People make snap judgments about who you are within the first few seconds of meeting you. They do the same thing with your resume. So it’s important to think about whether this potential door opener is making the best possible first impression. Apart from the obvious things that could get it tossed aside — like spelling or grammatical errors – you need to be aware of more subtle resume turnoffs. Here are five common mistakes.
1. There’s not enough “white space.” Just as you would never show up to work in sweatpants and a t-shirt, you want your resume to look clean-cut, professional and artistic. A resume that’s crowded with text doesn’t look attractive. If you’re not adept at graphic design, ask a creative friend for help with format, style, and layout.
2. You didn’t include results-oriented language. Hiring managers want to know what you can contribute to the company. Your resume should be clear about results you’ve achieved. Let’s say you created an amazing marketing campaign that resulted in a 10% increase in sales. Instead of writing, “Created excellent marketing campaign for X product,” include the words “resulted in.”
3. Your resume is too long. You have to sell your experience quickly. The standard resume format is one to two pages. Confidently articulating your latest job experience means not detailing the minutiae of past jobs that do not further your career aspirations. Particularly for those who have spent years in the work force, it’s important not to be hung up on what you did as “Vice President of X Company in 1983.”Frankly, no one cares. In a few sentences, they want to know what you are doing now.
4. You haven’t shown numbers. Hiring managers love numbers. They love when you are invested enough in your job to quantify your growth. Particularly if you are in any aspect of sales, marketing, or finance, you should reiterate how you increased sales or profits for the company. Another tack: show how you saved money for the company by reducing costs, thus increasing bottom line revenue by X%. Look for ways to quantify your experience. It shows you are committed to the bottom line and to continuous growth as an employee.
5. You don’t sound confident enough. I’ll never forget the resume on which a job applicant basically said in the first few sentences, “I don’t have much nursing experience, but am willing to learn more.” (I re-phrased this a bit for privacy reasons.) I knew immediately why this person wasn’t getting any hits on her resume. She had undergone extensive clinical experiences, passed her licensing exam, and was looking for an entry-level job, but no one wants to hire a nurse who claims she has no idea what she is doing. Do not make this mistake. Have someone you respect read your resume, and tell you candidly whether you sound confident that you can go beyond your job responsibilities. If not, re-write.