When a new job opening is posted, it’s tempting to hurry up and submit a resume in the hopes you’ll land in the front of the queue. But sometimes the fastest resume isn’t always the best resume.
In addition to careful proofreading for typos and grammar errors, consider these five blunders that might cause you to make a poor first impression and leave you marked for rejection.
1. Too busy.
Is your resume peppered with multiple-colored headers, tiny margins, large and small fonts, and text in bold and italic — or worse — bold italic? While you might think you’re helping the reader find areas of interest or focus, it can get overwhelming and too busy. I recently had to print out a resume from a client, and the busyness of the document drained the ink in my printer. A little goes a long way with an important document, such as a resume. As you should be customizing each resume to each open position to which you apply, you’ll know where the focus should be to get the reader’s attention. Streamline your resume to highlight how your previous experience, credentials, successes and certifications support your candidacy for that particular job.
While you hopefully reviewed your resume many times before sending, it’s easy for something to be left off or forgotten. Is it missing a page or section? When you customize your resume off of a template, you modify specific experiences and the results you achieved, making it less likely to forget to include your education, contact information, certifications or something equally valuable. Or did you list a name with an accent mark, and it became replaced with another character or symbol? My last name, for instance, has an accent over the “e”. Often, if someone doesn’t use the correct character on the keyboard, it comes across as a “?” in a document. Saving your resume as a PDF should help with formatting and accent marks, but proofreading is still a must.
3. Too general.
If yours reads like a one-size-fits-all resume, the reader might be challenged to understand how you’re qualified for the specific position they’re posting about. Tailor your experience, skills, results and interests to the company, industry and specific job to get recruiters’ attention. Also, resist thinking that being a jack-of-all-trades is what appeals to all employers. They’re hiring for a specific job and set of skills. Try to be specific as well.
4. Unexplainable gaps.
Today, it’s common for someone to have gaps on their resume. Perhaps there were medical issues, time away from work to care for family, or time after military duty focused elsewhere. The gap isn’t the blunder, but not clarifying it could be. You don’t have to go into detail about why you have a gap on your resume if it’s personal, but providing a brief explanation can be helpful.
Explain why you weren’t working in the cover letter or resume, and remember not to provide details about anything not relevant or that the employer can’t legally inquire about. For example, they can’t ask if you sought treatment for PTSD or started a family, so there’s no need to volunteer that information. Saying “2000-2002: Focused on personal situation” or “I enjoyed extensive personal travel after exiting the military and before pursuing career options” are acceptable explanations.
5. Too much detail.
When your resume contains irrelevant information (lists of unrelated hobbies or jobs from 30 years ago) or too much detail, it can actually turn off readers. Recruiters want to see specific jobs, experiences and skills that relate to the position for which they’re hiring. Also, if a resume is more than two or three pages, it can appear the candidate is unfocused.
A resume is supposed to show how you’re a good candidate and entice the reader to want to schedule a follow-up conversation — leave something to discuss at the interview! If you write your resume with clarity (here’s how I fit this job) and confidence (I’m a great fit for your company!), recruiters will be more interested in having a deeper conversation.
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