How hard can that be? Apparently, it's a task not to be undertaken lightly. Most resumes circulating in cyberspace and on paper are terrible and actually do more harm than good for the prospective job seeker. How can you avoid resume mistakes? Let's look in on our fictional co-worker to see where the mistakes are lurking!
1. UNDERGRAD FORMAT -- If the guy in the next cubicle is writing his resume in the same style that he's used since college graduation, he'll lose. The old curriculum vitae, or block style, format with "Objective" and "Education" listed on top are not appropriate for anyone with more than three years of professional work experience. Much more effective is a 3- to 5-line overview of your unique professional strengths.
2. NO DATES -- Our friend has jumped around a lot and does not want prospective employers to think he's a flake. So he lists the companies but eliminates the dates for each position. Wrong! Leaving dates off your resume will surely cause eyebrows to raise and make people wonder what you've been up to lately.
3. FACTS BUT NO PIZAZZ -- Mr. Job Seeker has listed his responsibilities under each job title. But what separates him from the crowd? A great resume should include accomplishments and achievements that you have been instrumental in making happen. Increased widget sales by 65% in six months! Brought in 15 new clients with total billings in excess of $100,000! Don't be afraid to brag a little -- just be honest.
4. HITHER AND YON -- Our co-worker has changed fields more than models change outfits at a fashion show. His resume looks like a jumble of job listings. If you have experience in more than one field and it needs to be included on the resume, consider grouping the types of jobs together under specific headings such as "Instructional/Training" or "Customer Service/Sales."
5. GRUDGE FACTOR -- Don't include the reasons you've left or are leaving your job. Do not mention "sexual harassment," "lawsuit," "workers compensation claim," or "fired me for no good reason." Some situations are better explained in person, if at all.
6. PERSONAL INFO -- No one cares if you are single, married, play the trombone, or enjoy league bowling. Personal information does not belong on a resume. Do not include your age, race, gender, or blue ribbons for gardening.
7. LONG-WINDED HISTORY -- Only your relatives have the patience to read through every job you've held since stocking groceries in high school. Prospective employers want to know what RELEVANT EXPERIENCE you've had in the past 10-12 years. Highlight the most recent jobs and consolidate the past into several lines on a strong 1- or 2-page resume.
8. SLOPPINESS -- Our friend is in such a hurry to find a new job that he thinks printing the resume on green or orange paper will get him noticed fast. He'll get noticed -- and then dropped in the circular file! There is a coffee ring stain on the hand-written envelope, which also happens to have the return address of his current employer in the corner -- No, no, no. Looks count!
9. NO APPROPRIATE TARGET -- Just because our co-worker is fed up today and wants to find a new job A.S.A.P. doesn't mean that he should send a resume to every ad that appeared in the Sunday newspaper! Take the time to target the jobs for which you really have a chance of being interviewed. Does your level of experience match the requirements listed?
10. NO REASON FOR SENDING RESUME -- Once you have carefully checked over your professionally written resume to ensure that the salient points mentioned above have been addressed, don't forget one of the most important adjuncts to a good resume -- THE COVER LETTER. In the cover letter, you have the chance to state why you are sending your resume to this company and for what specific position. Don't make people guess as to why you have sent them your resume -- make it clear right up front.
Peter Newfield, President of Career Resumes(c) 2002 CareerBuilder.com
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