Talk to any hiring manager, recruiter, career coach, or resume writer, and everyone will have a slightly different take on what works (and what doesn’t) in resumes. Here’s what bugs me the most:
Too Much Information
If your resume is longer than 2 pages, it’s probably too long. Ask yourself:
- Do you really need 12 lines to detail a job that ended a decade ago?
- Do you need a career summary that takes up 2/3 of a page and pushes the meat of the matter to page 2?
- Do you need to say anything about your college years other than the school and degree?
“Probably not” is the answer to all of the above questions.
Lack of Focus
Decide your objective before you write your resume. You can’t be all things to all people, so picture your primary audience and tell them the things that matter most to them. Strip out details that will confuse your readers or take them in an entirely different direction. Let them know, quickly and clearly:
- Who are you?
- Where have you been?
- What have you done?
- How can you do for them?
Dense paragraphs and tightly packed bullet points are an invitation to skip over the copy. You wrote your resume to be read – so try hard to make it readable!
And keep in mind, most people don’t really read your resume. They skim it. Make it rewarding for them by giving them information quickly.
You’ve probably heard that you need to include accomplishments in your resume. Make sure that yours really are accomplishments and not simply activities.
- Implemented a full suite of customer service center tools for the global customer support organization.
That’s what I call “accomplishment-like” because it is written as if it were an accomplishment, but in fact it simply describes an activity. Consider the difference when you communicate the value of that activity:
- Decreased wait times 47% and reduced escalated issues 74% by implementing a full suite of customer service center tools for the global customer support organization.
Inefficient and Ineffective Formatting
Your resume does not have to look like it was designed by a pro, but it should have a professional and executive look and feel. That means making good use of the space on the page, calling attention to the most important information, and using formatting tools properly so that information stays where you put it.
I don’t want to know that you “facilitated an organizational paradigm” or “leveraged deep insights” or “catalyzed systemic change” or “skyrocketed revenue” or “optimized ROI.” Especially not all in the same resume!
There’s nothing wrong with using strong and sophisticated language in your resume. Just be careful that you are actually saying what you mean and writing so that your readers clearly understand what you did.
The job market is competitive and the job-hunting process is tough. Give yourself a fighting chance by starting with a clear, well-written, strategically focused resume.