6 common resume mistakes

6 common resume mistakes and how to avoid them

There are some resume mistakes that are so obvious they’re only worth mentioning briefly. We're talking about spelling and grammatical errors, and missing contact details.

There are other mistakes which are more consciously made, but which still bewilder hiring managers. Here are the top six resume mistakes:

1. Not tailoring your resume to the job and organization
When writing, ask not what the business can do for you, but what you can do for the business. It’s important that the organization is the right fit for you, but you need to first demonstrate how you see yourself working, and excelling, within that organization in your resume.

The point here is to not blindly boast about your grandest achievements over the years, but to only pull out a handful of the most pertinent to the role and the organization. First and foremost you need to sell yourself to the business and talk directly to the reader.

2. Hiding the best bits
The exact amount of time that recruiters or hiring managers spend looking at your resume varies depending upon your source – some say it’s as short as six seconds – so it’s important that you make the important information as accessible and prominent as possible. Don’t slowly amble in, put them front and centre!

3. Tooting your own horn too much
Remember, recruiters and hiring managers review resumes for a living – they will be able to see straight through any bluster or bravado. One turn-off for many recruiters is candidates who refer to themselves in the third person e.g. ‘John is an insatiably creative individual’. The recruiter will know you’ve written it, so focus on making it personable and direct; facilitating more of a conversational style, as opposed to a cold list of bullet-points.

Avoid personal summaries in your resume which are too self-aggrandizing. After reviewing so many LinkedIn profiles, resumes and numerous interviews, recruiters become immune to words such as “passionate” and “motivated”. These words are too vague and clichéd to have any real impact; keep your personal summary original and unique to you.

Rather than cramming in every positive adjective that you can think of, try and demonstrate your ability and success with real facts and figures. Instead of saying “I’m an ambitious and motivated sales professional who works well in both teams and by myself”, try “My unrelenting ambition to become a top salesperson has led me to undertake courses in X and X to help fill gaps in my skillset. I applied these new skills to my position within a team as well as solo-work where I achieved X sales in year X”. If you can’t substantiate your claims then there is no use to including them.

4. Submitting a biography rather than a resume
A short, concise resume that is clearly tailored to the role and speaks directly to the hiring manager is best. Avoid writing a resume which is pages long; recruiters and hiring managers only require the salient facts. Grab their attention with concise bullet-points and terse descriptions, as opposed to sprawling, run-on sentences.

This goes for professionals of all levels of seniority. It doesn’t matter how illustrious a career you’ve had, none of us need pages and pages to sell ourselves.

5. Embellishing the facts
The quickest way to make yourself unpopular is to embellish the facts or outright fabricate your employment history and/or personal achievements. Amongst the top are: giving yourself a retrospective promotion, taking credit for the work of another employee, overstating your length in a company and claiming to have qualifications you never obtained.

If there’s information in your past which you’d rather not mention – such as being fired from a company – then you’re entirely within your rights to omit it from your resume, but when later asked about it it’s always best to be up front and honest.

6. Including your references full contact details
The least extensive but by far the most common - there are a couple of stages you need to pass before the prospective employer will make arrangements to contact your referees, so save these until later.

There are some imperfections you can't correct
Resumes are by no means a perfect candidate vetting process, but they are the most effective out of the options available. There are many things that your resume won’t include, which are of equal value to your chances of being successfully selected. Soft skills or your fit in an organization, for example; it’s not until the interview stage that an employer can get a clear idea of whether you have the right personality.

As our CEO Alistair Cox says in his latest Influencer blog, “Your human instinct in the hiring process has never been so important, because most recruitment failures are the result of a poor cultural fit. It makes the interview process even more important”. So, whilst you won’t be able to give a full insight into your character on a typed piece of A4, at least give enough of an enticing preview to land you an interview – during which you can truly express yourself!

Before you hit send
Make sure the document is saved as a PDF; many times documents submitted are in a format that is inaccessible.

Final tip: Keep your resume succinct, snappy and salient to the position you’re applying for and sooner or later you’ll land the job you’ve always wanted.

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