations. Dig more deeply into
your job duties. How have you made money,
improved a process, or boosted your team’s performance? Then put it on your
4. Ineffective/nonexistent keywords.
Keywords are nouns and phrases that HR Professionals use to search
their Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) databases for résumés that match job
requirements for job openings. Ninety percent of large companies use applicant
tracking systems to search for qualified candidates.
Keywords can include:
Position Titles, Target Jobs, Industries, Skill Sets, Company/Employer
Names, Specific Universities, Degrees, Licenses, Certifications, Software
Experience, Location: Area codes, City/State Names, and Soft Skills (for
example communication and interpersonal skills).
You can find keywords within job postings, job descriptions, LinkedIn
Profiles, and O*NET.
Jobscan is a useful site that allows users to
paste text from a job description and their résumé and then calculate a score
for keyword matches.
Include links to your social media (LinkedIn and other
professional websites). Your full name, your street address (optional), city of
reside, zip code, and your phone number(s).
Include a professional e-mail address, omit the firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employers say inappropriate email addresses can make all the difference in whether
they call the candidate for an interview.
6. Including an objective
The objective statement has fallen out of favor with employers. A résumé
is not the place to tell an employer what you want, but rather to sell yourself
on how you can benefit the employer. Instead of an objective statement, use an
introductory or summary section to capture interest and set the tone for those
who are making decisions about you. Include your experience, skills, and career
accomplishments. You will want to highlight 3-5 of your greatest strengths that
relate to the next job you are seeking.
An introductory section can include any of the following:
- Number of years of experience
- Advanced degree/certification
- Language skills
- Technical skills
- Management style
7. Not including a title
A title statement is a short statement listing the job you are
targeting. Be reasonably specific with your résumé title. For example, “Senior
Healthcare Sales Representative,” “Property & Casualty Field Claims
Why include a title statement and why modify it for each job?
- A title helps with identification and tracking
within the hiring company. In a smaller company where they don’t do much
hiring, identification may not be an issue. In a larger company, your
information may be distributed to several HR associates and hiring managers.
- A title helps with applicant tracking system
(ATS) recognition. It’s another chance to help you identify with the exact
position you are applying for. Having the exact keyword on your résumé is
especially crucial for new graduates who may never have held the role they are
targeting. It’s a bit covert; you’re adding the role (keywords) even though you
haven’t held that job – the computer doesn’t know the difference.
8. Neglecting to include a skills section.
While not all résumés contain a skills section, including one may
be helpful when you want to emphasize the abilities you have acquired from your
various jobs or activities that relate to the position you are applying for.
Listing skills, competencies, and strengths also helps strengthen your
9. Lack of a showcase section.
Statistics show HR and hiring executives generally spend between
five and ten seconds when first looking at a résumé. A showcase section
appearing at the top third of your résumé capitalizes on this limited time. Use
this section to boast your most formidable professional selling points –
achievements, expertise, and product knowledge – the powerful elements of your
background that differentiate you from others.
10. Irrelevant or outdated
Anything not relevant is muddling up your message. Hiring managers
and recruiters are busy, if your résumé is not crystal clear on the job you are
targeting and what your focus is, hiring managers and recruiters will place you
in a category (which may be incorrect) or worse yet, not know where to place
you at all.
Most job seekers only need to list 10-15 years of experience. Covering
more than 15 years of work experience may give the appearance that you are older
than you are and even overqualified. Cut out long descriptions from roles that
are over five years ago. Omit certifications, training classes, and professional
affiliations that are no longer significant. If you held a role briefly that
doesn’t fit with your career narrative, consider trimming it to make room for
other accomplishments or cutting it out altogether.
11. Not matching your LinkedIn
Not aligning your résumé and LinkedIn profile creates problems for
both. HR recruiters get suspicious when a résumé represents one thing, and your
LinkedIn profile another – especially when it comes to dates of employment.
12. Length is too short or
The standard rule for most résumés is no more than two pages.
Properly written and formatted, most professionals can create an informative
and impactful résumé within this two-page standard. Longer résumés tend to be
poorly formatted or become “career narratives” which are laborious to read. One-page
résumés may be appropriate for new grads and early-career job seekers.
Brian Howard, J.D. is a Certified Career Management Coach (CCMC), a
Certified Job Search Strategist (CJSS), a Certified Professional Resume Writer
(CPRW), an actively practicing executive recruiter, and President of The Howard Group. He is the author of the Motivated Series of job search
books which include The Motivated Job
Search (2nd Ed.), Over 50 and Motivated, The Motivated Networker,
Motivated Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles, and the soon to be released book, The Motivated College Graduate.
Paula Christensen, is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), Certified
Career Management Coach (CCMC), and a Certified Job Search Strategist (CJSS). Paula
combines experience as a Resume Writer, Career Coach, and Former Recruiter to
help clients identify their strengths and unique values to make them more
marketable. She was recognized with a résumé writing award last year by Career
Directors International as
part of their annual Toast of the Resume Industry contest (TORI Award). She was
awarded third place in the New
Graduate category. Paula will have sample résumés and career advice
included in two Spring 2019 publications; The
Motivated College Graduate and
Resumes for Dummies.