This article discusses five common resume mistakes, according to career and recruitment specialists. It’ll help you avoid common pitfalls so you can present yourself to your potential employer as competent, professional, and employable. Remember that heavens help those who learn from others’ mistakes and put online resume help to proper use.
One of the most frequent resume mistakes is spelling. This includes using similar-sounding words in the wrong place, eg accept / except, affect / effect. Spelling mistakes can easily make you look unprofessional, sloppy or uneducated.
Recruitment Agent Ekta Chauhan suggests you perform a spell check in Microsoft Word, then ask a friend or relative to read through it and make sure that the sentences and grammar make sense, that it’s not too long or short, and you haven’t missed anything.
Layout is the way your resume is formatted and presented. Paying attention to layout is important because employers make assumptions about people based on what they see in a resume.
“It’s a first impression thing. A sloppy resume equals a sloppy person. This is the feedback we get from employers,” Recruitment Agent Elizabeth Abbott notes.
She also has some specific advice for the IT industry. “IT people in general write very bad resumes. They try and cram everything on one page. They use lots of bald facts – very dense, too many bullet points. They try and make the font smaller and the gaps between them tiny to fit on one page.”
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The number of pages in your resume is very important. Too long and no one will read it. Not enough information and you might miss out on an opportunity.
Career Adviser Katie Roberts says she sees resumes up to 10 pages or longer. This is too long. “The ideal length varies by country – in the US, it tends to be 1-2 pages. In the UK and Australia the ideal resume is 3-4 pages.”
Elizabeth adds “I say to job hunters, you don’t have to give employers a blow-by-blow account of everything you’ve ever done – tempt them to ask for more. You can summarize what you did before 1990 – this helps cut the length down.”
Personal details include photographs of yourself, date of birth, religion, politics, marital status and so on.
Elizabeth cautions against putting this sort of information in your resume, as it provides the opportunity for discrimination (whether intentional or not). “You allow people to make an assumption about you without considering your skills.”
Katie Roberts suggests you should only include a photo if it’s relevant to the job. “It’s common for actors and models, or where it’s been requested, but not for standard jobs.”
Also be aware that it’s very easy these days for a potential employer to Google you and discover information online (for example your Facebook profile, or personal blogs) that might present you in an unflattering light.
The Scattergun Approach
The scattergun approach is using the same generic resume / cover letter for every job. This is a bad approach. At best, it fails to highlight specific skills and experience which can put you ahead of the competition. At worst, it demonstrates you haven’t bothered to read the job advertisement.
As a Recruitment Agent, Elizabeth says she tracks who’s applying for jobs. “We get people who apply for everything with the same cover letter and resume. Trust me, the scattergun approach doesn’t work.”
Ekta adds “I think a common mistake is not reading the job ad properly, and then applying for something that’s way out of your league, or something you don’t have relevant experience for.”
Tailor your resume and cover letter for every job by highlighting your relevant skills and experience. Avoid using copy and paste / generic letters or resumes.