From an executive recruiter’s viewpoint, most of the candidates that are present to clients are not even looking for a new position when they are first approached. We first develop a profile/ resume based on the client’s requirements and then go out and find the right people for the job—whether they’re looking for a new position or not.
Consequently, many candidates do not have an updated resume available and often have to scramble to pull something together in a short order. Because of the quick turnaround, we get to see lots of suboptimal resumes thrown together by very busy people. One of the benefits of working with a recruiter is that you learn to catch all the mistakes, from the smallest to the most cringe-worthy.
A resume is the first thing that gives an impression of your work, skills, and knowledge. Recruiters go through more than 100 resumes in a week, so it is important to keep them short and crisp but giving the recruiter an idea of your work and abilities. Typically, employers take about 30 seconds to review a CV. So, instead of writing an autobiography, include profile-specific relevant information.
We would like to encourage people to create customized resumes for each position to which they apply. Depending on their background and experience, many job seekers have several different versions of their resume sitting on their computers ready to go. Normally people keep them coded by some system that they understand, but that will seem confusing to anybody else.
For example, if your name is Roberta Sam but you regularly go by the nickname Bobbi, every resume you send to a prospective employer should be entitled something like “Bobbi Sam Resume.” A resume called “R_Smythe_Project_Mgr_Resume_V12a_ 07242017.doc” it may help you identify it on your computer, but will definitely get lost in the shuffle in a busy HR Department. Keep your file name simple and easily identifiable as you.
If a prospective employer is interested in your resume, their next step may be to check out your profile on LinkedIn. For Roberta Sam, this means that if the name on the top of your resume is anything but the name of your LinkedIn profile, they may not be able to find you. Bobbi Sam may not be a match, or there may be so many matches that it gets difficult to find you.
If Bobbi is now going by her married name, Bobbi Sam-Jones (or worse, Bobbi Jones) but her LinkedIn profile still shows her as Roberta Sam, a hiring manager really can’t be faulted for not finding her—and if they can’t find her they may take a pass.
For employment purposes, you should always use a professional sounding email address. It could be something like email@example.com. If your name is taken, you can insert an initial or add a number or a suffix at the end. Nobody will ever object to send an email to bobbisam1984@gmail.
Yet, people send professional resumes that have email addresses on them that look like they’re either from a dating profile or a college sophomore pulling a prank. Employers will take pause about hiring somebody with an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Or seriously, maybe any address from AOL. At any rate, today there are many free email addresses available from a variety of sources. Don’t let yours make you look foolish.
If your resume is a hit, somebody will want to get in touch with you. All resumes should include a physical address, an email address, and a telephone number where you can actually be reached. While it is highly unlikely that any prospective employer will contact you by snail mail, the physical address is important because employers will want to make an assessment of whether relocation may be necessary, or if the commute is okay. If you’re planning a move you should mention that in your cover letter.
It is also important that whatever email you use is one that you check regularly. Likewise, you should include only one telephone number and it should be one that you answer (or at the very least, check its voicemail messages). Again, if you have resumes out in the world you should check your messages frequently. Once a hiring manager decides to talk to you, recognize that he will be talking to others as well. Make him wait at your own peril. Also, never commit the cardinal sin of letting your voicemail box get so full that new messages can’t be accepted. While this may be taken as a sign of busyness, it is more likely to be regarded as a sign that you’re too overwhelmed to handle things effectively.
Most American resumes do not include photographs, while this may be common in some European countries too. It detracts from your overall presentation and takes up valuable space that can be better used to include other information. Please note, this isn’t true of your LinkedIn profile, which definitely should include a photograph.
Back in the days when resumes had to be typeset and professionally printed, one page was the common standard for length. As the costs have decreased, we’ve gotten somewhat lazy in our editing practices and some resumes seem to go on and on for days.
Here’s a dirty little secret, though most recruiters and HR professionals have become adept at scanning resumes for the information they want in a matter of seconds. Nobody reads a resume line by line. They can scan for what we need and read only the sections that are of interest to them. Keep this in mind when formatting your resume, and make sure the most important information is always on page one.
Generally speaking, professionals with less than 10 years of working experience should still limit themselves to one page. If you have 10 years or more, two pages should be your max. Anything beyond that probably happens to be too long and meaningless to an employer, and it’s unlikely to be read anyway. Always remember to break those long blocks of text. Again, they are scanning first, then reading. Bullet points almost always make more of an impact.
There are many resumes in which the candidate mentions his/her educational experience first. This normally happens because when someone graduates from college that’s his most important accomplishment to date, so it makes sense to list that first, ahead of whatever work experience they may have at the time. As they gain more experience, they simply add it to the work experience section of the resume and the education section remains at the top years, even decades, later.
While recent college grads should list education first on a resume, anybody with post-college work experience should list that first, and education last. The only exception is for those who go back to school for an MBA or another graduate degree that will meaningfully change the course of their career. In that case, education moves back to the top but should be relegated to the end again after that first post-graduate position is obtained.
The last quick fix is one that you wouldn’t think needs to be mentioned, but evidence proves otherwise. Make sure your resume is checked and double-checked for spelling, grammar, and syntax errors. Sometimes it helps to have somebody else do this for you. If you missed an error when you wrote it, and then again when you checked it, you’re likely to miss it again on your double-check. I can assure you, though, that your hiring manager won’t miss it and will see these errors as sloppy.
This is especially common to happen with homonyms (its/it’s; there/they’re/their; your/you’re). Unless you work in a bakery, you don’t want to expound on the number of “rolls” you fill at your company.
Even a great resume can be undermined by a tiny mistake. Avoiding the errors listed here won’t guarantee you’ll get the job, but accidentally falling prey to these traps will land you with nothing.