Updating my resume is the only thing I dread equally to writing cover letters. I have looked at my resume so many times it has become one giant blob of dread. Anyway, it is a task we should all do and do frequently. If you keep your resume up-to-date, you will have few edits to make when applying for a job, internship, or other opportunity. I also recommend taking a critical eye to your resume at least a couple times per year to pick out any mistakes or format fallacies. Here are some common mistakes that can decrease your job chances or lead to your resume ending up in a shredder.
Grammatical or Punctuation Errors
These simple errors are easily overlooked when you have spent a large amount of time on your resume. However, individuals looking at your resume are intolerant of such mistakes, especially because resumes are short professional documents. Thus, these “silly” mistakes need to be eliminated. Find a friend, family, or colleague to swap resumes with and look for these wrongdoings.
Lazy Verbs and Complete Sentences
A resume is the only document in professional writing that you should not write in complete sentences. Yes, this is contrary to every English lesson you have been taught in life. Instead of complete sentences with a subject, the resume assumes that you are the subject for every “sentence.” Consequently, you should start each sentence with a verb, more specifically an action verb. I am not sure what the official term for non-action verbs is so I have decided to call them lazy verbs. Lazy verbs do not express an action. For instance, include, know, want, have, and belong are non-action verbs. While it may sound easy to avoid these, it is much more difficult to not repeat the action verbs you use. Fortunately, the internet exists. If you search for “resume action verbs,” you can find lists of verbs suitable for updating your resume.
Writing too much
Unless otherwise specified, the one page resume limit only applies to new graduates. Despite this, you do not want to literally write your life story. Generally keep your resume under two pages unless it is an academic curriculum vitae (CV). It is important to include descriptions of your positions so that employers know what you actually did. However, you want these descriptions to be straight to the point. Avoid describing every single task you were given and focus on the important ones. Ultimately, you want a detailed, brief resume that an employer can scan.
Subjective descriptions or telling instead of showing
Bottom line: employers do not want to read the professional equivalent of an online dating profile. While you want to express your awesomeness, you do not want to directly state that you are a great communicator, hard worker, etc. Instead, describe instances that demonstrate these skills. Show the employer your accomplishments using numbers and evidence rather than telling them and expecting them to just believe it.
Being too general
There are a few ways that generalizing too much on your resume can be negative. You do need to tailor your resume to the job description. Although this can be tedious and feel very annoying, it will be beneficial to tailor your resume to the specific job or type of job.
The easiest way to customize your resume is to look at job descriptions in your field, get an idea of the skills most valued (i.e. the ones in the required section), and incorporate them into your resume. Another mistake people make is providing a sufficient, tailored summary but not highlighting their attributes. By not highlighting attributes, some of your talents may be missed. You will definitely want to highlight certain skills or experiences if you are reaching for a job where you will not be the most qualified candidate. So make sure you highlight the important things and make unrelated experience seem relevant through transferable skills.
Including useless information
Ultimately, a resume is solely intended to show your professional experiences, education, and skill sets. While it once was kosher to include hobbies, activities, or personal information, employers really only want to see information that’s relevant for the job. If they want to learn more, they can likely find out through a quick Facebook or Google search.
On a similar note, you should consider leaving off old information such as where you went to high school, or any short term jobs you may have had. If you were only employed a short time (and it was not an internship), that may cause employers to suspect a flaw, problematic attitude, or lack of commitment.
If, after removing a bunch of ‘useless’ information, you may be looking at a very short resume and wondering what you can do to fill it back in. Professional organizations can be a great thing to add, if you happen to belong to any. Also, take a step back and look at your experiences from the perspective of an employer. What else may you have done in your life that they might find valuable?
In summary, resumes are the tool we use to market ourselves. Think of your resume like your Facebook profile — only instead of trying to impress your friends, you’re trying to impress a potential employer. Your goal is to be see as the best candidate for the job. So brush the dust off your hard drive and take another look at your resume, because we all know you will take the time to check Facebook.