People rarely ask their friends and colleagues for feedback on their résumés. I view that as a lost opportunity. Why would you do that, you might ask? The point would not be to get your friends and colleagues to agree on everything – the language, format, appearance – but to hear their reactions, learn what they see on the page versus what they know about you that isn’t there, and to help you ensure the résumé is the best possible representative of you, your skills, your experience, and your talents.
I read résumés all of the time. I never tire of it because each one is trying to communicate a story of a professional life. So I try to receive each one with openness, curiosity, and genuine interest. But applicants are not always their own best advocates. Here are some of the biggest résumé mistakes from my perspective.
- The professional statement at the top isn’t relevant to the job they are applying for. That means they didn’t adjust this résumé for this position. Big no-no.
- There are typos, inconsistent commas, different font and bullet sizes, and inconsistent verb forms. Plus, why does everyone think that the past tense of “to lead” is “lead”?? You have LED something, not LEAD something in your last job.
- It reads like a job description. It’s important to list your accomplishments, not just to describe your role. What did you do in each position that will be interesting to me, potentially your next employer? Did you just manage six people, or did you build a high-functioning team that was able to exceed expectations in measurable ways?
- Someone else wrote the résumé so it doesn’t sound like the same person who wrote the cover letter. In other words, the applicant’s voice doesn’t come through in the résumé. Employers really want to know who you are, and this is your opportunity to show them.
- The résumé doesn’t contain the words in the job description. Applicants should make it easy for employers to see that they are a great fit for the role. Don’t make résumé reviewers work too hard; they have hundreds of applications, so they’ll just skip yours if it’s too difficult to figure out if you’re the right fit.
- People are often stronger than they seem on the résumé, but they haven’t taken the time to think through what they have done in their lives and how that might be applicable to their next role. It takes hours and hours to do this work of translation, and it is very difficult to do it alone. I suggest people have a career buddy who can help.
- Finally, it takes a lot of time – hours and hours – to write a great résumé. It can take 15-20 hours for the first decent one. And every job application means rewriting, tweaking, reconsulting with a career buddy or an expert, and revising again.
Happy résumé writing!