What’s in a resume? “Your resume is your pitch, and more often than not, your one shot at being considered for the job of your dreams,” says The HT Group Technical Recruiter Christina Grimes. “You could be the perfect candidate, but if your resume doesn’t reflect the skills, tools, and experiences sought for the role, your chances of being considered are greatly diminished. Do not sell yourself short.”
Resumes, then, are critically important. But we suspect most job candidates don’t give them the love and attention they deserve. We asked our recruiters what resume mistakes they see repeatedly, and what seemingly little resume mistakes lead to the biggest consequences. Boy, did we get an earful. Take a look at the 14 mistakes we highlight below. Are you guilty as charged?
- Listing your oldest jobs first. Chronological resumes are common, and they’re a great format for those with solid work history. However, it’s always important to list your most recent jobs in descending order (reverse chronological format). Your most recent work history is the most relevant.
- Including outdated skills. For technology jobs, this includes highlighting skills in outdated languages like Cobol and QBasic or listing outdated job roles like “web designer” (designing a website now is so complex, specific categories are used, such as UX designer and front-end developer).
- No summary. While listing an objective is no longer necessary (we already know yours is to get your ideal job), including some sort of summary is critical to pull together your top skills and attributes together into one area. This is a great place to use keywords that highlight both the hard and soft skills that you can bring to the table, taken directly from the employer’s job description.
- Typos, misspellings, and grammar mistakes. These are by far the most common complaint our recruiters have. Use spellcheck and follow these other resume tips. The bottom line: “Take the extra 15-30 minutes to proofread. Otherwise, it could cost you your dream job,” advises an HT Group staffing manager. Our recruiters have even gotten resumes listing a wrong phone number and others with no phone number, email address, or other contact information included at all.
- Not picking up on the “attention to detail” clue in the job description. Typos and grammar mistakes are particularly detrimental for jobs that specifically point out that “attention to detail” is important. For these jobs, even different sizing in letters or bullets and spacing inconsistencies might not be forgiven. “We had a client dislike the fact that [a job candidate] put periods for some sentences and not others, as the position required a strong attention to detail,” warns an HT Group recruiter.
- Commonly misused words. Some wording and spelling mistakes elude spellcheck because they’re actually words, just not the words you intended to use. Our recruiters point out the most common offenders: “manger” instead of “manager,” “costumer” instead of “customer,” “ensure” instead of “assure,” and even “pubic” instead of “public.” Do yourself a favor and remove the word you use least often from your spellcheck dictionary. That way, it’ll be flagged for further inspection every time it shows up.
- Overly designed formats. Don’t use multiple fonts, colors, columns, and design elements to make your resume “stand out.” It’ll stand out for all the wrong reasons. Plus, you may be making it impossible for an applicant tracking systems (ATS) to read it. Ensure there is plenty of white space for readability as well.
- Not listing specific technology in the skills area. If a job description asks for applicants with experience using specific technology, be sure to address that technology in your resume. Don’t assume recruiters and hiring managers will piece together that information for you. Plus, check on the official capitalization and spelling of the programming languages, business tools, and certifications you list.
- Accidently pasting TMI into the copy. Be careful when copying and pasting information into a resume. “I’ve seen many resumes with inappropriate content at the end of the resume, including letters to their partners about extramarital affairs or scheduling a hook up while they are on a business trip,” confesses one recruiter.
- Information that contradicts your LinkedIn profile. Always go back to make sure the information you’ve edited to match a particular job doesn’t contradict what’s listed online. “I’ve had a hiring manager decline to interview a candidate over the title on his LinkedIn profile not matching his resume. In this particular case, he put the widely accepted title on his resume to attract the right leads, but the hiring manager found it to be deceptive or misleading [because the title didn’t match what was listed on LinkedIn],” cautions an HT Group technical recruiter. “[And] I have personally declined to interview candidates that have many discrepancies between their resume and LinkedIn profile, such as length of time in positions being months off, ‘senior’ in the resume but not on LinkedIn, or different degree majors.”
- Inappropriate or outdated email addresses. Your email address matters. Too many candidates use inappropriate emails on their professional resume (examples given by our recruiters include firstname.lastname@example.org). Email addresses that use outdated domains like @aol and @hotmail should also be avoided since they can send the impression that you’re behind the times.
- Unnecessarily adding your picture. Leave your headshot off your resume unless it was specifically requested. At best, it takes up valuable space. At worst, it introduces all sorts of hiring biases into the mix. The truth is: Most recruiters find it annoying and unnecessary.
- Not being clear on work history. “I hate it when I see a resume with only the companies and dates but no narrative under each job,” says one of our senior executive recruiters. “You then have to try to decipher where the person did what work and when. I pretty much tell them to update their entire resume at this point.”
- Rigidly sticking to a one-page resume. Experienced professionals often need more room to highlight who they are truly. When a job mentions that a CV (which stands for curriculum vitæ) is optional or required, that’s a clue that a longer narrative is appropriate. A CV is often two or more pages and includes details on achievements, education, publications, awards, and more. Executives, academics, and researchers are often asked for CVs, and it’s more widely expected in European-based organizations as well.
Take some time to put your resume first. After all, no amount of prepping for job interviews will matter if your chances are stopped short by a poorly written resume. Need help? Have questions? Ask your HT Group recruiter.