The standard mistakes that cost you a chance at a job have been written so often I can just remind you: typos, lies, awful format, private info, resume not customized to posting. Find more resume tips by clicking the “resume” tag at the bottom of this post.
But now that we’re applying online more often, there are five easily-overlooked mistakes that will cost you, too.
1. File names. Name your resume something simple. Don’t title your resume file “resume,” because I’m dealing with hundreds of applications and I need people who make my life easier. A simple solution is MaryHarveyresume.pdf and MaryHarveyresume.doc. Because I need to submit with PDF and Word doc (see link), my files need to be as obvious as possible.
But file names will also give you away, for example, if you save a MaryHarvey_marketing version and a MaryHarvey_pr version. I like to save them with a date so I know when I updated and why, and in my notes I’ll be able to tell that MaryHarvey_Dec2014 was a marketing version because I used Mary Harvey Nov_2014 as my PR-heavy version.
2. Careful word choice. Fast Company argues that your format should be simple and your language should fascinate, but I disagree. The sample sentence offered “Ensuring business roars ahead while attracting/developing top leadership talent” makes me cringe, because business does not roar, and sale pitch language feels smarmy in a resume. Sure, use synonyms. Yes, please, change the standard language. But don’t go over the top. It’s a thin line, but if you don’t know by now how to articulate without sounding crazy, then marketing might not be the right field for you. Talk about results rather than inflating your language.
3. Missing dates. Include dates. Please don’t omit dates for any reason. You can explain the blanks or the quick departures from companies, but lack of dates looks dishonest. Recruiters and hiring managers need a timeline for your career’s trajectory, and there is nothing to be gained from leaving out dates. Month and year, people. Month. And year.
4. Objective statement. This is easy…it’s 2014 (almost 2015) not 1990. Your objective is to get the job you’re applying for. Please don’t tell them you want a job that uses your skills. Sell them on how well you’ve done at previous jobs.
5. Formatting. Assuming an employer has the program in which your resume was created risks having your submission go unread. Save a version as a PDF, and create a text only version without formatting. Submit both if the post doesn’t specify; otherwise submit what they’ve asked for.
6. Email cover letter. The body of your submission email should function like a cover letter. Include your elevator pitch for why you’re the best candidate for the job, and avoid words that spam filters will catch. [Emphasis you would never use in a cover letter, like all caps and multiple exclamation points shouldn’t trip you up, since you won’t be using these. But also avoid sounding like a cheesy sales pitch. No “once in a lifetime,” no “click here!” and no “can’t miss.”] Read more on spam avoidance here.