When it comes to your resume, all mistakes are not created equal. A single missing period is unlikely to be held against you, but other more serious mistakes are much more likely to hold you back from the success you’re aiming for.
Here are three big mistakes you should avoid at all costs when writing your resume–and what you should do instead:
Mistake #1: Not tailoring your resume to your target job descriptions
If I told you I wanted a chocolate chip cookie and you made me a baked potato instead, how do you think that’d make me feel? That’s right–not great.
Job descriptions are like recipes in a lot of ways. Employers invest a lot of time and thought into crafting a specific set of skills, experience, and traits that they want to see in their ideal candidate. To position yourself as the type of candidate they’re looking for, you need to tailor your resume around this combination of ingredients that the employer is telling you they need. It’s more work, sure, but blasting out the same non-targeted resume to hundreds of employers and praying you’ll get a response is a sure path to job search frustration. Invest the time upfront into giving your target employers exactly what they’re asking for, and you’ll reap the dividends later.
Mistake #2: Describing your accomplishments in terms of responsibilities instead of results
Employers don’t hire people to perform duties, they hire them to deliver results. That core truth is lost on a majority of job seekers, who simply re-hash the core responsibilities from their job description in hopes that employers will somehow read between the lines and instinctively know how awesome of a candidate they are.
It doesn’t work that way. To communicate your value as a contributor, you need to look at your role through the eyes of a business owner and ask yourself: What results am I being expected to achieve here? Every profession has a set of core metrics that ultimately roll up to business results, and that’s what you’re going to want to communicate on your resume. Did your efforts result in an uptick in customer satisfaction? Did they save time or money? Did sales increase? Look to the metrics that the business finds important, then find a way to connect your contribution to those metrics in a way that implies that you had a hand in achieving them. Do this, and you’ll be way ahead of the majority of candidates who don’t frame their accomplishments this way.
Mistake #3: Using style to stand out rather than content
In a time when we’re surrounded by flashy visuals on social and other digital media, the standard resume format that’s been around for decades can appear downright boring. Then, many job seekers are tempted to bring this format into the modern age by including charts and other visuals to make the content really pop and stand out to potential employers. They think, “if I can just make my resume pretty enough, employers can’t help but take notice, right?”
Wrong. Although this sounds reasonable in theory, it almost always fails to produce the results you’re looking for in practice. Because of the sheer volume of resumes that employers process for each job opening, they need a standard format to help them glean the important information they’re looking for (like your previous employers, job titles, and education) quickly and efficiently. Recruiters take an average of six seconds to scan your resume for this information at first glance, and if they can’t find what they’re looking for, your resume has a greater chance of landing in the rejection pile.
Instead of making your resume as visually appealing as possible, invest that time into crafting powerful resume bullets that align with your target job description's key themes and requirements. Employers don’t care about visuals (unless you’re aiming for a job as a graphic designer) and are simply looking to evaluate how well you might fit with a given role. So, make it easy for them! Your resume may look boring, but at the end of the day, it’s the number of interviews it generates that really matters.
Avoid the three mistakes mentioned above, and you’ll be well on your way to landing that job you’ve been dreaming of. Looking for more career advice like this? Visit Dan Clay’s blog to read more of his posts and receive his latest updates.