It must be the season for changing jobs, because I’ve seen an increase in requests for job search counseling. As I’ve been busy cleaning up resumes, I tend to notice the same faux pas. Here are some tips to help avoid these common pitfalls:
- Funky formatting: Don’t go crazy with a creative layout. Unless you’re in a highly creative field (design, for one), you want a boring, easy-to-read format. Attempts at creativity can often misfire and ruin a resume’s readability. Human resources is a pretty straightforward field, so just give them the facts without the fluff.
- Useless objectives: Experts argue about the utility of an objective. Old-school resume templates tend to start off with a 2- to 3-line objective statement – but these take up extremely valuable real estate and often don’t provide much value. On a one-page resume, every word counts … So don’t waste your first impression on a hiring manager with a lame “seeking a professional opportunity that uses my skills” line. With that said, objectives do have a time and a place, but it’s not for everyone.
- A laundry list of unrelated jobs: Unless your high school, college, or summer job experience directly pertains to the job to which you are applying, you don’t need it wasting space on your resume. Only include jobs that showcase your strengths, highlight skills that are relevant to your desired career, and prove that you can provide value to the company.
- Too many bullet points: You don’t need to list out every little task you did in a particular position. Consolidate your bullet points, making fewer strong arguments instead of numerous weak ones.
- Strong verbs in agreeing tenses: Speaking of bullet points, start each one with a strong action verb. Vary the verbs so every line doesn’t start with the same one. Also, each verb should use the same tense. If you’re currently in a position, use present tense. All past positions should use past tense.
- Focus on value, not tasks: Don’t list out all the boring day-to-day tasks you performed; instead, focus on the value you brought the company and your big accomplishments. You didn’t just “make copies for your superiors;” you “provided collateral to assist company management with critical decisions.” Okay, that might be a stretch, but hopefully you get my point. Make sure to mention any statistics or awards, too. And, as a bonus tip, don’t reiterate the same exact responsibilities for multiple jobs. Even if the positions were similar, don’t use valuable space saying the same thing twice.