Dear Sam: I will have to start searching for a new role in 2022, and I have not written a resume in more than a decade. What are some common mistakes people make when writing a resume and building what is called a ‘brand’ today? – Stevie
Dear Stevie: There are several areas on a resume that candidates don’t pay enough attention to. I’ve found this isn’t a result of a lack of effort, simply a lack of understanding of what can distract a hiring manager and disqualify a candidate.
Some of these areas include:
1. Unprofessional or incomplete headings – as simple as it seems, review your resume heading! Never include a work phone number or your company’s 800# as this could tell a potential employer that you do not value your company’s resources. Typically you only need to include your mobile phone number on your resume and be sure to check your voicemail message to ensure its professionalism. These days, we rarely even include your physical address and instead list the major metro area you reside near. This ensures others are not making decisions for you regarding whether a commute would be too long from your home to the business location. Lastly, be sure you have a professional email address. Don’t use email addresses with your graduation year, birth year, etc.; these are very easy to spot and can destroy strategic efforts to minimize a candidate’s lack or abundance of experience.
2. Spelling mistakes, typos, and poor grammar structure – Proofread, proofread, and then proofread again! Overlooked mistakes send a message to the reader of your attention to detail or lack thereof. Have someone else proofread your resume to ensure you submit an error-free document. Turn off the grammar check in Word once you are sure your resume is written effectively. This will avoid your resume appearing with green wavy lines under certain sentences. Fragmented sentences will likely appear throughout your document, and there is no need to try to prevent this as it is a very effective way to write a resume. Turning off the grammar check will ensure that the reader is not distracted.
3. Emphasizing job duties instead of achievements – Hiring managers are not as interested in what you were paid to do; they are more interested in where you went above and beyond and contributed to the success of your employer. While you need to include some information on what you were responsible for on a daily basis, emphasis should be placed on the value you contributed to your employer, being sure to distinguish achievements from responsibilities through a separate subheading or formatting selections.
4. Selecting the wrong format for your resume – When considering a reverse chronological, combination, or functional format, choose wisely based not only on your desire to present your experience a certain way, but also the knowledge that hiring authorities prefer reverse-chronological or combination resumes, and traditionally dislike functional formats. I see many resumes employing a functional format that do not need to go down that road. Instead, they could have used a savvier combination format that would have pleased the hiring manager while still achieving the focus the candidate was seeking. While combination resumes can be more challenging to write, the fact that they are a hybrid of the two other formats makes them a wiser choice if you seek to focus the hiring manager’s attention on certain aspects of your career, while minimizing potentially disqualifying factors (such as limited related or recent experience, significant employment gaps, frequent job hops, etc.).
5. Using a cookie-cutter design – Try to create a unique look for your resume, avoiding templates that hundreds of other candidates have used. Think about a hiring manager reviewing their 50th resume of the day, if your resume looks like 20 others, it won’t stand out from the crowd regardless of the content. Try to develop a unique and professional design; doing so will go a long way in compelling the reader to spend more than 4-7 seconds on your resume during the screening process.
6. Not focusing your content – Last, but by no means least, ensure you understand what jobs you are targeting so you can make sure all of your content is steering your candidacy in that direction, the presence or absence of keywords and key phrases are pivotal to the success of your résumé, not only when going through a human screener, but also when going through an applicant tracking system. By taking the time to understand your target audience, you will better be able to determine what they expect to see on a qualified candidate’s resume, allowing you to make strategic content inclusion choices to ensure you are seen as one of those qualified candidates. Not understanding how important it is to conduct a targeted marketing effort is the most common mistake I see in resume and brand development today.