Here’s a fact: Very few people like reading resumes – especially those who read hundreds of resumes a week. Ask any recruiter, and they’ll probably tell you it’s one of their least favorite parts of the job.
I critique and write resumes as part of my job. I’ve read hundreds of them and have conducted numerous critique sessions, but I’ve got nothing on recruiters. The only bright spot in this whole process is reading a resume that doesn’t give me a sharp pain between my eyes, one that is relatively sound. A resume that is outstanding – now, that’s a wow moment.
Once you understand that recruiters are not dying to read your resume, you can focus your attention on writing one that pleasantly surprises them, one that prompts them to recommend you for an interview. To write such a resume, you must avoid making the following mistakes:
1. An Apathetic Approach to Writing Your Resume
Don’t let your apathy show in the quality of your product. You don’t want a document that shouts, “I’m not into writing a resume because I’ve got better things to do.” Typos, spelling errors, and grammar mistakes will send this kind of message.
When people resent writing resumes, this sentiment comes across loud and clear in the way they handle their resumes. These people often want others to write their resumes for them – but that’s a mistake. Your resume is your responsibility.
If, for whatever reason, you simply cannot write your own resume, be sure to hire someone who will take adequate time to interview you and get to know what you’ve accomplished in your career.
2. Your Resume Is Tome-Length
Is your resume a five-page document consisting of every duty you have performed within the past 25-years? If so, a recruiter is going to dump it in the reject pile simply because it’s nearly impossible to read.
I recently glanced at a resume that resembled what I’ve just described. I didn’t even pretend to read it. I put it down after two seconds. My customer nodded with understanding.
3. It’s Difficult to Read
Make your resume easy to read by writing short paragraphs, no more than three or four lines apiece. Shorter paragraphs allow the reader to grasp important information easier. I’m also a fan of using bold text to make words and phrases stand out.
Remember that recruiters take approximately 6-10 seconds to glance at your resume to determine whether they will read the rest of it. Thus, your resume must grab their attention quickly. Make sure they see your accomplishments in those first 6-10 seconds – or else they never will.
4. It Lacks Accomplishments
I know, you’ve heard this a thousand times – but it’s worth repeating. You want to stand out from competing job seekers. Recruiters and employers like to see quantified results in the form of dollars, numbers, and percentages.
Many people mistakenly think accomplishments should only be highlighted in the experience section or under your career highlights. One or two of your accomplishments should also be stated in your performance profile – e.g., “Develop processes that improve operations, resulting in double-digit revenue growth.” A statement like this is meant to grab the reader’s attention. This assertion must then be backed up by explicit examples and dollar amounts in the experience section.
5. It Includes Clichés or Unsubstantiated Adaptive Skills
The rule is to show rather than tell. You may be innovative – but what makes you innovative? Did you develop a program for inner-city youth that promoted a cooperative environment and reduced violent crime by 50 percent? If so, state it in your profile.
Recruiters and hiring managers can see fluff a mile away. They’re turned off by words like “dynamic,” “results-oriented,” “outstanding,” “driven,” and other clichés.
6. It Fails to Show Recruiters and Employers What You’ll Do for Them
Recruiters and employers don’t want to know what you did; they want to know what you can do.
You’re probably thinking, “My work history is in the past – that’s what I did. How do I show employers what I can do?”
In the field, we call it “prioritizing your statements,” or targeting your resume to each company to which you apply. In other words, illustrate how your qualifications and accomplishments match the employer’s requirements in order of importance.
7. You Don’t Know What Recruiters and Employers Want
Many people don’t take the time to dissect a job ad to discover the most important skills and experience the employer wants to see on their resume. If the ad is skimpy, go to the company’s careers page on its website.
Better yet, if you know someone at the company or know someone who knows someone at the company, call them and ask for more info about the position. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding influential people at companies. The bottom line is that you can’t write a targeted resume if you don’t understand the requirements of the job.
8. You Lack Keywords and Phrases
As CareerBuilder points out, keywords are the skills that applicant tracking systems (ATS) search for to determine whether your resume will be read by recruiters and hiring managers.
Your branding headline on your resume, much like the headline on your LinkedIn profile, is the first place on your resume where you’ll utilize keywords. Then you will make sure they’re peppered throughout the rest of your resume as well.
9. Your Resume Isn’t Smartphone Friendly
For you millennials, this should be no problem, as you don’t go anywhere without your iPhone or Android. (I’m the same way, even as a boomer.)
The job search is increasingly mobile, so your resume (stored in Dropbox or Google Drive) must be legible to recruiters and hiring managers when sent and received via smartphone. Recruiters and hiring managers want your resume fast, so don’t disappoint them.
10. You Apply for a Job for Which You’re Not Qualified
I know the urge to find a job – any job – is strong, but you don’t want to waste the time of a recruiter, employer, and yourself by applying for jobs for which you’re not qualified. You may think there’s an inkling of hope that you’ll get an interview, but if you have only five of the 10 requirements necessary to do the job, there really is no hope.
A woman in HR recently related this story to me: “I received a resume in a USPS photo envelope (heavy-duty mailer) certified mail. The resume is on lovely cream-colored card stock, beautifully formatted. The problem, though, is she is applying for the assistant town accountant position – and for the last 10 years, she has been a dog groomer.”
These are but 10 faux pas you must avoid if you want to write a powerful resume that is enjoyable to read and gets you a spot in the hot seat. Once you’ve secured an interview, you’re one step closer to a job offer.
A version of this article originally appeared on Things Career Related.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.