In response to the extraordinary number of candidates sending their résumés to the ‘Dear Sam' mailbox, seeking insight into why they are not getting calls for interviews, I thought I would review some of the most common mistakes I found while evaluating submitted résumés. I hope this helps you identify some ways in which you can improve the effectiveness of your job search.
Aesthetics & Formatting
One of the major downfalls I noticed was that the majority lacked any visual appeal, were typically created using common templates, and were inconsistent in the use of formatting. While content is very important in creating a résumé that grabs the attention of the reader, the aesthetics of that document can compel or repel someone's interest.
While most may feel that this section is self-explanatory, I noted some major mistakes on numerous résumés. The heading on your résumé should include your name, address, phone number(s), and email address. Be sure to take a moment to look at your email address and verify that it reinforces the professional tone of your résumé. I noticed many email addresses that contained birth years, ages, and other personal information that should not be presented on a résumé. Also, never list a work phone number as this could tell a prospective hiring manager that you do not value your employer's resources.
I was a little troubled to see that the majority of resumes still do not contain qualifications summaries, and instead waste space presenting a vague objective that serves no purpose on a résumé. Defining your objective is critically important to the development of this section, but instead of simply stating your objective, this section, along with everything on your résumé, should be developed to sell yourself for the type(s) of roles you are seeking. Engage the reader by performing due diligence to understand the keywords for the position(s) of interest, and infuse those keywords throughout this summary and the remainder of your résumé. I will agree with many of you who noted that you struggled with this section; it is typically the most difficult part of a résumé to write. As a tip, start writing your résumé from the bottom up, beginning with the easier sections and leading to the summary.
Next to the qualifications summary, a strong professional experience section, with achievements highlighted, is critical in driving a successful job search. A lot of readers struggled in determining how many years of experience to disclose on their résumé, and unfortunately while there are guidelines, there are no steadfast rules on this topic. As a general rule, you should plan on including about 10-15 years of experience depending on how much of that experience enhances and supports your candidacy. Senior executives can plan to include more experience as it is assumed that when you reach a certain level, you have the experience to complement your high-level objective. Also, include only years, not months and years, of employment in order to minimize the appearance of gaps, overlaps, frequent job hops, etc. Quantify experiences (numbers jump off a page), being sure to focus more on accomplishments versus daily responsibilities. And when presenting accomplishments, highlight them as such, do not intermingle them with daily responsibilities or the hiring manager will not be able to ascertain your value.
A lot of the résumés I reviewed included unnecessary information within the education section. Don't be afraid to omit the education section if it detracts from your candidacy. Don't include the year of graduation if it unnecessarily ages your candidacy. Never include high school information as it is assumed you have a diploma. Lastly, only note educational achievements if they are particularly stellar such as a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
The sections that can be included on your résumé are virtually limitless. Gauge each piece of value-added information as to whether it reinforces the professionalism of your résumé and relates to your purpose. Be careful to not focus too heavily on non-professional engagements, being sure to consider the value of these experiences and whether they play a role in your personal or professional life.
Again, I hope these tips will help you identify where you may be able to make changes with your résumé to improve its effectiveness. For visual representations of many of the strategies reviewed, there are limitless resources available to job seekers including great résumé books at the library, free assistance from local agencies, vast online resources, and professional résumé writing firms like my own who partner with clients to identify their objectives, develop engaging content, and craft highly effective résumés. This is the perfect time of year to refine your job search in preparation for end-of-summer recruitment, so regardless of the resources you select to use, be sure to take some time to develop a résumé that sells your core competencies in relation to your current career goals.