While seeking candidates for a position, hiring managers often make quick decisions in order to fill those positions quick. Unfortunately, the focus isn’t always on who will be the right fit for their company.
Candidates won’t make the cut, no matter how qualified or brilliant, if their resume or cover letter are unprofessional, uninteresting, or annoying. If you’d like a hiring manager to believe you’re the best candidate for the job, you need to keep your resume out of the recycle bin.
I spend a lot of time reading resumes, mentoring associates on how to rewrite resumes, and giving talks on how to best tailor them. A Fast Company article caught my eye because it gives advice on some of the worst mistakes job candidates make on their resumes.
The basics of what to include in your resume are that you need to include a compelling story in simple language of what’s relevant, accurate, and recent in your work history.
To make sure your resume stays at the top of the stack, keep in mind the following:
Change the way your cover letter addresses your resume to target specific companies or roles, but don’t change your resume itself.
If you add duties or massage your title to get noticed, you’ll set yourself up for claims of dishonesty. Leave the body of your resume alone in your job search. Small tweaks are fine If you’re targeting two or three different job types, But after triple checking it for accuracy, don’t make any major changes for each application. Fast Company disagrees, telling you to weave the job criteria into your resume. I have to tell you: if the job criteria aren’t in there already, you’re not qualified for the job. Move on to the next posting.
Carefully weigh your words.
Because we work in communications and other content creating fields, we are all scrutinized for the language we use. Because of this attention to language, I suggest you ignore the advice from the above article, which says, “Be creative and entice the hiring manager with language that sizzles. For example, a headline like ‘Ensuring business roars ahead while attracting/developing top leadership talent’ will show a bit more personality and creativity while articulating your achievements..” I disagree. Claiming you ensure business roars anywhere will get your resume recycled by most of my clients. Why? Businesses don’t roar. And one employee can’t ensure anything about business success. We know a corny sales pitch when we hear one, and your resume must sell on its merits, not its flashy language.
Choose vibrant verbs and precise adjectives. By all means use gorgeous language. But, avoid jargon and buzzwords. When you use language to trick your reader, they assume you’re hiding something. There’s no reason to say you’re dynamic. Every human whose vital organs operate is dynamic. Don’t call attention to your word choice by stepping over the line from richly descriptive to ridiculously postured. For example, “Collaborated with creative team to produce award-winning advertising campaigns for healthcare clients” does not roar or ensure. But it conveys an impressive effort.
You need to explain how previous employers or clients have received a benefit from your work by writing what you can prove, not what you think. There is no arguing with “saved the company $2,000 a month by streamlining processes,” but there is plenty of wiggle room within “responsible.” When you simply state how you added value through your efforts, your worth will shine through. Maintain honesty. Don’t lie. Don’t exaggerate.
Your resume is brochure for You, The Job Candidate, and what sells is clarity not tricks.
Use a summary section, not an objective statement.
Your objective is to get a job with the company to which you’re applying. They know that, so no need to waste the space reiterating. Instead, tell the hiring manager in a sentence or two what you have to offer. Your summary begins your resume with the elevator pitch bio. Make every word precise, honest, and approachable. Because your objective is implicit in the application.
Limit the content to the most relevant, recent positions.
If you’re in the middle of your career, don’t include your high school jobs. Stick within the past ten years or so, and to only the jobs that relate to the one you’re applying for so you can keep the resume to one page. (Executives are the only exception to this one-page rule because the hiring process is different for the C-suite.)
Limit the words, too. Edit as though Ernest Hemingway were looking over your shoulder. Cut ruthlessly until you use the fewest words to convey exactly how valuable and experienced you are.
Should you include a skills section?
Be careful when you are choosing whether or not to include a skills section. If you have highly technical skills, or are being hired specifically for skills that few people have, then by all means have a list of skills.
Most applicants don’t need a list of skills; they need to give examples how they’ve used their skills in previous roles. For example, I have many highly-honed skills, but my resume doesn’t have a skills section. Rather, I incorporate my skills into the descriptions of what I’ve done in each of my professional roles.
My public-speaking skills are noteworthy, but they don’t belong on a list. They belong embedded in my resume where I can explain how my presentations have made associates and clients better employees. For example, I would say something like. “Offered clients end-to-end project management and ensured deliverables were on time and under budget” or “led effective effort to consolidate 14 individual banks under umbrella brand with one advertising blitz.”
Importance of Job Description Keywords
Pay attention to the keywords in a job description. Many HR departments use software to scan resumes for matching profiles. For these reasons, if the keywords fit your background, make sure those specific terms are in your resume. This is where those small tweaks come into play.
Notify your references in advance
Even if someone agreed a while ago to serve as a reference for you, chances are they don’t want to be surprised months or years after you last spoke with them. Email or call your references as soon as you’re looking for work to ask if they are still willing to vouch for you. Ask, specifically, if now is a good time to use them as a reference and if they will give a good report of your time working for them.
I say this over and over again. I know for a fact hiring managers throw typos into the trash. They don’t care how bright or clever or talented you are, if you can’t be bothered to make this one piece of paper right, they won’t consider you for their job opening. The dates have to be correct, the spelling impeccable, and the grammar flawless. Quadruple check. Have somebody else check. Then check again.
Your resume is the advertisement that will make a hiring manager call you, it’s important that you choose the ideas and words that make your resume its strongest. If you need help, just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to help you perfect your resume and get hired for your dream job!