Depending on the job you’re applying for, the person receiving your resumé could be combing through dozens if not hundreds of resumes. From that stack, they’ll likely only select a small handful for an interview.
Before you start handing out your resumé to potential employers, take a few minutes to consider whether you’re making any of these mistakes.
1. No Specific Results
If your resumé lists the responsibilities you had at your job but now how well you performed those responsibilities, it leaves an employer wondering why. You need to find a way to explain not just what your tasks were, but what you accomplished.
Ideally, you’ll present results through statistics. This can be challenging because it requires finding a balance between good information and too many numbers. When you do use numbers, they need context. If you landed a sale worth $5 million, that sounds great, but how did that sale impact the company? Did it increase annual sales by a certain percentage? Did it exceed your sales targets? By how much? Who set those targets?
You can also specify results using adjectives and adverbs. In this case, less is often more. Proceed with caution and consider consulting a professional resume writer.
PRO TIP: If the only numbers on your resumé are in your phone number, you may struggle to compete with those who have articulated their accomplishments more precisely.
2. Information Overload
The job of the resumé is to get you an interview. It’s not meant to be an autobiography. Even with a more lengthy curriculum vitea (CV), you want to write with conciseness and clarity.
It may not even be that your resumé has too much information, but that it’s presented in a way that is overwhelming to the reader. Make use of white space, bulleting and paragraph breaks to break up large chunks of text. As well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, use short words and aim for short sentences and short paragraphs for maximum impact.
3. Poor Grammar and Spelling
Spell Check is your friend–when it’s not your enemy. Even the best tools, like Grammarly, aren’t 100% perfect. Make sure you proof your own work. I recommend printing it off, stepping away from your computer, and proofing it with a red pen. Then wait a few hours (or a day), come back to it and check it once again.
The human brain has an uncanny ability to miss its own mistakes.
For this reason, I recommend you have someone else proof it as well. Take every piece of advice you get from a third party and consider it carefully. Thank your proofers for their time and their feedback, even if you don’t agree with everything they say. Be careful not to get defensive. Consider that if they are looking at the document in a different light than you are, so might a potential employer.
Of course another option is to have a professional resumé writer help you prepare your resumé. They can help you avoid blatant errors in grammar and spelling that could cost you your dream job. Even a professional can make the occasional typo, so still proofread before sending, just to be sure!
4. An Untidy Appearance
Untidiness can happen several different ways. If you’re submitting your resumé in hard copy, a wrinkle or a coffee stain can be enough to have your resumé dismissed.
Poor formatting is a big one. Inconsistency in margins, tabs and bullets can have an impact on how professional your resumé looks. You’ll also want to be super careful to ensure consistency of voice and parallel structure. What does that mean?
“If two or more ideas are parallel, they should be expressed in parallel grammatical form. Single words should be balanced with single words, phrases with phrases, clauses with clauses. Parallelism makes form follow meaning.”
English grammar can be a complex beast. When in doubt, keep your sentences simple. If you can’t keep them simple, know what you’re doing, or consult with someone who’s great with grammar.
PRO TIP: When sending a resumé electronically, always send it as a PDF. Any reputable employer will be able to open a PDF file, and they’ll appreciate it. Sending it as a Word document, a Google Doc or as a file from some other obscure word processor creates a real risk of formatting issues. You could spend hours perfecting the formatting of your resumé only to have it opened by the employer and become skewed by version incompatibility. Or worse, they may not be able to open it at all!
5. Not Relevant to Position
If you’re applying for several jobs within the same industry, doing the same type of work, you can likely get away with using the same resumé or making only minor tweaks. Often the nuanced requirements of a position can be mentioned in a cover letter to fill in small gaps or to point out key relevant information on your resumé.
If, however, you’re applying for jobs that have different responsibilities or expectations, or within different industries, you should probably be making changes to your resumé to cater it to each application.
If a potential employer sees a bunch of work experience, training and education that aren’t relevant to the job, they may assume you don’t even know what you’re applying for, or that you’re not qualified. You don’t have to leave out good experience; just make sure you’re finding a way to tie it back to make it relevant, and make sure the information most relevant to the position stands out most prominently.
Bonus: No Online Presence
(or a Poor Online Presence)
I said these would be my top 5 reasons your resume gets ignored, but it’s important I mention a factor that’s not specifically about your resumé: your online presence. Once your resumé has caught the attention of the employer, their next step will often be to look you up online.
If they can’t find you, they’ll question whether you’re hiding things or whether you even know how to use a computer. And if they don’t like what they see when they do a Google search, a quick Facebook creep or when they pull up your LinkedIn profile, your application may be removed from consideration.
Find out what recruiters are seeing when they check you out online and if you aren’t proud of what you see, take action. As far as your LinkedIn profile goes, I can help you build a LinkedIn profile that works for job hunting.