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Resume Don'ts

Updated on June 25, 2013

Staying Out Of The "Pile."

When sitting down to write or update your resume, remember it will be someone’s first impression of you. That’s right that recruiter or hiring manager will not be able to see your beautiful smile or see how well put together you are. They will only have your resume to introduce them to who you are.

That’s why you can’t have your resume speaking badly about you. Whispering to the recruiter or hiring manager to toss you in the “never look at again pile.” Many candidates feel they can carelessly type out their work experience and fill in the blanks when the company calls them. They think because they’ve worked for great companies or had impressive titles they’re bound to get a call.

However, if your resume is speaking badly about you, you won’t get that chance to delve into your experience. You probably won’t get the time of day. I will outline below some of the key ways your resume can speak badly about you.

Memoir versus Resume - Remember when you sit down to write your resume it should be a clear and concise snapshot of your skills, work history and education. It’s great if you can fit everything on one page. However, a two page resume is acceptable. However, anything over two pages is too long. I often recommend that candidates doing a chronological resume detail their experience back ten years. Anything after ten years can either be left off the resume or listed as “Additional Experience” listing company, title and dates of employment. Your responsibilities can be spoken about in an interview if the interviewer wants to address your experience beyond ten years.

I once received a resume that was thirteen pages long. This person included every detail of his work history. The only thing missing was how many bathroom breaks he took during the course of the day. I was still early in my career as a recruiter, so I tried to read through it all until it felt like chapters in a memoir. My manager at the time commented that if this person was this wordy on a resume they’re probably a chatterbox and not a good listener. So that resume ended up in my “never look at it again” pile.

Spelling/Grammatical Errors - This can be a death sentence. If you read job descriptions, you often see phrases like “must pay attention to detail” or “excellent verbal and written communication skills. Well if you have typos on your resume you are telling the person reading it you don’t have these skills. I once received a resume where the candidate had a typo in his name. His first name was Allen, but on the resume it read @llen. If you don’t know how to spell your own name you go in the “never to be looked at again pile.” It can’t get any worse than this.

Work History Madness – This category is for the people who submit resumes and there are no dates listed to indicate how long they were at a company. It is also for the people who submit what looks like a chronological resume, but they have randomly listed their work experience. For example, I received a resume where the person listed their work experience not most recent to least recent but the first job listed was in 2000, the second 1999, the third 2003, followed by 2010 etc. It was a hot mess. Again if you can’t be bothered to find out the proper way to write a resume then you are probably going to end up in the pile. I did call this person and explain to them the proper way to format the resume and sent them some examples.

Mumbo Jumbo – Ever heard the expression “talking loud and saying nothing?” Well that’s what I like to call this next group of resumes. You know the resumes where people just throw a bunch of words on the page and you read them and have no idea what they just said. You know, something like, “ Experience with the utmost confidence in the latitude of the responsibilities I portrayed as I went above and beyond the call of duty for the eighteen months the team and I forged forward.” Keep in mind you have about fifteen seconds to grab a recruiter or hiring manager’s attention. If they can’t figure out what you’re talking about, you’re going in the pile.

Forgetting to List Skills - When applying for a job, pay close attention to the job descriptions. Make sure your resume clearly includes the skills needed for the position. Don’t leave it for the recruiter or hiring manager to try to figure out. Remember, you only have about fifteen seconds to get their attention. This may require you have multiple resumes that are geared towards specific jobs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called someone about a position and found out they do possess a skill(s) needed in the job, but they don’t have it on their resume. Leaving this important knowledge off can take you out of the running for a position you may very well be qualified for. I’ve also seen it leave a bad taste in some recruiters’ mouths. I remember one colleague of mine feeling like the person was too lazy and wanted to take the easy way out by submitting a generic resume.

In summary, you have only a short amount of time to sell yourself with a resume. It is clearly the deciding factor as to whether you get an interview and ultimately the job. You want to make sure your resume is saying good things about your skills and work history. If you are unsure about how to write a resume there a tons of books and articles on line that can help you. Once it is written have a second pair of eyes read over it to make sure it is clear, concise and understandable. Taking note of the things listed above will hopefully keep you out of the “never look at it again pile.”

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