When you apply for a job, most recruiters look at your resume for only six to ten seconds. It’s vital to avoid anything that will bore them or turn them off! When you’re competing against dozens or hundreds of applicants, even seemingly minor flaws can trigger an employer to put your resume in the reject pile.
Here are five things to avoid if you want to save your resume from the black hole of rejection:
1. Clichés & Buzzwords
Clichés are words and phrases that too many people are using on their resumes. HR staffers get so tired of seeing them!
According to a recent survey, the following words are most commonly overused in resumes. With thousands of other job applicants using these terms, you can stand out by not using them:
Recruiters want facts, not fluff. If you want to describe yourself with colorful adjectives, make sure you support the hype with hard evidence about your actual accomplishments. In other words, you need to show, not just tell.
Boost your credibility with specific, quantifiable statistics, results, achievements, examples, and so forth. Instead of claiming that you’re passionate or enthusiastic, demonstrate it by filling your social media with status updates about work, reflecting your engagement and excitement.
Here are some additional clichés that have become practically invisible to recruiters, if not outright annoying:
- Excellent oral and written communication skills
- Guru or ninja
- Hard worker
- References upon request
- Responsible for
- Results oriented
- Team player
2. Dull Writing
You’ve heard that it’s important to align your resume with the job description. However, some applicants go too far and copy exact phrases from the job description. This is not a good idea! It comes across as lazy and unoriginal. Put in the effort to say things in your own words.
Also, double-check your resume to make sure you’re not stating the obvious. Don’t say you know how to use the Internet or Microsoft Word! If you’ve earned some official software certifications, however, go ahead and share those.
Another mistake to avoid is a self-focused “objective” statement at the top of your resume. Instead of talking about what you want from a job, give a snapshot of what you can do for the potential employer. In three or four sentences, highlight your skills and experience, express what you’re best at, and summarize how you can provide value to the company.
Take care about using job-specific jargon or acronyms. Remember, in many companies your resume must first clear the HR hurdle, and these generalists might not understand an overly technical resume. Make your resume user friendly for people outside your specific field.
Also, don’t use big words unnecessarily just to sound more intelligent or capable. Recruiters and hiring managers can see right through that. Keep it simple and direct, with strong supporting evidence.
3. Off-Putting Details
It’s good to strategically include some personal, humanizing details in your resume, but be careful. If you’re involved in a controversial cause or organization, it might be best to leave that volunteer work off your resume. You don’t want to give someone an easy excuse for rejecting you.
Some people like to include their hobbies and interests on a resume. However, this is probably not a good idea unless the hobby directly relates to your work skills. Listing offbeat or random interests can come across as a lack of focus. As one employment expert put it, “Hiring managers probably don’t care if you love basketball, are active in your book club, or are a member of a Dungeons and Dragons group.”
Unfortunately, discrimination is still a problem in our society. Some people don’t even consciously realize that they’re discriminating against others. While laws exist against workplace discrimination, these laws can be hard to enforce. It’s best not to include anything on your resume that someone could discriminate against, such as your age, race, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, or national origin.
If you have a gap of several years in your employment, don’t try to hide it. Instead, describe your activities during that time in a way that supports your career preparation. Be upbeat and confident.
4. Being Too Long or Fancy
If possible, limit your resume to one page, especially if you have less than ten years of career experience. At the same time, don’t try to cram too much info onto one page. With so much competition, you want to keep your resume easy for hirers to skim and absorb.
Use a readable font size, and leave some eye-friendly white space. Break up overlong paragraphs. Keep bullets to one or two lines each, and don’t use too many bullets. Highlight important info by using bold, italics, all caps, or underlining, but don’t overdo.
Another pitfall to avoid is including too much past information. For example, there’s probably no reason to include anything about your high school years. “Instead, focus on highlighting your education, relevant internships, and the leadership skills you’ve developed during college,” advises one expert.
“If you’re further along in your career, limit your resume to the most recent 15 years of experience in reverse-chronological order. Remove the dates from any degrees, certifications, or awards that fall outside that 15-year window.”
Rather than spending much time on resume design, search online for resume templates and pick a good one.
5. Communication Mistakes
When a recruiter puts your resume in the “possible” pile, it should be easy for them to contact you. Provide your cell phone number rather than a home line. Make sure your voice mail greeting sounds professional. Ditto for your email address.
Also, don’t forget to provide the URL to your professional profile on LinkedIn or elsewhere. According to a Jobvite survey, “93 percent of recruiters are likely to look at a job candidate’s social profile.” Providing the right URL prevents an employer from finding someone else with your same name. Your resume and online profile don’t have to be identical, but they should support and reinforce each other, not send any contradictory messages.
Consider your resume to be a public document. Don’t include anything private or confidential. Use this test: If you wouldn’t be comfortable with a detail appearing in a newspaper, don’t put it in your resume either.
To check how you’re coming across to employers, try running your resume through a word cloud generator, such as TagCrowd. “This will create an image representing the most frequent words, with the most common ones showing up larger and darker,” explains one expert. “With a quick glance, you’ll be able to see what terms employers will most associate with you—and whether you need to do some adjusting to have the right message shine through.”
Of course, you’ll want to double-check and triple-check your resume for errors. Here’s another tip: It’s better to send your resume as a PDF file rather than as a Word file. Word files can lose their formatting when opened on a different computer. With a PDF, your resume formatting will stay put.
By paying attention to these five areas, you can improve your employment prospects.
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