Competition for jobs is stiff and you don’t want to unknowingly eliminate yourself from the running by making small mistakes that could have been avoided. What you don’t know about some of the most common resume mistakes could really hurt you. I’ve critiqued hundreds of resumes in my time recruiting and career coaching and these are some of the most common; mistakes you might be making as well. Here are the Top 10 Biggest Resume Eyesores as well as some ways to fix them:
1. Lack of Immediate, Clear Brand
Resumes are not a fun read. (There I said it). Part of the reason they are zero fun is because the reader has to quickly try and figure out just exactly who you are and what you do by decoding this annoyingly formal and cliche universal resume standard we’ve created. Knowing this can help you to help the reader avoid major confusion when taking a first glance at your experience on paper.
Therefore, the top of the resume is extremely valuable in terms of establishing your brand. The top of a resume is the first place a reader will look (in part due to our natural line of site).
As with Linkedin profiles, you want to present an immediate, clear brand (not a confusing one). Incorporate a heading near your name that tells the reader EXACTLY what you’re about. Also take advantage of the space immediately under your heading to incorporate concise, relevant keywords that support your brand.
2. Including a Mailing Address
The physical address on the resume is my idea of trying to drag out a practice that just does not need to exist. Just because we used to incorporate mailing addresses on our resumes, doesn’t mean we still have to retain that outdated practice.
Email and phone are enough. Include your city or state if you must but don’t feel you need to hold onto the physical address (or those puffy bangs) forever. If you are applying to an out of state job DEFINITELY leave your address off if you want to make it through the initial screen.
3. Hints of Work Authorization Complications
For all my international readers, this is that elephant in the room that recruiters & hiring managers like to dance around. Since I’m a straight-shooter and believe that no one benefits from covering up the truth, I’ll give it to you straight. Resumes that indicate you are potentially a citizen from another country (physical address, most of your experience and education is abroad, your name is not particularly local), tend to get passed over. The reason for this is that figuring out visa status and work authorization is a total nightmare for the non-expert (which is most hiring managers, recruiters and HR peeps).
Therefore, if you possess any of the indicators mentioned above, and you are a U.S. citizen or greencard holder, you’ll want to make that clear at first glance. This will ensure your reader doesn’t make any wrong assumptions based on fears of figuring out visas/legalities, etc.
If your work authorization story is more complex (OPT, H1-B, J, etc.), your best bet is being very up-front and targeting companies that have a track record of hiring more complex authorization cases.
4. Overly Cliche Objective Statement or Summary
The experts are all saying that the objective statement is dead. However I find that we’ve merely replaced the term “objective statement” with “executive summary” which is well and alive. In my humble opinion, it’s all semantics and it’s fine so long as it serves to enhance your overall brand.
Regardless, as a recruiter, we rather avoided this top section and skimmed down to the experience because most people tend to shove a zillion overly-used resume words into a paragraph that tells the reader nothing at all (and is overly inflated by the biased writer).
If your little opening statement includes things like: Detail-oriented, team player with the drive to produce results, you are committing a cardinal sin and your objective statement needs to be axed immediately. Try replacing with your greatest results as relevant to the position in question.
For those just starting out, with little experience to indicate a robust brand, it’s perfectly fine to state your objective (as long as it’s tailored to the company/role you’re applying to). This will help the hiring manager know what you are going after.
5. Unclear Layout & Confusing Eye Scan
If I were a broken record, this would be my song. Your resume gets 6 seconds before it hits the trash. If it’s confusing at first glance, I’m convinced it gets less than 3. Remember, the reader doesn’t like being confused so make your layout beautiful and easy to read. Don’t know where to start? Check out these resume eye-catchers.
6. Too Many Bullets
Bullet abuse is all too common. In fact majority of resumes I’ve reviewed have WAYYYY too many bullets. Just because you did a lot of things in your career, doesn’t mean you have to use them to create a million bullets. Therefore limit yourself to 4-6 bullets per role (less for roles that are not particularly relevant to your target brand).
7. Weak Bullets
Just as you don’t want to overwhelm the reader with too many bullets, you also want to avoid listing bullets just for the sake of having bullets. Readers only want to know what’s relevant and guaranteed they are not reading all of your bullets in any case. Make your bullets count by including only strong, results-oriented bullets (do include numbers/quantify your results).
8. TMI (Too Much Info) College Extras
If college was a long time ago (aka your resume is now 2 pages instead of 1), consider sparing the reader all the nitty-gritty details of your glory years. GPAs become less relevant with the more experience you gain. Awards = meh if they aren’t of Nobel Peace Prize stature so have a very honest look when it comes to old-school college stuff.
Same story as college experience (#8), different resume section. Unless your hobby is a showstopper or guaranteed conversation piece, consider nixing it. Really consider company culture when determining whether or not to incorporate your extracurricular activities.
For example, if you are working in a culture with highly ambitious, athletic types, your marathon-running would be something that is appropriate. For a more relaxed, start-up, your stint as a college mascot will be just nerdy/bizarre enough to warrant props (so keep it on the resume).
10. Poor Use of Resume Page Real Estate
Last but not least, nothing irks a resume-reader more than some messed-up, inconsiderate resume real estate (or formatting). It’s one thing to confuse the reader with poor formatting but it’s another to annoy the reader because you couldn’t figure out how to use Microsoft Word. Take time to create a visually appealing document, avoiding specific eyesores around margins, too many pages, too few lines on a page or too much info in general.
So what about you? Have you been affected by any of these resume eyesores (or any others that I may not have mentioned here)? Share your experience!