hen it comes to applying for a new job, first impressions are invaluable. While the majority of people apply for positions that they think are suited to their skills and education, resume writing is a talent in itself that determines whether or not you’re a candidate within the first 10 seconds of a hiring manager’s process.
Most people have been writing resumes and handing in applications since they were teenagers, and may feel that they have a pretty good grasp on the do’s and don’ts of the process. But the job market is becoming increasingly more competitive and expectations are higher than ever when it comes to hiring new employees. A small mistake in a resume can indicate a lack of attention to detail and therefore a lack of enthusiasm or caring for the position you’re applying for.
We have put together a list of common resume writing mistakes that put off employers and hinder your chances of landing your dream job.
A lot of roles have the same job title and salary, and appear to have very similar expectations of their employees. And while it’s tempting to fire off the same resume that you tirelessly tweaked and perfected for your last job application- wait.
Read through the job description thoroughly and edit your resume to fit exactly what this particular employer appears to be looking for. The last hiring manager may have been looking for a candidate with excellent leadership skills, while this one is more focused on a candidate’s ability to take direction; you’ll find exactly what they’re looking for in the job description. It’s also a good idea to check out websites like Glassdoor and Indeed to get more of an insight into the company and its values before tweaking your resume to fit this application.
In some cases, employers and hiring managers will include not only specific skills that they are looking for in the job description, but also unusual methods of applying for the job. Some employers may request that all candidates film a video application and submit it to their email address, others may be looking for a story to accompany your resume that highlights your skills and personality traits to see if you’re a good fit for their company. You will find all of this among the typical academic requirements and buzzwords in the job description.
This is an obvious one. Silly mistakes like misspelled words and using too many commas can be detrimental to your job search and decrease your chances of being hired.
There really is no excuse for bad spelling and grammar in your resume in this day and age, with programs like Grammarly and every Microsoft Office software offering spellcheck and grammar suggestions.
Finding a spelling or grammar mistake in a resume or cover letter can indicate a lack of attention to detail, basic typing and Microsoft Word skills, and other soft skills that employers expect from every job applicant.
Remember to check and double check your application and have a friend or family member read your resume and give you their honest critique before sending your application
Another common resume mistake to avoid is the file format that you use when saving your resume. Make sure you use an up-to-date format that can be read by every device (.pdfs are the most preferred file format), and save your document with an easy-to-remember filename so that employers can find you easily when whittling down candidates.
Now is not the time to let your potential employer know that you applied to their rival company 4 times before settling for them by using the filename ‘PizzaHutApplication5.pdf’.
This is the area where most people struggle when writing their resume, and it may be that employers themselves don’t even realize that they’re being put off a candidate because of something like their lack of action verbs.
As previously mentioned, make sure your application includes all of the keywords and buzzwords that are in the job description, but be subtle. It’s obvious to hiring managers when a candidate has pretty much copied and pasted their job posting and made it apply to themselves.
Instead of stating that you made a difference to former employers, you need to show how you did it better than anyone else and what challenges you overcame in the process. Include a professional summary at the beginning of your resume that gets straight to the point and highlights exactly what your skills and expertise are and how you will benefit their company.
Employers want to read about results, not duties. While your role at your previous company may have been primarily to make coffee and file paper, use action verbs and specific results to show exactly what you brought to the table that made you indispensable.
For example, a sentence like ‘helped to plan the schedule of my manager, organized meetings, and sorted the filing cabinet’ can be reworked to include action verbs and accomplishments like, ‘orchestrated meetings with superiors, and corresponded with colleagues to establish a clear plan of action’ and ‘monitored paperwork and created an efficient and effective system to ensure deadlines were met’.
Try to focus on the goals and outcomes of each task, rather than the task itself, to really sell yourself.
It’s tempting to want your resume to stand out by being so eye-catching and flamboyant that the hiring manager will be so intrigued by your creativity that they hire you on the spot. But being too creative in your resume can also be your downfall.
Employers and hiring managers can read through hundreds of resumes for the same position, so they need to be able to find exactly what they’re looking for quickly and easily.
Depending on your experience, keep your resume as short and sweet as possible. If you’re a recent graduate without much work experience then your resume shouldn’t exceed one page. If you’ve been around the block and have dipped your fingers into many pies that all come together to make you the perfect candidate for this role, you need to keep your resume to the two sides of double-sided paper and highlight the skills and accomplishments that are the most relevant to the role you’re applying for.
Use white space and bold lettering appropriately to draw attention to the details that are the most important. Your previous job title is more important than the name of the company, even if it was NASA, and your job descriptions are more important than your airbrushed photo.
Bullet points are great for listing responsibilities, accomplishments, and key skills. But try not to repeat the same points for each of your previous roles, even if they were pretty similar.
Your choice font is also important in your resume. Size 10 font should be the smallest size anyone has to read, and while your font style can make you stand out, it should be easy-to-read and appropriate for the role for which you are applying.
We’ve talked about how to word the details of your resume, but you also need to make sure that the details are accurate and consistent throughout your professional presence.
Many employers will look up a client on LinkedIn or other social media channels, and if there are inconsistencies with dates or email addresses, roles or responsibilities, they will be put off and see you as untruthful and deceptive.
Include your reference in your resume, rather than ‘available on request’ and make sure that their contact information is accurate and up-to-date.
You will also want to pay attention to your own contact details by providing a phone number on which the employer can easily reach you - not your grandparents’ house - and include a consistent and professional email address.
With 70 per cent of hiring managers saying that they will reject a candidate before reaching the end of their resume if they spot a deal-breaker, these common resume writing mistakes can, and should be avoided when job hunting, to give you the best chance possible to land your dream job and impress your future employers.
For more advice on job hunting and preparing for your new career, read 5 Job Search Tips That Will Land You Your Dream Job on our blog.