Don’t let your resume hold you back from all the opportunities out there!
Unlike a college test or job project, you’ll rarely receive feedback on your resume; potential employers just don’t have the time to send a personalized critique outlining your mistakes.
That’s understandable — but tough, especially when your inbox sits stagnant after a round of job applications. How are you supposed to know what you’re doing wrong? Before you totally lose your mind, take a few minutes to review these nine ways your resume could be selling you short.
1. Your resume bleeds onto two pages
If you’re a recent college graduate and have less than seven years of relevant experience in the workforce, stick to a one-page resume. Yes, even the most accomplished college graduates should only have a one-pager.
Why? Recruiters don’t want to shuffle through two pages of career details, especially when your career has barely started. That extra page will be seen as unnecessary fluff — and it likely is.
2. You went all out with your resume design
A resume should appeal to the eye, but there’s no need for colorful borders, intricate graphics, or a headshot (unless your career calls for one, like acting or modeling). This distracts the reader from what’s important: the text.
Also, many large companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS), which is software that analyzes resumes and weeds out the least-qualified candidates based on algorithms. So if this ATS software scans graphics that it can’t decipher, your resume might get an automatic “no.”
3. You start with all the wrong information
Way back when, job applicants physically mailed their cover letters and resumes to a company. But times have changed, and your resume needs to reflect that.
There’s no need to take up two lines in your header to list your street address. If anything, including it could hurt your chances of securing a job. For example, if you live across the country but another candidate lives down the block and is almost as qualified as you, then why not just hire that person instead?
Replace your street address with something more digitally friendly, like your LinkedIn profile URL or your online portfolio. Recruiters and hiring managers are going to scour the internet for you anyway, so you might as well make it easier on them.
Oh, and while you’re updating your online profiles, take a peek at your email address. If it’s not a variation of your name, then consider making a new one. You can easily snag a free email address through Gmail or Outlook to create a new, professional email address.
4. You open with an objective
Now that your header is polished, it’s time to launch into the meat of your resume. If your eye scans down to an objective statement, press pause.
Objective statements tend to be generic and don’t offer an employer any additional information to help them understand who you are or your career goals. Replace your objective statement with a professional summary, instead. This is your elevator pitch — it should explain in three to five sentences your qualifications and immediate career goals. Don’t solely focus on yourself; tailor this summary to each job and employer so it feels personalized.
5. You include high school activities
Once you graduate college, you should wipe all mentions of high school off your resume. Focus instead on your college activities and internships. Then, once you’re a few years into your career, you can start shedding those college accolades, too.
6. You lack consistency
Consistency is key, and there are a few areas you’ll want to check for consistency on your resume.
First, start with the formatting. If your first header is underlined, bolded, and centered, make sure your second header is formatted the same way.
Second, make sure your details are presented consistently. If your city and state details are presented as “Denver, CO,” for example, don’t list the next one as “Denver, Colorado.” Check your dates as well. If you list a position as “May 2016 to December 2016,” don’t list your next position as “January 2017–June 2017.” It’s little details like this that can turn an employer off.
Finally, check your verb tenses. All your past experience should be listed in the past tense, while your current position(s) should be written in the present tense; keep that consistent.
7. Your descriptions “tell” when they should “show”
Did you ever have an English teacher encourage you to “show, don’t tell!” Well, that rule of thumb applies to your resume, too.
Comb through your job and activity descriptions. How much are you showing, and how much are you telling? Your points will be stronger if you can show how you resolved a workflow issue rather than simply stating it.
Additionally, see if you can quantify your accomplishments. For example, if, as an intern, you wrote five blog posts a week on top of other responsibilities, that’s pretty impressive. You’re showing the potential employer you’re a hard worker by backing up your statement with cold, hard facts.
On a related note, take a look at your “skills” section. It’s fine to include this section, especially if you’re in a more technical field. Maybe you want potential employers to know you can handle the intricacies of Python and Java. Or maybe you’re bilingual, which will help you in a customer service position.
Don’t, however, use a skills section to list implied skills like “effective written and verbal communication skills,” “organization,” or “conflict resolution.” Your past experience listed on your resume should already show this, so there’s no need to waste space.
8. You list references
It’s great you’ve recruited some solid references to join you on your job search; however, their assistance won’t be needed until later on in the job search.
A recruiter or hiring manager will likely contact your references after a phone screening and interview with you, so there’s no need to include those upfront on your resume. For that reason, cut your list of references. There’s also no need to state that references are “available upon request” — that should go without saying.
9. You didn’t recruit a proofreader
No matter how many times you read your resume, you’ll likely miss something so obvious. That’s just how the brain works — it starts auto-filling words to meet expectations.
In order to break the sequence, get someone else to read over your resume. Send it to your parents, a close friend, or your significant other — anyone who has an eye for grammar and typos. The more sets of eyes, the better.
There are also professional options where you can submit your resume for a review to check for all of the above mistakes that people make on their resume.
Now that you’ve fixed up your resume, go ahead and click “submit” with confidence because your resume is no longer selling you short!
Author: Carson Kohler is a contributor to TopResume, the largest resume-writing service in the world. Not sure if your resume is selling you short and stopping you from getting the interviews you deserve? You can check with a free resume review from TopResume today!