/* 7 Common Sins of a Resume : */

7 Common Sins of a Resume

In the last article (http://www.hireaustin.org/2009/06/resume-blunders/), I discussed formatting errors and basic mistakes that people make on their resumes like spelling and grammar errors.  In this article, I am going to dig a little deeper and discuss some of the actual content on your resume.  There are a ton of books on this subject that go into a lot of detail on resume writing.  Due to space limitations, I am not going to go into great detail.  Instead, I am going to highlight some of the critical areas that help me determine whether I want to keep reading a resume and to consider it for a position I am trying to fill.  A resume is a place where you need to be selling yourself and, unfortunately, few of us are good at that.  However, there are a few things you can do to make your resume stand out. 
                                            1. THE OBJECTIVE
Should you have one or not? A lot of the objectives I read are pretty bland and self-serving.  They tend to express their desire for opportunity for themselves.  The sad fact is no one really cares what you want, its all about what you can do for the employer.  If you choose to use an objective, make it strong and state how you can help solve a company’s problems or contribute to their bottom line.  Don’t make it about you.  Make it specific to the job you are applying for (if possible).  Sometimes, I look at the objective to try and determine if this person is a fit when I can’t tell by the body of their resume.  Make sure the objective matches the content below.  I have viewed plenty of resumes where it appears the person is trying to make a career transition.  They put in their objective what they are looking for, but all the resume content points to whatever they have been doing.  If I can’t tell what you want or where your experience is, I’m going to close your resume and move on to the next one.
                                            2. SKILLS SUMMARY
I think these are a must have for everyone.  It is the first place to grab the reader’s attention (while you still have it) and make  strong selling points about yourself.  This is the place to list your strengths and brag on your accomplishments (yes, I mean brag).  The more confident you portray yourself, the more likely the recruiter is going to keep on reading.  This is also a good area for you techies to do a summary of your tech skills.  You should also include in the body of the resume where you used those skills. 
                                            3. JOB DETAILS
List your jobs chronologically in reverse order.  Put your current or most recent job first and then the one before, that, etc.  If you have had short term contracts, don’t list them unless they add some value to your skill set.  Put your education at the end.  For each job, list a brief (one sentence or two) description of the company and your job title or summary.  Do not write a paragraph about the company which I see a lot of people do.  I don’t need to be sold on the company, I need to be sold on you.  That just wastes space.
                                            4. ACCOMPLISHMENTS
The BIGGEST common mistake people make is listing their job duties instead of their job accomplishments.  This is another area where few of us are naturally good about selling ourselves and don’t think we did anything remarkable at our jobs.  You really might not have done anything remarkable, but you can make it sound like you did.  
After you write your brief summary, outline your ACCOMPLISHMENTS in bullets underneath.  The easiest way to turn your boring job description into accomplishments is to begin each bullet with a power word.  What is a power word?  A power verb is an action verb that is just like a comic book superhero because they can change your boring job detail into a turbo charged job accomplishment instantly.  They change the tone of your resume from a passive voice to an active voice.  Some examples of power verbs are : enhanced, generated, increased, improved, implemented.  Take a minute and Google “power words resumes” and you will get a lot of examples.  After each bullet on your resume, ask yourself “So what?”  If the statement does nothing to help sell yourself, consider leaving it off.  Your bullets should contain accomplishments, problems solved, challenges met, revenue increased, etc.  Quantify details if you can, like increased sales 20%,  support calls decreased by 30%, etc.  Metrics stick out and show how you contribute to the bottom line.
The opposite of power words are “weak words”.   These are words such as effective or attended.  If I never see another bullet on someones resume that states they did something effectively, I will be a very happy person. I would surmise if you did things ineffectively, you would be fired.  Effective means you are doing your job good enough to keep from getting fired.  Who cares?  This is not selling yourself.  
                                         5. KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid)                                           
Another thing to be cautious about when writing the details of your resume is using too much jargon and acronyms.  I realize it is hard to write your online resume not knowing who will read it.  I think it would be safe to assume that most people reading it initially will not have a high technical knowledge.  It is best to write in terms that most people should understand. Once you get the interview, that is the time to impress them with all your big fancy words and industry lingo.
                                        6. ORIGINALITY
Another amusing thing I have seen is when people literally copy job descriptions from one job they had to another.  I understand you might do some of the same things from job to job, but take the time to reword your descriptions.  If your are lazy on your resume, I am going to assume you would be lazy at your job.
                                        7. FOCUS ON ONE POSITION
The last thing I want to mention is if you are trying to go for several different types of positions, you should have a resume for each one of them.  You can put them all on the same job board, you just have to have a different email for each one.  The problem with trying to have all your skills for different jobs in one resume is you can’t do a good job of selling yourself for any one of them.  The recruiter can’t get a sense of your strengths and you appear generic.  Take the time to write a resume for each job type you are interested in going for and sell yourself for that job on that resume. 
This is a lot of information and not easy to do.  A resume is a living document that you must always keep updating.  Look at other resumes in your profession to get ideas.  Watch job postings for jobs you are interested in to see that you have on your resume what they are looking for.  Sharing your resume with others for their opinion is always helpful. 
Is your resume committing any of these sins? 

There Is 1 Response So Far. »

  1. [...] Let’s start with one of my favorite topics, the resume.  When is the last time you seriously looked at your resume to see what you can do to improve it?  Your resume is a living document.  It can always stand room for improvement.  Very few people have exemplary resumes.  Why is this?  I think it is because a resume must be about selling yourself and few people are naturally good at this.  Selling yourself on your resume requires a lot of effort to think and reword what you “did” at a job to “what problems did you solve” or “what did you improve”?  You can pay someone to write your resume, but you will still have to come up with the details for them to use.  I wrote some tips on this in a previous article.  Here is the link: http://www.hireaustin.org/2009/07/7-common-sins-of-a-resume/ [...]

Post a Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.