Common Resume Blunders

by Kim Isaacs, M.A., C.P.R.W., N.C.R.W.

Make sure your resume is top-notch by avoiding the top 10 resume blunders:

#1: Too Focused on Job Duties

One of the most prevalent resume blunders is to turn a resume into a boring listing of job duties and responsibilities. Demonstrate how you made a difference at each company and provide specific examples of how the company benefited from your performance. When developing your achievements, ask yourself the following questions:
  • How did you perform the job better than others would have?
  • What were the problems or challenges that you or the organization faced? What did you do to overcome the problems? What were the results of your efforts? How did the company benefit from your performance?
  • Did you receive any awards, special recognition or promotions as a result of your performance?

#2: Objective Statement That Is Flowery or Too General

The worst objective statements start with, "A challenging position that will enable me to contribute to organizational goals while offering an opportunity for growth and advancement." This type of statement is overused and too general, and therefore wastes valuable space.

#3: Too Short or Too Long

The rule about the appropriate length of a resume is that there is no rule. Factors that go into the decision regarding length include occupation, industry, years of experience, scope of accomplishments and education. The most important guideline is that every word in the resume should sell the candidate.

#4: Use of Personal Pronouns ("I" and "me") and Articles ("an" and "the")

A resume is a form of business communication, which should be concise and written in a telegraphic style. There should NOT be any mention of "I" or "me" and only minimal use of articles.

#5: Listing Personal or Irrelevant Information

Many people include their interests, such as reading, hiking, snowboarding, etc. These should only be included if they relate to the job objective. For example, if a candidate is applying for a position as a ski instructor, he or she should list cross-country skiing as a hobby.

#6: Using a Functional Resume When There Is a Good Career History

Unless you have a resume emergency situation, such as virtually no work history or excessive job hopping, avoid the functional resume format. One of the most effective resume formats is the modified chronological type. Here is the basic layout:
  • Header (name, address, email address, phone number)
  • Lead with a strong profile section (detailing the scope of your experience and areas of proficiency)
  • Reverse chronological employment history (emphasizing achievements in the past 10-15 years)
  • Education (this might be moved to the top for new grads)
Other related topics include professional affiliations, community activities, technical expertise, publications/patents and languages spoken.

#7: Not Including a Summary or Profile Section That Makes an Initial Hard Sell

A summary section is one of the greatest tools that a job seeker has. The summary should demonstrate the skill level and experiences directly related to the position being sought. To create a high-impact summary statement, peruse job openings  to determine what features are important to employers. Next, write a list of your matching skills, experience and education. These selling points can then be incorporated into the summary.

#8: Where Are the Keywords?

With the majority of large- and medium-size companies using technology to store resumes, the only hope a job seeker has of being found in an applicant search is the inclusion of relevant industry keywords. A good way to determine keywords is to read job descriptions for positions that interest you. If you see industry buzzwords, incorporate them into your resume.

#9: References Available…

Employers know that if you are searching for a job, you should have professional references, so this statement mainly wastes space. Use it only as a graphical element -- to signal the end of a long resume or to round out the page design.

#10: Typos!

One typo and your chances are greatly diminished . Two typos or more will land your resume in the garbage . Proofread, proofread, proofread, and show your resume to several friends to have them proofread it as well. This document is a reflection of you and should be absolutely perfect.

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