In this economy, it’s hard to find a job even with the best resume. Make sure you’re not stacking the odds against yourself by making common resume mistakes. Following these 10 warnings can save your resume from ending up in the “circular file” – more commonly known as the trash can.
1. Don’t try to write a one-size-fits-all resume.
Do you like getting spam in your inbox? No? Do you delete e-mails as soon as you figure out that the exact same message has been sent to hundreds of other people and contains nothing that personally interests you?
Well, hiring managers are just like you. They ignore spam. If you’re shooting off the same resume and generic cover letter to every help wanted ad, you’re spamming. And if you’re not going to put effort into your first contact with an employer, why would they expect you to put effort into your work as an employee?
Instead, practice customizing your resume for each position. If you have no idea which type of position you want to apply for, it’s time to do some market research. You can start by checking out Monster or CareerBuilder, or finding a job search engine specific to your industry or career objectives. Practice identifying what each employer is looking for and including those same keywords in your resume and cover letter.
2. Don’t put “Resume” at the top of your resume.
This isn’t a deadly resume mistake, but it is a waste of space. Would you title your autobiography Book? OK, so a resume isn’t an autobiography, but the point is, it should be obvious at a glance that the document you’re presenting is a resume.
3. Don’t use an e-mail address that reflects an unprofessional image.
If you were a hiring manager, you probably wouldn’t hire sexigurl3872 or crzyguy777. If you don’t have a professional e-mail address, make one now. Gmail is a popular option. Try some combination of your first, middle, and last name, with as few numbers as possible.
4. Don’t include Twitter information unless it’s for a professional networking or other business-related account.
Twitter can be a useful tool for professional networking, but that’s not how most people use it. If you do have a conservatively-named Twitter account that you use solely for business, you may want to include it, but leave off personal accounts.
5. Don’t include a generic objective.
This is a common resume mistake. If you ask us, it’s best not to include a resume objective at all. If everyone were completely straightforward and honest, here’s what everyone’s objective would look like: “To obtain the job I’m applying for.” Instead of writing an objective that’s all about what you want, think about what kind of person the hiring manager wants to find, and how you can meet their needs. Then, include this information in a resume summary instead.
6. Don’t include salary information.
This is in poor taste. Besides, if an employer really wants to know, they’ll ask.
7. Don’t include references on your resume.
The hiring manager will assume you have at least three references available, so it’s a mistake to waste valuable space dropping names on your resume. If you need to fill up white space, for example, on a student resume, you can write “references available upon request” at the bottom. This should be centered and in italics. You should always bring a list of references to the interview anyway.
8. Don’t include religious or political affiliations – unless you can do it discreetly.
The problem with including religious or political affiliations is that they can open you up to discrimination. This can get tricky when it comes to civic leadership or community service roles. If you volunteer for a religious entity, such as a church, the hiring manager might assume you’re a member of the associated religion. The same is true for positions related to politics.
If you want to include these anyway, you can try being intentionally vague. For example, if you volunteered as an editor to help an activist group bring in funds, you could say “Edited a proposal that earned a $_ private grant.” You may also be able to get away with abbreviations, although using abbreviations is usually considered unprofessional. Basically, only present this information if you can do it in a way that will not be controversial.
9. Don’t write why you left your previous jobs.
This is a resume mistake because it’s TMI – too much information! Again, if they really want to know, they’ll ask. Keep in mind you don’t have to include every job you’ve ever had on your resume anyway.
10. Don’t make your resume longer than it needs to be.
A one-page resume isn’t mandatory, but it is enough for most job seekers. Remember, your resume is an advertisement for you. You can crop out information that isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for. High school students, college students, recent graduates, and other entry-level employees should all have a one page resume.
Now, if you’ve had an especially long and varied career, a two-page resume may be right for you. Three pages is generally regarded as the maximum, usually used when applying for special positions. Just be aware that the average employer spends 20 seconds reviewing your resume for the first time. How many pages can you read in 20 seconds?
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, we offer a resume and career products that can help you craft the perfect resume for you and your career goals. Also, keep in mind that one resume mistake won’t necessarily doom you. But, if you’re serious about finding a job, it’s worth it to present the most professional resume you can. Your competition will.