Career Expert Columns by CareerCast.com
A great cover letter opens the door to your candidacy, but a poorly written resume can shut it just as quickly. Part of the problem for many people is that they rarely look at their resume, or ask people that are under-qualified for resume tips. It ends up with you getting a cookie cutter resume with a lot of jargon that will put a hiring manager to sleep. In this economy, that's not going to cut it.
So what are the resume do's and don'ts? Here are a couple things you DON'T want to do if you'd like to get an interview for the job you want.
Have a Lame Objective
If you are seeking a challenging position in [insert industry here] you are wasting valuable lines on your resume. A hiring manager can tell that you're interested; it's why you applied in the first place. But too many people write awkwardly phrased objectives that don't tell the person reading your resume why you're a great candidate.
One strong alternative that's currently in vogue is to come up with a "professional accomplishments" or "career highlights" section. With three bullet points or a couple of sentences, you list the most important successes of your professional life. In just a glance, someone reviewing your resume will know why you stand out. Even if you do that, though, you could still have problems with length.
One Page For Early-Career Applicants, Two For Everyone Else
There is no more hotly debated topic amongst resume experts than the length of your resume. While it's generally accepted that those fresh out of school should try to keep their resume to one-page, opinions vary about how long resumes should be for anyone else.
Take job seekers in academia, for instance. In a sector where publications and research is critical, it could take several pages to cover all of your professional accomplishments. A senior executive is in the same boat, especially if they have 20 or more years of experience. It's simply too difficult to summarize accomplishments in a page or two.
There is a good work-around for this, however. If you're considering a multi-page resume, you can use the first page or two as your main resume, covering your career in broad strokes. If you need to, you can then add an appendix with additional supporting information.
Whatever you do, don't use drastically tiny type or weird fonts in order to fit your resume on one or two pages. The last thing you want to do is make the person reading your resume to strain their eyes as you try to make a first impression.
Unfocused Resumes for Multiple Jobs
Americans are switching careers and positions at a rate that would have been unheard of just 10 to 15 years ago. That means that you may have experience in a wide variety of areas, say from customer service to IT to management. But if you're looking for a job as a manager, that's a lot different than looking for work as a senior network engineer.
Your resume should highlight your qualifications for the narrowest range of jobs possible. For example, some employers may value your ability to manage a team the most, while others will want to know whether or not you can meet sales objectives. Among resume tips, making sure that you match employer expectations is near the top of the list.
You may grumble that it requires a lot more work to tweak each resume, but the payoff is a much strong candidacy.
Not Knowing The Difference Between Human Readers and Computers
If you stuffed keywords into a resume that you knew was getting read by a human recruiter, they would probably get a headache by the end of the first few lines. A lot of people don't realize that their resumes should be different if they are applying directly to a recruiter, or if they're submitting their resume into a database.
When humans read a resume, they want it to be clear and concise and provide a good picture of who you are as a candidate. But they know synonyms for different things (computer networks versus information technology) or related terms. So you have a bit more flexibility to write in your own voice.
You don't have those same options when you're submitting a resume into an HR website or for the federal government. You need to use the same keywords that are listed in the job description, because the computer software will try to match you based on how often they occur. You still want to keep it readable, but with an emphasis on inserting keywords that will get the computer to like your resume.
No matter how many pages you write or which format you think fits your work history best, just make sure to create a unique resume for each job description. Remember that a recruiter or hiring manager is looking for that right candidate to fill their vacancy. If you don’t speak their language, they may not see how you can fit into their organization and you’ll never get that call for an interview.
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