The idiomatic expression red herring refers to tactics used to divert attention away from an item of significance. According to Eve Tahmincioglu, contributing writer for MSNBC, as a job seeker you have about 15 seconds to make an impression with your resume. That may not seem like a long time but consider a drag racer can go from zero to 300 miles an hour and cover a quarter of a mile, in less than 17 seconds. Your resume may not be a race car but it can certainly attract a lot of attention in 15 seconds. You need to make sure those 15 seconds get you across the finish line.
Your resume must stand out by attracting the right attention and not being diverted by red herrings. A herring turns red from a smoking process. Eve T. writes in her column there are 6 resume mistakes to avoid that in my opinion can result in you being smoked out of consideration. Check them out.
1. Resume that is too vague. A resume that is broad gets you smoked. Narrow and specific to the job requirements will get you noticed. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for people that match their job requirements. That may mean you need to tweak your resume accordingly without fabricating experience you do not have. Don’t apply for jobs that you do not meet at least 80% of the job requirements. Then make sure your resume speaks specifically to those areas.
2. Ignoring the cyber age. This is simple. Your resume will pass through an electronic filter before, that’s right before, it ever will be touched by a human if at all. That human will only see your resume if it passes the electronic screen. That means you must include words in your resume that the electronic screen will be seeking. Normally, these are words that appear in the job posting. Without being obvious, include those key words somewhere appropriate in your resume. In addition, Eve suggests, and this is common sense, name your file with your name not just resume.
3. Every job but the kitchen sink. This is tricky because recruiters are looking for chronological job history. In other words, no gaps between jobs. However, the reality is there often are gaps. Eve suggests you try to avoid “filler jobs” that are not relevant to the job you are seeking. I would add that instead of using month and year for your job history just use years. That may help close some gaps. In any event, a gap won’t get you excluded but you need to be able to explain it if you get to the interview process.
4. Not being your own cheerleader. This is underselling your role or accomplishments. You may think that most people are guilty of inflating their accomplishments but what most people don’t do enough of is quantifying their accomplishments. Thus, a red herring, because while words are important, quantifiable results are better. Eve suggest that words such as assisted, supported or participated in connote teamwork they should be avoided unless you are very specific with what your role was on the team. I would add your specific, quantifiable accomplishments.
5. Being cookie-cutter. This is one size fits all. Obviously, that is not true but how to avoid tailoring your resume to every job you wish to apply. This goes back to some of the previous comments. Make sure your resume speaks to at least 80% of the job requirements. Make sure you have great profile summary, specific accomplishments, roles that match, etc. In other words, think before you apply. In a world of instant everything, you can respond too quickly and miss an opportunity to differentiate yourself.
6. Forgetting the basics. Spelling, grammar and formatting all the typical things we know but still forget. I have one piece of advice. Do not do your resume alone. Make sure you have someone proof read it for you. I also like one comment Eve includes in her article. Every time you change your formatting (bold, new fonts, etc.) you focus attention on that item. That can be good or bad. Make sure it is not a red herring.