What is your resume? A hassle you must undergo to walk into an interview with any hope of getting hired? Or is it a history of your professional life—ready to be shared with others to make lasting, career-forging connections?
If you view your resume as nothing more than a hurdle, you probably don't take it as seriously as you should. But if you value it as a game-changer, you understand its importance. Unfortunately, those who are new to the world of resumes (and even seasoned jobseekers) often make mistakes that can take them out of contention. Here are 10 resume mistakes to watch out for.
It shouldn't have to be said... but surprisingly, it needs to be said. People falsify or "pad" their resumes all the time. Thing is, it will come back to haunt you. It's a small world that only gets smaller with every passing day. Even the slightest exaggeration on your resume can catch up with you. Keep to the facts. Don't stretch or bend the truth. Don't alter employment dates to keep from having gaps in your timeline. Don't claim duties or experiences you never had. Don't. Don't. Don't.
2: Stating an unattainable goal
I'm just going to say this right now. Everyone knows you want to someday be the CEO of your own company. Everyone knows you want to stare down from above and run the corporate machine. Even beyond the unattainable goal, get rid of that objective that has littered resumes for decades. It's worthless. Saying that your goal is to climb the corporate ladder and be as wealthy as Bill Gates just piles on the bad. Scratch that section altogether and you'll have more room for what matters—experience and skills.
3: Adding achievements that aren't
We get it. You were prom queen or you were voted most likely to succeed in business (without even trying) by your peers in high school. But consider this: Are those achievements really achievements? The last thing you need is to puff up your resume with awards that have no relevance for the career you're chasing after. If you were elected president of your school's computer club four years running or you were awarded a citizenship award for your volunteer work at a local community center... then maybe we're talking. Academic achievements? Certainly. Just be judicious in choosing those highlights.
4: Citing previous salaries
Please, don't include your previous salaries on your resume. There are so many reasons not to do this. Here's one simple, self-serving reason not to do this: It will give your prospective employer a springboard for determining your new salary. Your goal should be to make more—so don't give the interviewer the means to undercut your true worth. Leave that information off so you can approach salary needs from a neutral point.
5: Including personal information
There is no reason to include the fact that you're married, have 2.5 kids, drive a minivan, attend X church, have a man cave, coach your middle child's soccer team, or think "khaki is a way of life." All of that will eventually come out in the wash as you begin your career in the IT or business world. On a resume, it has no place. If you don't agree, consider this. What happens if you go into an interview and the hiring manager happens to hate soccer or khaki? You've immediately put yourself on the defensive side of things and have to work your way around a preconceived notion.
6: Listing your age
It's not illegal for interviewers to ask you your age. They can. They shouldn't... but they can. Most often, it won't happen. But if it does, I'd recommend that you terminate the interview. Regardless of whether an interviewer plans on asking that question, you shouldn't prompt them or give them reason to question your value simply because you added your birthdate or age on that document. Leave it out.
7: Providing references
Don't include references. Don't even add "Available upon request." You're just wasting valuable real estate. If interviewers need references, they'll ask. Saying that your references are available upon request is like saying that you promise to come to work if hired. It's implied. Besides, the space on that single-page document is far too important to be used up by worthless statements.
8: Writing in third person
Jack believes that your being snarky or trying to impress by writing in third person makes you look cocky. Jack is certain the vast majority of people hate it when others talk of themselves in this manner. In fact, Jack insists that you never refer to yourself in third person unless you're trying to make your co-workers laugh. Jack would go so far as to not even write in first person. Why? I'm fairly certain it is understood every detail on your resume is about you. Agree with Jack...everyone is doing it.
9: Using a less-than-professional email address
It doesn't matter that you've used firstname.lastname@example.org as your primary email address for years. Leave it off your resume. If that's the only email account you have, create a new one with a professional name (as in, your name). Even if you use it only for resumes, do it. (Along the same lines, don't use an AOL account address—especially if you're applying for a tech job!)
10: Including your current business contact information
Do this and you might wind up receiving a call at your current place of employment by your prospective employer. Never list the contact information of your current business. If the potential new employers want to contact your current business, all they have to do is look up the name to get the details. The only phone number you should include on your resume is your mobile number. Nothing more. And don't forget, your current employer might well be monitoring your phone calls and emails. Let that be your guide when you add information to your resume.
Your resume should help potential employers navigate the waters of your professional past and present. Don't muddy those waters with unnecessary information that could send you to the slush pile. Keep it relevant, fresh, and to the point and you'll increase the chances of getting to the next round of interviews.
What other resume do's and don'ts would you recommend? Share your advice with fellow TechRepublic members.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.