I realize job seekers have probably heard a million and one tips on having a "proper" resume. And yet, I still see many resumes that prompt more questions than provide answers to my ultimate question:
Is this person a great candidate for my client’s job opening?
When you consider that your resume must speak on your behalf without you being able to chime in with color commentary, you realize that you must accomplish a lot with one document.
Keep in mind, many recruiters won’t even look at your cover letter until they’ve looked at your resume. Sounds backwards, but there’s no sense in learning more about you if the resume does not include the “right background” for the position.
A resume can be a great tool to represent you, if it answers my ultimate question, above. However, there are several ways a resume can create doubt about the candidate’s qualifications. As a recruiter, I’ve seen many examples.
In this article, I’d like to share some of these resume pitfalls to allow your resume to be as perfect as possible.
You don’t want recruiters assuming anything. You’d rather they knew your legitimate reasons for being out of the work-force.
Gaps in employment need to be explained, even if it’s a one-liner stating:
2010-2012: Took a leave of absence to care for elderly parents.
Unemployed job seekers need to fill the void with special projects or volunteer work if a gap in employment extends beyond a couple of months. Many candidates ask friends if they can do some work (even pro bono) to keep busy and productive. In the resume, you can list these experiences just like you would a regular job.
Read Overcoming the "Unemployed Bias" for more information on how to handle this situation.
If you were in contract roles, you should state that. I’ve seen resumes that just had dates, and it looked like the candidate was jumping from job to job. An easy assumption to make if it doesn’t say contractor next to job title. You might even consider grouping them under one job if they’re all through the same agency/firm.
When trying to stand out from others in the stack of resumes on the recruiter’s desk, you need to speak in terms of results.
It is one thing to say: Created a program for approving bills.
It is another (more effective) thing to say: Decreased bill approval cycle time by 50% by creating a program leveraging a new technology. Rolled out program in two-months and 10% below budgetary guidelines.
Results typically are spoken in numbers, yes?
Most applicants claim to have great written and verbal communication skills. If you are applying for an Administrative Assistant role and claim this, but have grammatical and spelling errors on your resume, your credibility goes to zero. And your resume goes into the trash.
If you don’t take the time to have a perfect resume, it sends the message that your work will follow the same pattern. Period.
If you’re applying for a position that requires special skills (a programmer must know certain computer languages—a mill operator knows how to operate certain machines), you need to list these skills under your summary paragraph at top of resume. Don’t make the reader wait until the last section to find them.
Education can usually go at the end, along with training, as it is less important than experience (for those who have been in the workforce for a while).
If you’ve had the opportunity to try a lot of roles in your career, you are well-experienced in a lot of things, but a recruiter doesn’t know what you want your next role to be.
The Summary paragraph (or some still use Objective) can explain what you want next for you. By only highlighting the experiences you want to leverage going forward, you give the recruiter a clue as to what roles might be a fit for you.
Be aware, most hiring managers don’t want a “Jack-of-All-Trades, Master-of-None.” They want a “Jack-of-Several-Trades, and a Master-of-Some.”
This is not a big deal on a resume, but you should know that you need not include references on your resume. There is no reason to have companies calling your references BEFORE they talk to you. If they want references, they’ll ask you for them. This will allow you the chance to let them know they’ll be getting a call, too.
Job seekers have to sort through plenty of advice while building the perfect resume (or consult professional resume writers). My advice is to be critical of your work. Make sure it makes a great impression and doesn’t raise doubt. I recommend showing it to friends or family and ask them what impressions they have after reading it. If they have concerns, they likely have valid points on how you can improve the resume.
Remember, the resume must speak well for you—often times, it’s the only voice you’ve got with the hiring manager.
Job-Hunt's Working with Recruiters Expert Jeff Lipschultz is a 20+ year veteran in management, hiring, and recruiting of all types of business and technical professionals. He has worked in industries ranging from telecom to transportation to dotcom. Jeff is a founding partner of A-List Solutions, a Dallas-based recruiting and employment consulting company. Learn more about him through his company site alistsolutions.com. Follow Jeff on LinkedIn and on Twitter (@JLipschultz).