1. OBJECTIVE: They’re out of date. They’re usually too short and too “me” focused. A better choice is a “Profile” which should be no more than 7 lines long (otherwise the paragraph is too dense), should combine your skills with your personality, and should describe you. Think about what makes you unique. If you find yourself writing “proven ability,” or “team player,” “highly motivated” and other generic, unoriginal and non-descriptive phrases, try asking your references or previous co-workers what makes you good at what you do.
2. BLAND DETAILS: “Responsibilities included overseeing construction of four hotels in Tri-City area, each 50 floors high.” So what? Did they go up on schedule? Did you bring them in under budget? Did you take all four from site work up or did you pick up two of them mid-project? If you don’t tell the hiring company why you’re the best choice, how will they know?
3. ANOTHER JOB, ANOTHER PARAGRAPH: Don’t keep adding on to your resume job after job, year after year. By the time you’re in your 40s, you need to have weeded out your earlier, unrelated jobs and just list the company and title. Drop your college activities, and leave your degree.
4. REFERENCES: Shouldn’t be listed on your resume, nor should it say “References available on request”. Present them separately when they’re requested. This isn’t about protocol. This is about protecting your references so they aren’t called until you and the company are serious about each other.
5. IT’S NOT A STORY!: Don’t write your resume in the third person, this includes using your name, or the pronoun “I” anywhere. That’s it’s you is implied because it’s your name on top!
6. SKIP THE PERSONAL INFO: You might think your baseball coaching or church choir participation shows you’re a well-rounded person, but they’re irrelevant. If the interviewer wants to know who you are aside from your qualifications, he’ll ask.
7. DEGREE DATE: No matter how old you are, don’t leave the date of when you were graduated off your resume. It looks like you’re hiding something (well, you are, aren’t you?), and then everyone does the math to figure out how old you are. If you’re trying to hide your age by not stating the date, what else might you not be forthcoming about?
8. SPELL CHECK, SPELL CHECK, SPELL CHECK: Spell checking visually by you and someone else, any fewer than three times, isn’t enough. And don’t forget to check your punctuation.
9. GETTING IT OUT THERE – part one: If it’s an ad, you probably have instructions as to how to send it. If it says email, cut and paste it in the form, and attach it as a .pdf. You don’t know what it will look like on the other end because of the variety of settings available to each user. Quite frankly, you’re better off not emailing it at all, but unfortunately – besides not sending it – sometimes that’s your only choice. Emailing your resume takes any option for further participation right out of your hands, because often there’s no name given for a follow up contact. You’ve no other option than to wait and wonder.
10. GETTING IT OUT THERE – part two: If you know the name of the company, call and ask if they prefer email, fax, or snail mail. I know a recruiter whose email was listed in The Kennedy Guide to Executive Recruiters. He received hundreds of resumes emailed to him cold (so not pro-active!) and simply mass deleted them every morning. I’ll bet less than 10% of those people bothered to follow up to see if it was received (this isn’t a numbers game)! Candidates he contacted for a specific search received an entirely different email address. How about that?
11. VISUALS: Ivory paper. Black ink. Individual pages. No plastic. Your resume is a professional document, not a school book report or an art project. Until every resume is done this way, yours will still stand out in the crowd.
You are the product, and your resume is the brochure. To find your perfect job you must differentiate yourself from the others who are also vying for attention. Your resume tells your story of who you are, how you make decisions and how well you do what you do.
Your resume must be specific, individualized, easy to skim to invite a closer reading, and focused on the accomplishments you’ve achieved with – and for – each previous employer. This tells the hiring company what you can do for them – and it is about the hiring company, not you.
The resume is what gets you in the door. If it’s poorly written, looks sloppy, is difficult to read, is cryptic, or necessitates being slogged through, you’ll be tossed aside and forgotten. And how can you decide if you want the company, when they’ve already decided they don’t want you?