You’ve heard all the standard rules: ditch the objective statement; double and triple check for typos; lose the “References Available” line.
A good resume avoids the failings from the typical list of blunders, but that alone won’t keep you out of the dreaded trash pile.
When it comes to writing a great resume, there are six mistakes you need to avoid if you want a document that sets you up for success and hones in on your unique personal brand.
1. It’s not about you.
This is the hardest pill for most people to swallow. Your resume is about you in that it tells your career story. The focus on you ends there.
It is critical that you keep in mind who your audience is: a prospective employer, a potential investor, future clients, etc. Your resume serves as the proof of your worth, not a professional biography.
It’s a quick and dirty time capsule of your contributions and the work you’ve done that’s made you who you are today. Think of it as your greatest hits from the past 10 years.
The person reading it needs to know what you can do for them, how you can help their bottom line, and how you’ll fit into their mission.Your resume is personal, which is why it is easier to have someone objective write it for you. Too much attachment can get in the way, so you must force yourself to be cutthroat and limit what you include.
Every item you place on your resume should be about the value you deliver and how you’ve solved problems your audience is facing. You get six seconds to make an impression and you need to make that time count by giving your reader what they need, rather than feeding your ego.
2. Set the tone right from the start.
The first third of your resume needs to capture your unique selling points. You set the tone for the rest of the resume right here and that little bit of personal branding goes a long way. Too many people fill this section with a generic sounding summary that is completely nondescript: experienced salesman; hard-working operations manager; results driven leader.
These statements tell a reader nothing real about you. Basically, it sounds like you Googled how to write a resume and copied and pasted sample statements.
You need to hit the reader with the main reasons you’re great at your job, proof of how you’ve succeeded, and an outline of your areas of expertise. It should explain in no uncertain terms why you’re the right person for their business and entice them to keep reading.
A brief two- to three-sentence summary and a short list of hard skills are what you need to nail this section. If you don’t, the rest of your resume will get less than a skim.
3. Length matters.
The average attention span is short. People want information in bite-size chunks, and your resume is no different.
In an effort to make sure your document is laser focused on your best assets and isn’t overwhelming people with mundane details, set a one-page limit. This will require you to trim the fat and what remains should be all your very best material. That is what you should always be leading with and a shorter resume leaves you no alternative.
4. Remove one particular from your resume vocabulary.
“Responsible for” is a resume killer. It speaks to the bare minimum, hardly a high bar to climb. Starting off sections this way doesn’t tell anyone about the work you did–it tells them only what you were supposed to do.
Listing duties is for suckers. No one wants to read a regurgitation of your job description. It provides no substantive proof, and if you are bragging about your responsibilities on a resume, you come off as a simple button pusher.
Instead, showcase ways you were an asset and made a meaningful impact using strong quantifiable details. This gives your work scope and something substantial for people to really grab onto.
5. Repetition = boring.
Most resumes bore HR reps to tears. They sound the same, they look the same, and in some cases, descriptions are copied and pasted from one job to the next. That isn’t the way to prove expertise. That’s how you make eyeballs glaze over.
If you have a long work history, many of your roles likely overlap. HR is keenly aware of this fact without any reminders from you. Make the smart choice to leverage each position as a way to illustrate something new about your skill set.
Vary your examples to capture all that you can do you, not that you’ve done the same thing over and over. That doesn’t create a sense of mastery. It creates boredom and lack of understanding on your part about how to present your worth.
6. Use bullet points wisely.
The use of bullet points for drawing attention to essential information cannot be overstated. I encourage them in both cover letters and resumes. No one wants to sort through long paragraphs anymore; they just don’t have the time.
This, however, doesn’t give you the freedom to include as many as you like. When overused, bullets no longer lead the eye around the resume. Stacked together they create a dense area of text and defeat their entire purpose of being.
When it comes to using bullet points for maximum impact stick to this guideline: Your most recent role can include up to four; subsequent roles should have three or fewer.
If you’re writing your resume correctly, this shouldn’t be a problem. Your bullet points are the supporting evidence for the perception you built at the very beginning of your resume. They are meant to highlight your most standout achievements or contributions, not to cram in every duty and responsibility.
Take these six typical fails and turn them around and not only will you write a stronger resume, but you’ll also discover your core value.
Being able to talk about your own work, and understanding what you bring to the table, will benefit you in every aspect of your professional journey.