Resumé Killers

     Job Search        The “Job Hunt”.  Many would consider it easier to hunt a wounded lion with a bow and one broken arrow than to have to hit the pavement and hunt for employment. And if that’s you, fear not. All you have to do to bag your dream job is to get yourself well-equipped for the quest. Here are some things to pay attention to as you navigate the jungle . . .

            First things first:  Are you “interview-challenged”?  That is, are you concerned about landing interviews for your dream job?  That’s not unusual given the competition in today’s job market. Granted, if you’re, say, a nurse or engineer, pick a job – it’s yours. But if your dream job happens to be in business, advertising/promotions, retail, office administration, some medical positions, social services, education at any level or many service-related jobs, you could be in for a long, job-hunting haul. In teaching, for example, many posted positions reel in hundreds of resumés per job. No lie.  And how do you compete with that?

           Here’s how: Get the interview! You can’t land any position without first getting in the door and meeting the peeps in charge. But, with hundreds in competition, how do you do that?  Get yourself noticed! Or, I should say, get your resumé noticed. That’s the first step. However, it’s often the end of the road for many applicants. Why?  Because their resumés are just so bad! I know; I’ve seen them. I’ve been on interview committees and I’ve done (or re-done) dozens of resumés. Here are some of your most common resumé problems:

            Thing Number One: Mistakes! Grammar, spelling and punctuation errors quickly make your resumé trash-can fodder. Not only do such errors tell a perspective employer that you don’t have a grasp on the English language – and they’d really like you to have that – but, right or wrong, it speaks to the kind of employee you might be: careless. Now keep in mind that potential employers don’t know you (unless they do) so they can only judge by the resumé you present to them. You might not be a careless person but if you present a resumé without at least having proofread it, then that doesn’t speak well of you. “But,” you object, “I’m a great salesperson! I’m just not a great writer!” Maybe. But then have someone else do your resumé and cover letter; if you can’t find someone to help you compose it, at least have someone else proofread it.  

Keep in mind that the average time an employer or HR professional spends looking at a resumé is thirteen seconds.

            I once almost didn’t get an interview because I left out an apostrophe in my cover letter. True story. I was trying to express how many “years’ experience” I had and I forgot the apostrophe on “years”.  And the owner of the company let me know about it as soon as I walked in the door. She told me that the only reason I did get an interview was because the other candidate they were interested in also had one error in her letter. I tell my high school students this story to make the point that details matter. Unfortunately, they don’t always believe me. (Btw – I got the job.)

            Thing Number Two: Poor formatting. This is a serious problem because poor layout will (not “can”) make your resumé look cluttered, messy and hard to read. Keep in mind that the average time an employer spends looking at a resumé is thirteen seconds. Then it either ends up in the “warrants closer inspection” file or the circular file (a.k.a. – trash).

            The biggest formatting mistake I see on resumés is TMI: too much information. Remember – the purpose of a resumé is to give enough info to get employers interested in learning more about you. It is not to document every little thing you’ve ever done.

            Attached is an example of a classic clutter resumé. The sad part is that the poor, unsuspecting job seeker to whom it belongs was actually told to format it this way by some college advisor. About the only thing the advisor got right was that the resumé should be type-written.

Sharon Old Resume


            The resume is not crystal clear because, of course, I couldn’t get it fully sized in this post space but it should be apparent that, in its paragraph format, it’s difficult to read. I won’t go into detail regarding all of the errors here except to say the person’s relevant skills and experience are so often repeated in run-on sentences that they’re virtually buried “in there somewhere”. And that’s too bad because the experience is impressive. I reformatted this resumé and doing so felt much like untangling a plate of spaghetti. Long story short: no employer is going to take the time to wade through that

           Thing Number Three: Wrong information. No employer is interested in seeing a separate section listing the skills you say you have. Anyone can say they have “computer coding skills”.  What employers really want to see are skills paired with specific job titles to prove that you’re not fudging your skill sets. (Of course, who would do that . . . ?) The only exception to this rule might be those entering the job market for the first time who haven’t yet had a chance to acquire experience; if so, list your skills. And remember that volunteer positions count as well; volunteering helps you to acquire valuable skills and it also says something about you as a person.

            Also – a little advice: do not include a “Job Objective” at the top of your resumé stating that you’re looking for a position in, say, social services and then send it to a dog groomer. That never works.

           Thing Number Four: Boring presentation. I don’t think I’ve ever sent a resumé on a plain white piece of paper, no matter how expensive. Even for very conservative fields, use color: pale blue or gray – something to make your resumé stand out in the endless pile of white. However, use the sense God gave you: no neon colors.

           Here is the same resumé after we reformatted it; it’s cleaner, less cluttered, and much easier to scan in thirteen seconds.  (We even added initials for the little “something extra”.)


Sharon Anon Resume PNG

Next time I’ll give you some tips on how to present that resume – tips that will get your resumé noticed and your name remembered – no matter how many competitors you’re facing.

            In the meantime, good luck in the hunt.           

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