Resume Writing – What you need to know

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Have you ever applied to a company and never heard back?

Have you every applied for a job you were certain was a perfect fit and you should be a top candidate, only to get a “thanks we hired someone else” email down the road?

There are a number of possible reasons why you didn’t get the interview, let’s make sure that your resume wasn’t one of them!
Your resume is your calling card, it’s typically the first view of your professional offering to the world and it should look fantastic! I’ve been recruiting for a number of years now, searching for candidates across a wide variety of fields and I’ve encountered a number of common mistakes I want to help you avoid making.

Mistakes to Avoid:

1. Failing to use a professional or publicly appropriate email address in your contact information

It never ceases to amaze me the number of hotgirl@… or bigdude@… type of email addresses people will put on a professional resume (and those are the tame ones). Don’t do this!! Just use your name or some variation and keep it simple.

2. Putting your picture on your resume

Some people think this is good marketing and a helpful way to be remembered, but it’s not in this case. As an HR professional, I don’t want to have any demographic information, I just focus on the content, the background, experience and achievements. Besides, do you really want a potential hiring manager judging you on your hair, make-up, choice of clothes, facial expression, etc.? It shouldn’t happen like that, but it does, people are human. Focus on what you bring to the table!

3. Using formats and fonts that are difficult to read

Rule of thumb for Font usage: don’t get cute, be simple and make it readable. No one cares how creative you can be choosing a font, the hiring authorities (i.e., hiring managers, interviewers, recruiters) simply want to be able to read it clearly and quickly.

Also, don’t feel like it’s necessary to squeeze it all onto 1 or 2 pages (if it goes over 4 pages, then trim, cut and simplify). If I have to strain to read a tiny font with the lines all squished together, I’m not happy and neither is the hiring manager. Make it flow, easy to follow, easy to read … bottom line: make it easy on the eyes (you don’t know how many resumes the hiring authority read before yours).

4. Writing a brief novel in paragraph form under every job experience

If you’re a writer at heart, then this will be hard for you, but in our highly distractible, fast-paced society hiring authorities want to get down to the facts quickly to know what have actually done and accomplished. We can get the narrative version from the interview. MANDATORY: Use Bullet Points! These really help break down your experience and achievements into information snippets that are quick and easy to read and digest. Keep it short, sweet and intelligible.

5. Using a Functional resume format vs. Chronological

The Functional format simply lists all your experiences, abilities and achievements (usually in a bulleted list), then lists your work history, one per line. Don’t do this. We don’t know when you accomplished X or gained experience Y. Rather, keep it in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent position. We need to know “WHEN” you gained that experience! That’s great that you have 3 years of Java Web Development, but is your experience current and valid with the latest technologies??

6. Not fully updating your resume before submitting

Don’t just send in the old resume you used for the last job you landed, open it up. Make sure that it not only is up to date with your most recent experience, but it’s a good opportunity to check it and tweak it to the job you’re applying for, which leads to the next point…

7. Not customizing your resume to the job. MANDATORY! – Customize your resume to the job description! (but be very honest about it)

Ok, this is not an option, it’s a must and may be the difference between an interview and a rejection letter. If the competition is light, then a decent or good resume may be enough, but you never really know what the competition is, so let’s increase your chances, shall we?

Take a close look at the job requirements and main job responsibilities, then go back to your resume and your actual professional accomplishments and see what matches. You’re shooting yourself in the foot big time if you leave out the very thing a hiring manager is keying in on. I’m not telling you to leave out interesting skills or accomplishments, definitely highlight the things you’ve done that speak to the job you want.

For example, if a job requirement of a sales position is “Demonstrated over quota achievement” and you have exceeded quota in the past 3 years, then you PUT THAT IN YOUR RESUME! (e.g., “120% of Quota 2013, 113% of Quota 2012”, etc.). The better you state those achievements relevant to the job requirements, the better your chances!

8. Failing to quantify your achievements

Instead of saying “I focused on continuous process improvements in office operations” which is terribly vague and nebulous, state “I created a new Sales Order SOP document that improved product delivery by 60%,” or “I wrote an inventory procedure document that saved the company $60K in 2012.” That’s much more powerful. Hiring managers want to know what kind of “impact” you will bring to the company, so by all means: demonstrate the impact you made for others!

9. Failing to PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD!!!

It never fails to make me chuckle when I see some state that Attention to Detail is a strength, then I discover 2 spelling errors in their resume. Always review before you send and better yet, get another pair of eyes on it, just to be sure!

Greg Austin, Talent Acquisition Specialist

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