Q: After a lot of work, I thought I had put together a great resume listing all my accomplishments and training. Recently, however, an interviewer told me my resume totally missed the mark! What did I do wrong?
A: Your resume is a form of self-marketing. It is not intended to just be a laundry list of your past experiences, with the hope that someone, somewhere will find you relevant and compelling for their company.
Ask yourself if your resume fell victim to any of these common resume mistakes:
- Forgetting to use keywords. When you submitted your resume to the employer, did you look closely at the keywords listed in the job description or application? Does your resume match those keywords? If they list "project management" and your resume says "strategy and design," are you assuming they will know that your work included project management? Use the same words and phrases the employer lists in the job requirements, if you can.
- Typos and grammatical mistakes. Hiring managers and recruiters may disregard resumes and cover letters with errors. Have three friends proofread each cover letter and resume you send out. Is that time consuming? Yes. But it's worth it. You can't afford a careless mistake when making a first impression.
- Too much military speak. Does your resume read like your MOS? Civilian employers are not trained to read military resumes. You can do the hard work for them by translating your background into civilian language. There are numerous online translation tools available to make this easier.
- Listing non-relevant personal information. Do not list your age, marital status, race or religious preferences on a resume. You should not provide the hiring manager with information they cannot legally ask you about.
- Discussing your disabilities. Similar to #4, do not list physical or mental disabilities on your resume. If your limitations obviously prevent you from doing the job, then ask yourself why you are applying in the first place. Assuming you can do the work (i.e. lifting heavy boxes, extensive travel, driving a car or truck, etc.) then your disabilities or limitations are not relevant.
- Using passive instead of active verbs. "Action verbs help describe the skills you've used to potential employers." They are the fuel behind the engine of your resume! Instead of using "helped" or "built" or "managed," consider verbs like, "initiated," "reformed," "drove," "transformed," or "led" to show your abilities and accomplishments.
- A resume that's too long. There is no right-length for a resume, but there is a wrong length. Your resume should only include the specific work, results, achievements, skills and certifications relevant to the job you're applying for. Leave off extraneous information you think might, perhaps catch the reader's eye. You want to leave something to discuss at the interview.
- Unattractive formatting. Your resume does not have to be professionally typeset to be valuable. In many cases, you will be cutting and pasting your resume contents into an online applicant tracking system. For a printed resume, consider how clean, attractive and readable it is to the interviewer. A polished and legible resume is appreciated more than a creatively designed one that is off the mark.
- Leaving off your contact info. Sounds obvious, right? But resumes have been sent without an email address and/or phone number. While it sounds simple, double check that you include all appropriate ways of reaching you. Today, a home address is less important unless you want to show the employer that you currently live in the area of the job.
- Forgetting your personal brand and value. While your resume includes a list of past jobs, achievements and results, there is the opportunity to use this document to highlight who you are and what you can offer to the employer. Consider including a paragraph under the heading of "Summary" or "About Me" that gives insight into your passions, goals, value, and potential contribution to the company.
You are not alone if you've made one or many of these mistakes. Many job seekers do! Remember that your resume is a distinct part of your career transition, and it should reflect you as the person, not just the potential employee.