Advice and resources
10 Classic Resume-Writing Mistakes to Avoid
Is your resume generating disappointing results? Have you been sending your resume for positions that you know you are qualified for, but the phone remains silent? If so, you might want to check it and revise it against these ten common errors.
1. Including an objective statement that tells the reader what you want.
If there is one major rule to keep in mind as you write your resume, it is that all of the content should be written to be employer-centered. Objective statements that tell the reader what you want are inherently self-centered. The more modern way of providing focus for your resume is to include a summary or profile section. A profile is fundamentally different from an objective in that it is employer-centered, conveying to the reader what you offer them, rather than what you want from them.
2. Writing your resume to be intentionally broad in scope.
Many people will write a broad resume out of fear that focusing too precisely will exclude them from certain opportunities. Unfortunately, this strategy almost always backfires. Resume readers are notoriously lazy and give your resume only a few seconds at most before making the decision to screen it out or screen it in. If you are lucky you have 15 seconds to clearly convey your focus (level and type of position you are seeking) and how you would add value within their organization. If your focus is ambiguous and you haven't made it crystal clear how you will fit in the company, you certainly expect the reader to make the effort to figure it out.
3. Including a generic profile/summary statement.
While it has become common and even expected that your resume will include a profile/summary statement, far too often they are just generic statements that do nothing to differentiate the individual from their competition in the job market. What is it that differentiates you and make your contributions to the companies you have worked for better and unique than your peers? What is the value proposition that you are making to the reader of your resume? What sets you apart from the competition and what uniquely qualifies you to meet the needs and solves the problems of the employer? Additionally, it isn't enough to tell a reader that you have certain abilities or traits; you must show them through examples of past achievements. Prove impact! Forget about cliches and jargon. Soft skills are often important, but even those should be backed up by specific accomplishments that illustrate them.
4. Describing your job scope and responsibilities in detail.
Think about it: Being responsible for doing something certainly doesn't mean a person does it. What a person is supposed to do and what they actually do are two different things. Many people make the mistake of selling features (responsibilities) rather than benefits (achievements/results) in their resume. It is very important to place the emphasis on achievements, quantifying results whenever possible. Document the ways in which your work have benefited your employers and quantify whenever possible. By including past achievements and results, you demonstrate your future potential. Always remember, you won't get hired for what you know how to do, you will get hired for what you do with what you know how to do.
5. Focusing solely on the achievement and forgetting about the results.
Just telling the reader that you have achievements isn't very effective unless you present them in terms of the results and benefits they have produced for past employers. You should always try to think in terms of the so what of your achievement. What did you improve, save, increase, enhance, etc? What impact did the work you do have on the companies? At the root, every single job is designed to solve a problem, save money, make money, or improve efficiency. It is crucial that you understand and be able to communicate the impact of your performance. Whenever you can do so, you should use numbers to illustrate your results, but even if you are unable to quantify achievements, the emphasis should still be on the results/benefits of your work.
6. Writing an autobiographical style resume.
Your resume is a marketing document. It is not an autobiography. While the decision about how far back to date your resume really depends on the individual circumstances, generally it is standard to go back 10-20 years. If experience earlier than that is still relevant, you can always summarize it in a couple of sentences without the use of dates. Always think in terms of relevance and impact. Does a particular piece of data or achievement support your personal brand and value proposition? Does it help promote your qualifications in relation to your current career goals? If not, you probably should not include it. In fact, by including irrelevant data, you dilute your focus and make the recipient wonder if you truly understand the position you are targeting. If you feel really strongly that particular data may be relevant to at least SOME recipients, you can always create an addendum that you choose to use selectively.
7. Including personal information.
If your resume is meant for the U.S. market, it should not include a photo, your birth date, mention of unrelated hobbies or interests, info about your family, info that reveals your religion, or any other similarly personal data. Including such data in a resume meant for the U.S. market may actually eliminate you from consideration, as hiring decision-makers may be concerned about discrimination suits.
8. Using a template design for your resume.
You should never use a template to create a resume. Your resume should be uniquely designed to highlight your unique qualifications and selling point and to set you apart from other candidates. If you use a template (or a format that looks like a template), you ensure that your resume will simply blend in with all the rest. To really compel action, your resume MUST attract immediate attention and present an unquestionably professional appearance. Create an eye-catching design, but forego the templates!
9. Using the same structure and resume writing techniques that you were taught in college ten years ago.
A common error made by experienced professionals is overemphasis of education. As an experienced professional your history of accomplishments and proven ability to produce and deliver results is far more important than your degrees. Only new graduates with very little or no experience should list education at the beginning of the resume. The most important thing is that you prioritize and organize your selling points, listing categories of primary importance first. The best structure in almost all circumstances is a combination reverse chronological order. This includes a profile/summary section, a reverse chronology of your work history and achievements, education, and other qualifications such as professional affiliations.
10. Listing all your achievements in a section separate from your career history.
It is critical to show progression and a consistent, repeated ability to produce results. By listing your achievements separately from your career history, you lose this. Go ahead and use specific achievements to illustrate the value proposition and personal branding that you convey in your profile. In fact, it is crucial that you do so. But, for the most part, the majority of your achievements are best presented within the chronological and situational context in which they happened. In other words, go ahead and include a SUMMARY of achievements that are selected to illustrate your value proposition and brand, but the body of your resume should also include achievements and results that illustrate your impact in each company or each position.
What Employers Want From Their Employees
As you attempt to launch your career or try to jump-start a career that is off-track you might be wondering what employers really want from their employees. This can be a difficult question to answer in today's ever-changing job market. Many of the old assumptions have fallen by the wayside as the workplace has transformed to meet the demands of our high-tech world.
It should be stated at the outset that employers do differ in their expectations for employees. These differences may depend upon the line of work involved, the size of the staff, the computerization of the workplace, and other factors. Therefore, if you are interested in exploring career options with a specific company, it is important that you talk with employees of that company to find out about expectations for employees in that particular business. Nevertheless, there are a few common threads that run through managers' offices things that employers look for in their employees.
Perhaps the single-most important trait for an employee today is dependability. It is critical to have workers who show up on time for work, who stay a full day, and who complete their work in a timely manner. Managers want to be assured that their employees will take their jobs seriously and that their workers will act in a professional manner. There is nothing worse than having an employee who is chronically late, who takes frequent unscheduled breaks, who leaves early, and who procrastinates in getting work done.
Another key trait for employees is honesty. They must be candid with their bosses. Otherwise, the workplace can erupt in turmoil. Managers must know that they can trust their employees with money, with sensitive information, and with privacy issues. A dishonest employee can be a real detriment to a company, and can significantly impact the company's bottom line.
A recognition of the value of teamwork
The days when individualists dominated the workplace are over. Today's corporate managers want employees who truly recognize the value of teamwork. Workplace divas can drain the lifeblood out of an organization, preventing a company from growing. In order to achieve anything significant in the workplace, it is important for employees to work together as a team. It is only through unity of vision that major gains can be made.
Increasingly, employers want employees who are creative problem-solvers. Problems creep up in the workplace everyday, particularly regarding customer service. Employees need to be able to think on their feet and must be willing to try fresh approaches to solving problems. Otherwise, it is likely that a business will stagnate and profits could take a downturn.
It is also important that employees respect their bosses. Of course, it is important that bosses respect their workers as well. Only in an atmosphere of mutual respect can a workforce remain cohesive. Employee job satisfaction is also likely to grow where bosses and their employees respect one another. People want to be valued and workers who feel they are valued are more likely to perform well on the job.