If you read my column regularly, you know I believe a great resume is like the golden ticket to the job you really want. It tells a potential employer what you can do for them, and establishes you in their mind as someone they want to meet.
As an added bonus, a great resume makes you feel more confident in your job search, and it serves as a guide in an interview so that all of the important things someone should know about you are covered.
But sadly, a very high percentage of resumes fall short of the mark. Often really short, which means no interview. And without an interview, then there's no job.
To get a broader perspective on the ways people go wrong with their interview, I've delved into some of my LinkedIn recruiter and resume expert groups. Below is a summary of the problems these experts shared in the resumes that have crossed their desk.
1. Thinking a resume is a chronological work history rather than a sales document.
A resume is not your life history. Your resume is a brochure about you, and it needs to look good, read smoothly, and tell the reader why you are a great candidate for their specific position.
2. Lack of focus and expecting one resume to work for every job.
You have undoubtedly done a lot of different things in your life, but only some of them will matter when it comes to a specific job. If you're applying to a job selling widgets, then customize your resume to focus on your widget-selling skills and just highlight the things in your background that support your ability to be a widget salesperson, and minimize off-topic information.
3. Forgetting to focus on achievements.
It's one thing to tell me that you did this, that and the other thing, but it takes on a whole new dimension when you tell me that this thing increased sales 20%, that thing shortened the production process by three months, and the other thing solved a problem that had been going on for three years. Think in terms of results, not just activities.
4. Underselling yourself.
This is something many experts see consistently in older workers who were taught to be humble about their contributions. Humble won't help you stand out. You absolutely must be able to blow your own horn! As Muhammad Ali aid, "It ain't braggin' if you really did it" and if you don't tell them in shining terms about how great you are, who exactly do you think is going to do it?
5. Lack of personal insight into why someone would want to hire you.
You have to put yourself into a hiring manager's shoes to understand what it is about you that they will like, and then focus on those things. This takes some self-examination to know what you're really selling, and some practice in learning how to explain it to the people who count. Know why you're good at what you do, and be able to talk about it.
6. Not writing it for the company's needs and writing in a way that the company needs to hear.
Someone will hire you because they have a problem you can solve, whether that's having their customers greeted with a smile, or finding someone who can sort out that huge accounting mess. Know their problem, and what it is about you that will solve it, and focus on that in your resume.
7. Too dry and boring.
This comes up over and over. It's possible to be factual and not squeeze the life out of your resume. Use real words and let the story reveal itself. Just reciting acronyms and dry corporate speak just makes the reader want to take a nap.
8. Not updating regularly, or updating it badly.
Don't just paste your most recent job into your old resume and consider it done. Your resume evolves with your career, and styles change with time. You need to drop off outdated jobs, or at least reduce them to minimal description. Make sure your current job is in the present tense, and everything else is past tense. Make sure your contact information is current. Then make sure your formatting is still consistent, and your pages wrap well. Consider if you really should be overhauling it entirely.
It's helpful to use a template to start a resume, or to research what other people are doing, but don't just copy someone else's words or format. I received a beautiful resume once and was impressed until I realized that it was actually stolen from someone I knew, and only the companies and job titles were changed. Make your resume unique to you, and don't be a plagiarist.
10. Your voice is missing.
Yes, it's a document, meant to be read in two dimensions. But it is describing you, a real live 3D human being, with your own kind of energy and personality, so write it in language that sounds like you so the real live 3D person on the other end gets a sense of you.
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