After reading thousands of resumes, I’ve come to find that it’s the little things that often lead to the biggest disasters. Thing like little white lies, grammar and spelling mistakes, and submitting a resume that has nothing to do with the job only graze the tip of the iceberg. When I was an executive recruiter, I would often find myself asking the question, “why did you put X on your resume?” only to hear a muffled “I don’t know, I thought it was supposed to go there.”
I’d like to say this only once – yes, there is a science to writing a resume. No, there is not only one way to do it. If you are trying to get the attention of a business owner, human resources director, or hiring manager, you want to make sure you are covering the three biggest points they are looking for. If you don’t include these elements, your chances of getting the job will be dramatically reduced as other job seekers who are following these rules will be taken seriously.
Mistake #1: Not targeting the job or the company
If you’re like most people, you’re spending hours online scouring the internet for jobs that sound even halfway decent or similar to your work experience. You find one that sort of applies to you, and you submit your resume for review. You barely read the description, you just saw that the job was full-time, near your house, and offered benefits. Score! The only problem is, you were only thinking about what YOU wanted, not the company. In order for your resume to be looked at for more than 8 seconds (which is the average amount of time your resume is viewed before being screened out), you need to include the information the company is actually looking for. Look for keywords in the job posting that you can sprinkle throughout your resume. What problems are they looking for this person to solve? How can you show that you’re the person who can solve those problems? Be clear about what you’ve done and what you want to do by writing a resume that applies specifically to that job.
Mistake #2: Stating job descriptions, not accomplishments
Almost every resume I’ve seen in my career (and I’ve seen a lot), cover basic job responsibilities, but never actually state the contribution the person made. I don’t really want to know that you were responsible for managing accounts and handling customer concerns. I want to know that you met, and exceeded your quota by 50% each quarter, while cutting back customer complaints by 25%. I want to know how you made the company more money, or saved the company money. Tell me about initiatives you started, problems you solved, new projects you managed. Be clear about what you have actually done, not just what you were hired to do. The people who can clearly communicate this information are the ones who will paint a clearer picture of their abilities and show the company that they are a top performer. Companies don’t hire people to spend money, companies hire people so they can advance, grow, and evolve. They need people on their team who understand this concept, so show them that by including information that reflects this on your resume.
Mistake #3: No personality
This point is probably the most controversial, especially for the people who say they are in “non-creative” jobs such as accounting, insurance, or law. Every job, and every industry is creative, it’s just about understanding what creativity means in a given industry. Researching the field and knowing what is important to them is key. For example, if you want to work at an accounting firm, you probably don’t need to be highly artistic. But, you do need to be organized and thorough. How can you represent these skills on your resume? By making sure everything is laid out logically, simply, and with all the necessary pieces, you are showing that skill without saying it. You may even want to create a resume that looks like an annual report (only much shorter). Add some personality to your resume by tailoring it to your audience and allowing it to speak to your unique skills and talents. This will help your resume stand out and be seen differently by the people who are used to seeing the same old thing.
As I stated above, spelling and grammar are key as well. If you’re not so hot in this department, find some proof readers to help you. There may be a service at your local library, or a friend or family member could help you. Don’t let a few typos be the factor standing between you and your job. Lying is definitely a HUGE no-no, so don’t even go there. Be clear about the top three elements outlined above, and make sure you know what you are applying for each and every time. Avoid job search burnout by focusing on each job individually and putting in the effort to show why you are the best person, each and every time.