Key Resume Mistakes
As a former hiring manager I tend to have a critical eye on resumes that pass through my line of sight. Because I’m so involved in this industry I see tons of resumes on a daily basis.
Although job seekers tend to make many different kinds of them, there are the resume mistakes I see most often that tend to tarnish that five-second review you get from hiring managers.
DISORGANIZED OR UNATTRACTIVE RESUME FORMAT
You can preach all day about the keywords and content of a resume, but I stand by this as the most important principle in resume writing—you MUST have an attractive resume format if you want to be seriously considered. Messy, disorganized, unpolished resume formats say exactly that about the type of candidate you are—not to mention they are difficult to read.
If you’re making it hard for the hiring manager to find the information he or she needs to consider you for employment, you just lost your shot at the job. Someone else will have taken the time to construct a strategically laid out resume that is polished, easy-to-read, and attractive to the eye.
Don’t believe me? Think about print advertising. If it’s hard to read or looks messy you’re not going to waste your time reading the ad. But, if it’s eye-catching and professional looking you just might invest the time.
CALL OUT THE CRITICAL
Yes—keywords are extremely important. But that being said, just haphazardly throwing them into the resume is pretty much pointless. Sure, you may get past the computer scan, but when that entry-level HR rep or hiring manager prints out the resume or pulls it up on the screen to review it—if he or she can’t immediately see your qualifications you can forget about him or her investing anymore time reading it. He or she will probably just skip to the next person.
Create a bulleted section that is NOT too text-dense but is eye-catching and calls out the most important keywords relevant to the job. Put this in the top one-third of the resume to catch the employer’s attention. Again, it’s all about making the information they’re looking for easy to find.
WATCH YOUR TEXT DENSITY
Let me tell you a little secret we professional resume writers use: Try to keep your paragraphs to a maximum of 3-5 sentences long—especially your opening career summary and personal branding section. You’ll lose the reader’s attention before you ever catch it! If it looks too text dense, she’s not going to waste (or invest) the time in reading it.
Most hiring managers will just quickly scan your resume—just like you scan articles like this one or stories on the web. Hiring managers scan your resume briefly to see if it’s worth a more in-depth read. If it’s too text-dense and you’re not calling out important keywords or accomplishments, they’ll skip right over all the high-impact text you’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into.
So let’s recap the critical points here:
- Create an attractively formatted resume. Hint: using color can definitely be a plus—if you use the right color.
- Call out the important stuff. Bold, underline, and create targeted sections with white space that draws the eye.
- Keep it between 3-5 sentences—no longer. Remember, you’re writing to catch their attention during the initial scan but also to provide compelling content for the hiring manager who will invest more time once you’ve caught his or her eye.
Of course, there are many other factors to consider when writing your resume, but these three areas are critical to that initial first impression and quick scan the hiring manager will give your resume. The pertinent information the hiring manager is looking for needs to be easy to find and eye-catching while professionally packaged in an attractive format.
Incorporate these tips into your resume and you’ll be more likely to make it past the initial scan and have the hiring manager invest more time in reading the content and calling you for the interview.