IT Employment

10 resume mistakes to avoid

The goal of a resume is to let a potential employer know why you're the best person for the job. Here are 10 practices that impede that goal.

There is one goal for your resume: To show a potential employer why you are the best person for the job. However, there are so many things that can get in the way of what should be a clear message. Here are ten of the most common mistakes made in resumes.

1. Your focus is wrong

This may be one of the most difficult concepts for job hunters to grasp, but your resume is not something you create for yourself. You create it, format it, and organize it so that it's easy for a hiring manager to gauge your fit with the job he or she is offering. It's important to tailor your resume to each job you apply to. I promise you, no hiring manager is going to study your resume for specifics that would apply to the job at hand. Your resume has to make them obvious.

For example, if you're applying for a project manager position, highlight any experience and accomplishments that show your expertise in project management, even if you have to switch to a functional resume format to do it. While the bulk of your work experience may be in tech support, it's really not applicable to the job at hand, so don't concentrate on the day-to-day minutiae. Concentrate instead on those instances where you demonstrated leadership, ingenuity, and organizational skills.

2. You have typos in your resume

Hiring executives have a low threshold for resume bloopers. A recent study on working.com claims that one out of four executives will toss a resume into the wastebasket if they spot a typo. But sometimes even the most careful people can miss a typo or two. Here are some tips for making sure you're sending out pristine copies of your resume:

  1. Enlist detail-oriented family members, friends, or mentors to proofread your resume and provide honest feedback.
  2. Take a timeout. Before submitting your resume, take a break and come back to it with a fresh set of eyes. You might catch something you missed the first time.
  3. Print a copy. It's easy to overlook typos or formatting mistakes when reading a resume on a monitor, so print it out for review.
  4. Try a new perspective. Sometimes readers inadvertently skip over parts they have read previously. Review your resume backward to help avoid this problem. You can "read" it from bottom to top, or from the right side of a line to the left. This takes away the mental expectation that sometimes tricks us into thinking a word is spelled correctly, etc.
  5. Read it out loud. This can also help you find phrases that don't make sense.

3. Your resume is too long

There are all kinds of opinions as to how long a resume should be. Most people say to keep it to one page, but many people say that two pages are OK, particularly if you have 10 or more years of experience related to your goal or you need space to list and prove your technical knowledge.

Either way, the goal is to keep your resume lean yet meaningful. List only your selling points that are relevant to the job at hand and let go of some details that have no bearing on your current goal. You may have become proficient in Windows NT in a previous job, but it's not something that would have a bearing on a job today.

4. Your resume is not very "readable"

Never underestimate resume formatting. Consider that some hiring managers have to look through hundreds of resumes for each job opening. Also consider that those employers will usually take, at most, only thirty-five seconds to look at a one-page resume before deciding whether to keep or discard it. You should design your resume so that employers can read the document easily and process information quickly.

To judge the formatting of your resume, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I using too many fonts? It's best to stick to one or two fonts. You can vary the size and add bold if necessary to make headings stand out but don't go overboard. You don't want your resume to look like a ransom note built out of newspaper clippings.
  • Am I overdoing the emphasis thing? As I said in the previous point, you can create emphasis by using bold, italics, underlining, etc. However, you don't want to mix methods or overuse them. You would not, for example, want to CAPITALIZE, ITALICIZE, AND UNDERLINE pieces of text. It's overkill and hard on the eyes.
  • Is there too much text on the page? There's nothing more intimidating to a reviewer than blocks of dense text on a resume. Here are some things to keep in mind: Set your margins at about 1-inch all around, use bulleted points to break up paragraphs of text that list your accomplishments, and make sure your sections are distinct. Don't be afraid of white space! If you have to choose between crammed-in text and an extra resume page, go with the latter.
You can see in Figure A how much more readable the list of accomplishments are when put into bullets separated by white space.

Figure A

5. Your name appears in the Word header

Your name should appear prominently at the top of your resume, but even though it looks kind of cool, avoid using Word's header feature (see Figure B) for this information. (Using Word's header feature will make your name appear automatically at the top of every page of your resume.) The problem is a lot of scanning software used by HR departments won't work on headers and footers so your resume could get lost in the shuffle.

6. Your resume doesn't include keywords

It's an unfortunate fact of life that many organizations use scanning software (mentioned above) when vetting resumes. This is often done as the preliminary step in weeding out any people whose qualifications and experience don't match the job being filled. So be very sure that you pepper your resume with relevant keywords. That is to say, don't use one in every sentence and don't use keywords that you don't have experience with just for the sake of sneaking in under the radar. Sooner or later you'll have to own up. The actual job description is the best starting place for finding relevant keywords.

7. You list your experience instead of your accomplishments

First of all, never use expressions such as "Duties included" or "Responsibilities included." These lists outline only what was in your job description; they don't say whether you did them well or not. And they don't show how you stood out from the other people in your company who were doing the same things.

To help rewrite your responsibilities to accomplishments, try asking yourself:

  • What special things did I do to set myself apart?
  • How did I do the job better or differently than anyone else?
  • What did I do to make it my own?
  • What were some problems or challenges that I faced?
  • How did I solve or overcome those problems?
  • What were the results of my efforts?
  • How did the company benefit from my performance? For example, did it make or save money or save time?

It might help to use an accomplishment tracker template like this one available from TechRepublic.

8. You use vague verbs and subjective adjectives

Avoid, at all costs, those abstract verb phrases like "Assisted with..." or "Handled..." or "Managed...." Those phrases can mean almost anything. Every time you're tempted with one of those phrases, ask yourself How? How did you assist with something? What exactly did you do? Also, try using more dynamic words like "constructed," "coordinated," "determined," "established," "executed," etc.

On the same ticket, it is very easy to say you "skillfully completed" some task or that you have "extraordinary people skills." But unless you can back those statements up with concrete evidence, it's just you saying something good about yourself. So explain why your task completion was skillful. Did it come in under budget and within time restraints? What evidence do you have of your great people skills? Did you get recognized for this in some way? Were you assigned more end users than other staffers? Any detail that you can offer in explanation will help.

9. Your resume is like all the others

We're not saying that you should make yourself stand out by formatting your entire resume in a cursive font. We're saying that, since you're a tech pro, a prospective employer is probably going to expect something a little more advanced. Toward this goal consider:

  • Including a link to your online portfolio. Online portfolios can be anything from a blog or a website, to a dedicated solution (something that's just a portfolio, without any of the extra stuff). Make it something that loads fast, is visually professional, and showcases your accomplishments, mission statement, career progression, and leadership aptitude. Before you put the link in your resume, ask yourself how well the site answers questions any potential employers might have about you.
  • Adding a QR code. A QR (quick-response) code is a two-dimensional, barcode-like image (seen in Figure C) that, once scanned, directs potential employers to carefully selected, customized web pages for more information about a job seeker. It's a tech-savvy way to illustrate your strengths.

Figure C

10. You lie/exaggerate on your resume

Decision makers routinely conduct background checks and online research to verify a resume. And sometimes what they find out can embarrass you down the line; a lesson learned the hard way by former CEO Scott Thompson. At the very least, don't claim education that you don't have. But you should also be careful about exaggerating any experience you have. It could take only a few targeted questions in an interview to reveal your deception.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

58 comments
wizarddrummer
wizarddrummer

 Writing a good Resume that gets results is becoming more like doing SEO correctly to get on Google's front page.

It's up to Google, you have to please Google; you have to be trendy and do what Google wants at this moment in time; and that's changed over the years.

The article mentions avoiding phrases such as "Assisted with..." or "Handled..." or "Managed..."; using instead more dynamic words like "constructed," "coordinated," "determined," "established," "executed," etc.

To me it's ludicrous. I was a Manager in many of my career segments and when I "Managed" I:
coordinated, determined, established, often assisted with and many other adjectives that could be listed.

If you have ever been a manager in a pure Research & Development Environment (something similar to the Brainiac area of Bell Labs) you are dealing with a very volatile group of very intelligent, determined, focused, cranky, stubborn, egotistical (and on and on and on) people that in many cases HAVE to be handled.

They are like spoiled brats in some cases. It's uncanny how diverse the motivational methods have to be to keep a group of completely hyper productive people on that are constantly on over drive heading towards a common goal that is in line with the overall objectives of the company that's paying their salaries.

During the early 90's when I was wearing many hats in one particular R&D company: Special Projects Facilitator (this is where the company dumps a project on me that has stalled because other people have failed to bring it home so to speak), Manager: Systems Administration and Networks, Manager: System Integration , Senior Systems Engineer, Database Specialist, etc. I had approximately 50 resumes per week that would come across my desk.

A few sheets of paper, does not a person make. How do you choose?

In that collective group of people that made up our R&D company, there were almost 300 people that were a mixture of Post Doctorates all the way down to High School educations. We had a Mathematician that received his Doctorate at the age of 22. It took the company 18 months (paying him more than $125.00 per hour - if you divide his salary by 2000 man hours per year) to figure out what I was able to determine the second time I met him (after he'd been there six months), that he was dead weight and had to go.

As a project lead, there were many under performers that I was able to recognize over time. One day, I decided to look at some resumes of these under performers and saw that each of these people had flowery, stand out, look at me, resumes that would have been labeled as "The classic/correct way to write a Resume"
 
I'm a nuts and bolts kind of person. I'm more comfortable driving across country in a car that looks like dog poop but has a motor, transmission, alternator, brake system, cooling system, fuel injection system, tires, belts, hoses, suspension and alignment in tip top shape than a shiny looking convertible with maypops for tires and sawdust in the tranny.

Some of these people with flowery Resumes that had Masters Degrees were consistently out performed by harder working people with Associates Degrees.

For me, substance over form is always going to be what I'm after.

The bottom line is: Can you get the job done and on time? Can you work with other groups people? Can you work as part of a team? Can you work independently and work with little or no supervision? Can you spot deficiencies in a process or system and take measures to improve it regarding time? Or materials used? Or money spent?

So, I found what worked best for me was getting people from Agencies. I call over and say I need a person with blah, blah skills. The person would come in for the interview and if I liked them I would sign them up. They have 90 days probation before they would be come a permanent employee so it was easy to deal with. If they didn't work out, I'd call the Agency and say "Sara this guy/girl didn't work out, please send another person." - No paperwork, no hassle.

My whole point to all of this is that sometimes the most Vanilla, understated, plain Resume is hiding the most proficient, productive person.

Glitz and glitter are just that.

Professional Politicians spend an enormous amount of time, money and energy getting reelected so that they can do nothing. Someone that spends an enormous amount of time, money and energy putting together the 'perfect' Resume may not be the best candidate.

kratky.o
kratky.o

Hello.

Figure 2 is still missing/ replaced by mobile phone screenshot ;-/

mcarr
mcarr

You may want to apply #4 to #7 - you've stuffed up the formatting of the heading.

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

I have to disagree with point 1 ... a resume should be for BOTH you AND your prospective employer ... because if you are not creating it for youself AT ALL, and ONLY creating it for the benefit of the employer ... then are you not basically saying "I have no rights, no needs & no bargaining position" (?)

Perhaps this is not the intention of what you were writing ... but it is definitely how it comes across (to me), and the LAST thing I want to do, is to work for anyone who thinks that my resume should be all about them only ... and if they cannot be bothered to go through the applications for the role they have on offer properly, if they do not have the insight to read between the lines, and if they do not care about &/or are not in alignment with my own requirements of an employer & a workplace, then (quite frankly) I do not want to work for them, and I would rather save myself the stress of everything that I know will come out of such a one sided relationship.

Employment is the single most vital aspect of all your business functions in many respects, regardless of what industry you are in ... and it seems to me that anyone who looks for someone who has written a resume solely for my benefit (if I am the hypothetical employer), has already sabotaged the potential of that relationship & missed a great deal of opportunity by assuming that anything other than what they want, must be a waste of their time or unworthy of their consideration ... and in my view, that is (excuse me for being so blunt) an idiotic view.

mijcar
mijcar

Spelling the word "résumé" correctly is also important.

Believe it or not, when I read the headline, I thought this was an article about data-loss and -corruption when too much time has passed during a "resume ?" query.

For example, my bank log-in requires entering the answer to various randomly ordered queries -- even when I am using Quicken to conduct the data-gathering.  If too my time elapses before I resume the log-in, Quicken is shut out of the process.  I can see other issues possible in the pause hiatus between a choice being presented and then followed.

Another example:  I have a popular registry cleaner that searches the registry for errors then gives me the option of having each removed.  I also have another cleaner that I inherited which has more options:  repair versus remove versus ignore.  I prefer the send cleaner but like to use both sequentially.  However, what would happen if I had one detect errors, then ran the other cleaner, then returned to the first cleaner and had it do its work, with some of the identified problems already removed (during the hiatus between discovery and launch).

As a last example, what happens when you pause a download of a document from the cloud, go answer the phone, and the document has been edited by a colleague in the interim, then you resume the download?

Anyway, I thought it was a fascinating topic into an hithertoo unexplored domain.

Alas, I discovered it the 3,827th article on how to write a résumé.  With little new to say.


Michael


 

Dirk
Dirk

The only "purpose" of a CV is to get an interview, not to tell your whole life!

Lurker22
Lurker22

Regarding the mention of functional-format resumes and a comment claiming that they must be chronological... I'm still unsure on this one. What I usually do, is to list "Related Work Experience" first (and under that title) and then list "Additional Work Experience" or some such thing.

- I hate the gap factor! It really isn't fair. After a cancer scare at 25 that kept me from working... I feel like I'm supposed to lie to cover up a work gap. Now, if I'd had cancer and been cured - it'd be a different story. I abhor dishonesty and I know it will hurt my chances of finding employment, but I refuse to sacrifice my sense of honor to cover up a "gap" that HR will interpret as a huge black mark.

-Is there a guide to scanning software somewhere!?!?!?

kjohnson
kjohnson

What's the difference between a dynamic word and a static one? Can you give us a table of degree?

kjohnson
kjohnson

No, it isn't. The purpose (not "goal," only people and football pitches have goals) of a CV is to get you an interview.

poedgie
poedgie

The only relevant point in the article i number six. The number of interviews I've been to where it is obvious that the interviewers have not even bothered to read my resume is overwhelming. I don't worry about "vague verbs" or "focus" pretty much nobody reads resume except the scanning software. I recall one particular interview where the first question I was asked was "So how long have you been an Electrical Engineer". Since I'm a Mechanical Engineer I was taken aback. Talk about not bothering to read the resume! What they did was do a keyword resume search, I had OrCAD which is a PC design software listed on my resume. What a bunch of clowns. It was a complete waste of everyones time. Basically one resumes can be all nonsense as long as there are certain keywords in it to get you in the door for an interview.Something like this. Blah blah blah GD & T blah blah blah Solidworks blah blah blah RoHS blah blah blah PDM Works blah blah blah......well you get the picture

medfordmel
medfordmel

I've seen many posts and articles on this subject. Most are the same. This one goes above and beyond, and gives the reasons why each is important. Thank you for sharing!

gates_clone
gates_clone

I used tip #9; not with a QR code, but with a Zend Certified PHP Engineer icon. This resulted in a two-sided sword that almost chopped my head off: They confused it with the Zend Framework certification, and they were disappointed when I told them about their mistake in the interviews. The solution: I learned Zend Framework, told the truth when they asked about the certification, and said I was learning the framework.

sh10453
sh10453

"You have go to catch my attention in thirty seconds". You caught my attention in about 3 seconds!!!

EGM42
EGM42

Recommendation 5, not to use Word headers, should be not to [i][b]mis[/b]-use[/i] Word headers. If you have a multi-page resume, your name should appear in the body on the first page, where it can be scanned. You should then format the header as Different First Page and use a header, with page number, on all pages after the first. To do anything else, especially entering your name and a page number by hand at the top of each page after the first, is the mark of an amateur who doesn't understand how to use this tool. Other marks of an amateur are spacing paragraphs or forcing a new page by entering extra returns, and indenting or setting horizontal spacing by using multiple spaces (or even multiple default tab stops beyond the first). If you submit a resume in Word format, learn how to use it properly!

roger
roger

Toni, After 50 years in the workforce, many different positions and the last 35 years or so in management I can attest to the wisdom of all the comments you've made in your article. I would particularly endorse your comment about targeting the resume *at the position*. All too often it is clear that applicants are using a single resume with, at best some updating or "window-dressing", presumably thinking that employers won't recognise the tactic. I've even had resumes and/or covering letters addressing another employer or laying out a series of roles with no relevance whatsoever to the position in question. One last comment I'd make, however, is how hard it is to get people to change their practices in applying for jobs. Having taught this process as a career counsellor with both high school students and tertiary graduates, as well as many mature workers applying for a change of position or promotion, I have been amazed how strongly so many resist adopting a new approach, despite the fact that their old one has failed them so often. I've never solved that puzzle. Thank you for a good article - I know that there are many who will benefit if they choose to follow your advice. roger

DrewRoarkCPRW
DrewRoarkCPRW

Toni, I just wanted to leave a quick note to express my appreciation for this blog. I am a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and I have written thousands and thousands of these resumes. In doing so, I have consulted with clients regarding each of the 10 mistakes you have listed. It seems that #1 is the one that clients have the most difficulty with. Explaining that their resume is "not for them, but for the employer" is a delicate task. I agree with all your points - great post! Drew Roark, CPRW www.drewroarkcprw.com

Thomas907
Thomas907

In effect your telling us that the potential employer is more interested in a petty resume and letter than in the ability and potential of the future employee which may or may not be reflected in the documentation or the potential employee!!! Think about Presidential Lincoln (You know the guy on the 5 dollar bill) and how many Generals he went through before he found General Grant.

Mary1010
Mary1010

Thanks for the sharing this article, there were some points that I seem I haven???t paid attention before such as in point 7.

mharris672
mharris672

Additionally, a standard template helps to force the hiring authority to review all applicants equally. I agree whole-heartedly with 'nothing fancy' or 'nothing flashy' ... and definitely no pictures. Concentrate on the core data: accomplishments, experience, and qualifications. Keywords and acronyms also help, though it's a good idea to ensure the acronyms are spelled-out when first used.

mharris672
mharris672

Whether 6 or 36 qualified candidates, I review all resumes then run a matrix. The matrix is tailored to each particular position being filled (qualifications, requirements, intangibles, etc.). The best fit for the position at hand will be selected (which is not always the top candidate on the matrix, though it is almost always within the top 5). I don't mind a 4 page resume or slightly more. I've found that single page resumes are often too weak (too little experience, education and training, etc.), granted my realm is more within management and training than IT-specific positions. A screening system (questionnaire, etc.) helps decrease the amount of 'pre-qualified' candidates in order to prevent receiving more than 30-40 resumes for a given position to be filled.

mail2ri
mail2ri

This is an excellent set of points explained lucidly in the article. Should be used as a check-list by job-seekers to self-review before sending out their Resume to recruiters. It's always better to be aware and correct one's flaws oneself, before others point them out to us. Would like to thank Ms. Toni Bowers for this excellent compilation.

Professor8
Professor8

I call to your attention Peter Cappelli's new book _Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It_. When I first saw the cover I though it said "The Skills Con and What...", but I think maybe "The Skills Scam..." would be more accurate. Anyway, in the Amazon blurb, he addresses "hiring process being held hostage by automated software that can crunch thousands of applications an hour". Again, I would have used the word "shred" or "destroy" or "mutilate" instead of "crunch".

Professor8
Professor8

Good try, but... "easy for a hiring manager to gauge your fit" "not very readable" Right. Not for the rude bozo at the bodyshop, not for the "applicant tracking system" data-base. You have to get it through or around them, which means through or around their scanners and parsers, which means not so very easy to read. So, how do we get it past the unthinking HR clone and to the eyes of actual hiring managers? If we make it too readable, it goes straight into the black hole of the "candidate tracking system" never to be seen by actual human beings who might genuinely want to hire someone with just your knowledge, ability, creativity, temperament and experience. "Your name appears in the Word header" Good requirement, works for me. Don't put resume in Word, or bloatware Adobe pdf. Make it a tiff, maybe a CAPTCHAized tiff or jpeg. "Your resume doesn???t include keywords" That's not a problem. The problem is the defective "applicant management system" mangling and not "understanding" the key-words, or that it "thinks" the most important ones are the least important words like "the" and vice versa. "You list your experience instead of your accomplishments" "vague verbs and subjective adjectives" So, if you were part of a team that did something or made something great and you were not the lead or it was primarily someone else's job, you "helped develop" or "assisted". Looks clear, to me, and a good sign that the applicant is honest. You may have generated $5 or $5M in additional revenues, or saved $5 or $5M in costs, but in most STEM positions you'll never know how much it was, nor whether it was profitable or a loss in the end. Managment is too afraid you'll engage in insider trading or get a big head and ask for a raise or promotion or better working conditions. Or maybe management set the wrong priorities and the project was doomed to waste everyone's time and effort from the start. But if you got the job done, you got the job done, and that's both experience and accomplishment, especially if it was a good, even if unrewarded, something that you completed. We can discuss problems, our post-mortem analysis, how we overcame problems or did not, and lessons learned at the interview... after an hour or so of enjoyable shop-talk. "Your resume is like all the others" But if it's not enough like all the others, the gate-keeper will reject it. There's a narrow range of variability allowed, and the range of demands of gate-keepers is wide. E.g. some demand meaningful "objectives", others hate them. (Of course, no one likes the ones that don't say anything.) "your online portfolio" You mean all that work that's under NDA or requires a top secret clearance? Not happening. As to the length issue: Nearly all gate-keepers demand a chronological resume -- most recent first. (Very few will read a functional or hybrid or one of those parachute book things that sound like such a great idea while you're reading the book.) But here we are in the 13th year of the Bush-Clinton-Shrub-Obummer economic depression for STEM workers. Your recent work is most likely survival jobs, not your best opportunities to shine, and the kinds of work you most want to avoid, even if you're one of the fortunate few who have gotten occasional gigs roughly in your field. In these circumstances, your earlier work will often be the most interesting, most technically challenging, most rewarding in the "change the world for the better" way, have the biggest "Wow factor". Some demand a skills table, with self-ratings (1-4, 1-5, 1-10, but they want everyone to rate themselves as a 4, 5 or 10, but "be honest") in each of a plethora of buzz-words (think a dozen operating systems, a dozen programming languages, several IDEs, DBMSs, SQA mangement systems, configuration/version/source library management systems, statistical packages, libraries, frameworks). How do you cram 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 years of work experience/accomplishment/achievement onto one page with those constraints? The answer is that you cannot. (Yes, with average life expectancies now around 80 years, there is some good talent out there with as much as 60 years of experience, and some good, professional, productive talent that's still in high school.) They don't want to hire people over 35, so more than 5-10 years of reported experience makes you suspect, and suspect is all it takes for you to be tossed in the virtual reject pile. What does that leave? (Stay with me, please: dysfunctional job markets for the last 13 years or more, only the most recent 5-10 years permitted, and you've got to pretend to be younger than about 32 so they can get 3 years of work out of you before you're dumped... You need to get past their irrationalities so that you can knock them dead at a real interview.) That leaves those dull, spirit-killing survival jobs, which you still, through great, unseen and probably unappreciated effort, did in an industrious, professional manner and with at least a show of cheer with your co-workers, clients and customers... not to mention those long stretches of total unemployment. There's no chance to emphasize your stellar ability and performance, your team spirit, your breadth and depth of knowledge, your quick wit and creativity, the times you led the way, your improvements to the well-being of humanity through killer apps... QED, the insane 1 page requirement must go!

Gisabun
Gisabun

Make sure you add plenty of keywords and acronyms. Companies scan in your CV and when looking for someone with a particular bit of experience they search your CV through the computers. I was told up to 3 pages are acceptable [if your career is lengthy or have been doing contracts] in the tech fields. For many companies you have multiple responsibilities [i.e. servers, phone systems, netwok related, etc.]. So the job accomplishments/description can ger long.

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

QR Codes are one of the latest malware vectors--including one on a resume`, especially for an IT related job, will mark you as hopelessly out of touch with current IT security trends. This will be especially harmful if you're looking for a job in [b][i]IT security[/i][/b]. Why these are a problem should be obvious, even to the layman: They take your browser to a destination, and even though most Android and iOS browsers support decoding the URL and showing it on the screen, and while this is better than the old (blind-load) way it still relies on an end-user to differentiate between a malicious URL and a good-one. A URL is, though, a marvelous idea. If your profile or resume` is hosted on some random URL, consider buying yourname.com and setting up a redirector that points to wherever your online resume` or profile is actually posted.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

Putting 20 years of experience on one page is ridiculous, particularly in this era of short-term contracting gigs. I'd have to use 4 pt. type to fit just my previous employers on one page. And bulleted lists make any given text take up twice as much room on a page -- a two-page resume becomes a four-page resume. Advice like "fit it on one page" sounds great, but it doesn't reflect the real world. The days of working for the same employer for 20 years are long since gone.

tech
tech

I certainly agree with most of what was said here, and in fact I was taught this about 30+ years ago (Do they not teach this is school any more?) Over the years I have read and created many a resume, and I think the single most important thing is to stand out from the crowd, but not in a gaudy way. For instance use high quality bond paper, perhaps even grey or tan in color. Use 24lb or maybe even 30lb paper, subconsciously it gives your resume weight. I often add color to my resume, perhaps by bordering sections, or using a dark blue or brown for section headings. I really like the idea of a QR code for today, though it is probably more of a gimmick than a tool. Writing a resume isn't really all that different from advertising, you have to find a way to reach your target (the HR rep or manager). You have to do it in 30 seconds or less. You have to make sure they will remember you AND be able to find your resume again in that stack of 10 or 20. Unlike advertising however, you must be understated. You can't promise things you can't deliver, and you certainly can't say things that aren't true. After all, lying on a resume or application is normally a reason for immediate dismissal, even if it is 5 years later.

samtheo79
samtheo79

It's really very good... These are some basic elements which we tend to ignore. Thank you for this article. I shall surely share this with my team!!

jsargent
jsargent

In number 7 identifying what you achieved risks filling you CV with unnecessary and over the top accomplishments. I believe that when I look for an employee I would prefer to see emphasis on experience since we will know what to expect from the employee. How important an accomplishment is depends on the writer and not the reader but stating your experience says what they can expect from you. If you are a sales person or marketing type then accomplishments will be more important but for other professions this will be less important.

bobprickett
bobprickett

As a retired plant manager, I have read literally thousands of resumes. You have go to catch my attention in thirty seconds. Know what the company does, and focus your experience toward that. Subtly say, "This is what I can do for you." Keep it to one page, no photos or glitzy fonts, nothing fancy, and straight to the point. In the first paragraph, convince the reader to say, "I want to meet this person."

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

you might want to fix your figure B also from point 5 ... don't think that mobile phone is the image you intended (browser issue or wrong image?)

tarose.trevor
tarose.trevor

for similar reasons I would say point 3 needs some work ... after all, what is "too long"?

I remember years ago when looking for work, I asked every single recruiter & HR person to give me feedback about my application when unsuccessful so that I could improve my approach ... and what I found was that there were as many views as people I asked, almost universally contradicting each other, and also (almost universally) each one claiming that their view on the subject was some kind of "golden rule" that could not be argued or modified for any reason.

... so again, I think this comes down to businesses making the effort & taking the time to read applications and ask themselves "why did this person word this part of their resume in this way?" ... and instead of them coming to a conclusion based on an assumption, and passing judgement on that ... ask the question a second & third time, to see the variability of possibilities, and if you look at all the resumes in that light, I think your short list will contain a lot more interesting people, and a lot less stale / dull / boring / conservative / etc. usual suspects.

kjohnson
kjohnson

@gates_clone 

You should invent your own gifs instead of copying them from well respected organisations. 

kjohnson
kjohnson

@DrewRoarkCPRW 

You are a professional resume writer who doesn't know that "consult" is a transitive verb? 

Lurker22
Lurker22

True - but I despise having to retype, copy/paste, or even auto fill (if possible) online applications that are "standardized". It wasted so much time

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

Show the interviewer that you know the difference: All acronyms are abbreviations. All abbreviations are not acronyms. e.g. NATO is an acronym - a pronounceable word that is also an abbreviation FBI is not an acronym because you can't pronounce it as a word. It's an abbreviation.

tech
tech

That sounds a bit inaccurate. I doubt the software actually makes any changes to your resume. Let alone actually destroys it. ;^) Granted it may well create, excerpts for review. But in the world today where there is 1 position and 500+ applications you don't honestly expect someone to go through them all do you? How would you find the best single resource on the internet (in your mind) for say programming in perl? You wouldn't by chance, just maybe, use something called a search engine so you would not have to read every page on the internet would you? Why exactly do you think your prospective employer shouldn't use similar types of tools to locate the resource they require?

sgriffithsnz
sgriffithsnz

Interesting phrase - hiring companies use it to say they can't fulfill the requirements they have for a position, yet are not willing to take a risk in that the 1 "requirement" you don't have (or have enough experience in) and that actually isn't a major issue stops them from hiring an awesome employee. A number of the jobs I'm seeing at the moment are for a generalist with specialist skills. Perhaps there needs to be a way to address this too?

tech
tech

That says almost nothing! I won't bother to go through the whole thing, lets just look at a couple of them. In the second to last paragraph you claim people with up to 60 years of work history. In the last paragraph you claim you will be dumped by age 35. This leaves a maximum work history of 20 years. You also claim long stretches of unemployment and survival jobs, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but if you have long stretches of unemployment, and survival jobs: "Your doing it wrong!" Don't get me wrong, the economy sucks, I understand that. But what your grandma said is true: "When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade." Use that down time to go back to school, to learn something more relevant to today's technology. Change your focus, make no mistake the world is changing all the time, you either change with it or you are left behind. I'll be honest you sound like a early 60 something year old COBOL programmer that has never bothered to learn a new language or update their skill set and is now upset that there are few jobs for him. Yes, the economy has been bad; there have been a lot of cuts; the workscape is changing. However, If you are truly good at your job, and you have a positive attitude, finding a job isn't that hard. It may not pay what you want, it may not be your dream job. But jobs are out there in nearly every field. I have held many, MANY, M A N Y, jobs over the years. I have never been out of work more than a week, never applied for unemployment. I have learned many new things, expanded my knowledge, abilities and occasionally, made less than I thought I should. Overall, my hard work, good attitude, and logical thinking has been a recognized strength. I couldn't even begin to count the number of jobs I have had over the years. But I can tell you this. For nearly every job I have submitted a resume to (there are 3 exceptions) I have had a request to interview. For all but 1 job I have interviewed for (which isn't nearly all the ones I was requested to interview for), I have been offered a position, I often didn't take them because the pay was too low, or some other conditions weren't palatable. I have said this several times in this discussion, you need to create your resume as a marketing tool. The resume has to convey a precise message in a concise manner. It needs to stand out from the crowd, but not obnoxiously so. The resume, needs to be well written. The resume needs to be absolutely no more than 2 pages, preferably 1. Looking at the job posting will usually tell you all you need to know to pick the correct keywords, and they need to be used to get past the first cut, but that will do you little good if you don't have a concise and intriguing message. When I have been involved in the hiring of others I look for three things on the resume; Professional document; needed skills; something intriguing, something to make me think: Hmmm, I need to meet this person.

tech
tech

but guess what, it depends on the end user, and it is their responsibility to keep their equipment safe, not mine. This is epecially true, since they haven't hired me yet! ;^) After all, they don't have to actually scan or load the QR code do they. Yet it shows that I understand and use technology. URLs are just as much of a threat as a QR Code, how many bank sites get hacked, or spoofed all the time. It is part of the price for technology. QR codes are not to be feared or shunned any more than emails or URLs, which routinely carry malware. Just like any other technology they need to be understood. Only with that understanding of risk v. benefit can THE END USER choose if it is appropriate to scan the QR Code, follow that URL, or open that email. I grant you a QR code on a resume is a gimmick, But depending on the position I am applying for it may be just the thing to get me hired. I might even put a QR Code on it with my Monogram, or a LOGO in it (You did know it is possible to put an image in a QR Code right).

tech
tech

If you can't condense your resume down to one page, two at the most or you aren't doing it right. There is no need to list all of your previous employers, especially if they aren't relevant to the current position. Nobody cares that 25 years ago you worked for McDonalds. Similarly, no one cares that you did thee projects in COBOL 20 years ago. The point of a resume is to highlight what you know and have done that is RELEVANT to the position they are looking to fill. It also allows you to highlight past experiences. It is not a complete life history, or even an exhaustive work history.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

"High quality bond paper"? Seriously? It's been at least a decade since anyone has accepted a resume from me on paper. I always being a couple of printed copies of my resume to interviews, but they never want to see that. They have their own copy printed from their own system, on which they have already highlighted things they want to ask about.

Goob
Goob

I agree with both bob and BWeb. Another point, most of us are looking for reasons to eliminate candidates from the pile we have to go through. My top eliminator is candidates who just don't follow the simple instructions for submitting a resume, and on time.

BWebLive
BWebLive

As a retired HR Manager and HR consultant I see where Bob comes from but from an HR point of view its a different situation. We look beyond the 'catch my eye' situation as we know how much it costs to employ the wrong people. Its a lot to write down here . But make sure who will receive and read your CV first, HR or management. Both have a very different approach to hiring.

carlsimm580808
carlsimm580808

Thanks Bob for that great tip. I'm taking a class right now that has to do with that subject, resume's ! I tried to tell my instructor that and got docked for it. One page, nothing fancy and straight to the point of what I can do for you and this company. I'm going to show her this tip. Carl

Lurker22
Lurker22

"2. You can only use consult with when “consult” means “discuss something in order to make a decision”. In this case it is an intransitive verb (i.e. it has no object), so you cannot write anything between the words “consult” and “with”:E.g.: He consulted with his lawyer for 15 minutes before returning to the meeting." (http://blog.harwardcommunications.com/2012/02/07/how-to-use-the-word-consult/)

SirWizard
SirWizard

FBI is better described as an initialism than as an abbreviation. A better representative of an abbreviation is CentCom for Central Command. Similarly, blu-ray is an abbreviation for the blue ray of light incorrectly associated with a blu-ray system, which contains a violet diode laser, but viol-ray didn't sound good.

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

And the absolute simplest way to train your users how not to get exploited by way of QR codes is to train them not scan them in the first place. It isn't "theoretical" that QR codes are a vector, its a verified, real-world threat that's already been exploited. But also, this is a site for technical professionals--Jane Q. User flat-out does not understand and will become even less likely to understand as time marches on and the picture becomes even more complex. You can "expect" your end-users to avoid these things "on their own!" and most of the time you'll probably be fine. But this has already happened, and savvy admins long-ago swore off QR codes and train there users accordingly.

LalaReads
LalaReads

Bblackmoor makes a valid point and can't be dismissed so easily. My first reaction after reading his and tech's comments was the need for brevity vs the concern for time gaps in the resume. If one omits non-relevant positions, wouldn't that create a red flag? I expect there are many IT pros out there who have been involved in many different contracting gigs as bblackmoor mentioned, so the question is how to handle a job history like that in a small amount of space. A related issue would be how HR and other non-IT types perceive a long list of previous jobs. Would they see them as job hoppers and therefore consider them not worth the risk of hiring? It seems like IT is somewhat unique in this area, in that many keep themselves gainfully employed as consultants and have respect in the IT community and may even have several separate projects going simultaneously; whereas other professions may not lend themselves to such a fluid and dynamic work history. Perhaps Toni could do an article focusing on that type of work history issue to help this subset of IT people.

tech
tech

Believe it or not the world in not yet paperless. Sure you can email your resume in Word or as a PDF, and what is the first thing they do? Print it! People are funny, they still like to have paper in their hands. I work with lawyers, doctors, and many others, and it doesn't matter that they can look at it 'digitally' they want paper, especially if they want to make notes, while in a conference room or away from their desk. Mail it to them, or better yet deliver it and they don't have to print it and you get to provide more than copy paper. It shows you take the extra step, that you care. Make it easy on them and provide a link to a searchable PDF if you want to, so it is easy to import into their system. Two equally competent, candidates, one supplies a paper resume and link to PDF, the other a email. I hire the one that went the extra mile. It is called marketing, which is exactly what you are doing. A salesman comes in to talk to me, they always drop off brochures. Sure they follow up with email and websites.... But to get their foot in the door, its paper. Since nine times out of ten they aren't going to get past the receptionist.

Professor8
Professor8

You can't say, "I'm industrious.", you have to show it from the things you've done (and the things you're doing). You can't say, "I'm honest.", you have to show it. Perhaps you were an Eagle Scout, or treasurer of some association. You can't say, "I'm a leader.", you have to show that you've led. You can't say, "I'm creative.", you have to show some of the more creative things you've done. You can't say, "I'm conscientiious.", you have to show it. But those will go right past and confuse a lot of HR clones. They just won't "get it". They'll say, "Your resume is unfocused. Why did you put all this stuff in here? What's that got to do with being a good coder?" But "showing" requires more space than not so convincing "telling". Then again, quite a few of the gate-keepers, today, don't even understand the buzz-words, don't understand interchangeable/equivalent buzz-words, don't understand the relationships among the terms they unthinkingly treat as buzz-words. How much great talent is being flushed down the tubes every day for that reason?

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

One major failing of writing generally today is incorrect grammar; two points which spring to mind are: 1) Incorrect use of apostrophes: plurals do not have apostrophes (unless there's something belonging to the plural object). So it's "many resumes", not "many resume's". There's a special little comma that sits just above the word. Its use is very simple and it's really quite absurd The way it's used so wrongly and by folk who should know better. It's used to mean possession or replace a missing letter. (c) John Foggitt 2009 - there are 2 more verses but this is the main one. 2) Not knowing whether to use "your" or "you're". This is dead simple. "You're" is short for "you are" whereas "your" means "belonging to you". I fail to understand why this error is so common these days. Finally, underline is a very poor method of emphasis. It's inherited from handwriting when bold and italic were very difficult to use whereas a ruler straight underline was easy and so different from the irregularity of handwriting that it made text stand out; often the underline was drawn first as an alignment guide for the text to be underlined. I never use underlining in word processed text.

tech
tech

I always handle it like this. When I did a lot of contract work (I still do some). I always showed that I ran my own business (which I do). I list all the mundane small contract projects there (not in great detail). This isn't really a lie if you are a contract employee. I separate and highlight the big items, that are most relevant to the job at hand. By creating my resume in this way; there are no time gaps, there is overlap, but that shouldn't be an issue; it looks cleaner, and is easier to read; I can order my skills so that they best fit the job I am applying for; finally, it shortens the resume considerably. For every problem a solution. Sure, when I did consulting I would often have 10 or more clients at once. The prospective employer doesn't need (or want) to see that. What they need to see is that I am an efficient, hard working, problem solving machine. A three or four page resume doesn't show that and is normally a hard read. I said it before, I will say it again. a resume is a marketing tool. Treat it like one. The owners manual, if required, can come later. A resume is not rocket science.