Today I’ll be writing some quick thoughts I have about resumes. Before I go any farther let me preface this by saying that I know how hard everyone in a job search works on a resume. It is a deeply personal thing and sometimes having it critiqued can be really painful. Please know that when people critique your resume they are only trying to be of assistance and it isn’t meant to offend you. Also, resume writing is more of an art than a science. There is no one true way to do one and every “expert” has different suggestions about formatting, layouts, fonts and whatnot. This article won’t tell you how to write a resume. Instead I’m just going to point out some common mistakes that I see people making that puts them at a disadvantage. Here goes!!!
Before I launch into a diatribe about paragraphs I want you to read this:
XYZ Burgers Anytown, USA
Burger Flipper 2009 – Present
Started the day by opening up restaurant and turning on the lights. I then spent my mornings making sure that the hamburger patties were thawed out so I could flip them. I then turned on the grill so I could cook the burgers. At 11:00 I opened the store and waited for customers to come in. Once a burger was ordered I put it on the grill and waited for it to cook. Once it was cooked on one side I flipped it – sometimes I flipped it twice for good quality control. After the burger was cooked I put it on a bun for customer satisfaction. At the end of the day I put the burgers back in the freezer, turned off the lights and locked the door on the way out.
XYZ Burgers Anytown, USA
Burger Flipper 2009 – Present
Opened and closed the store including the thawing of burgers
Maintained customer satisfaction with prompt service
So which one would you read? Which one gives the information necessary with an economy of words? The fact of the matter is that people are inherently busy and lazy. People that read resumes more than likely have several other jobs that they are working on and if you make reading your resume a chore you run the risk of them not reading it. Essentially your resume is a one page advertisement designed to make people want to learn more about you. If you put too much information in they won’t want to know more about you because they will never read it. Wait – “But I’m really important and I have so many great qualities that the only way I can get this across is by writing the great American novel.” First of all, I have no question that you have numerous skills – my mom told me I was special too. However, your resume is your opportunity to look your best. You don’t need to look like Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin unless you are applying to be a renaissance man. Instead, pick your top MOST RELEVANT skills and make sure that they are highlighted.
2. Personal Information
OK – so when I put personal information down I’m not talking about your name, address, phone number and email address. What I am talking about is the things people put on that makes it look like they are posting their resume on E-harmony. There are a lot of people that feel the need to end their resume with a section titled Interests or Hobbies or even Personal Information. They then proceed to write something like this:
Hobbies: Candy making, miming, movies, reading
Interests: Sports, gardening, crocheting
Marital Status: Yes – three kids
This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, all you need to do is share that you like “long walks in the beach” and you might find a new email friend. So I guess I’m saying that the first problem is that it looks stupid – fortunately if you are good you can overcome this. The second problem is much harder to overcome though. If anything you put on there gives potentially discriminatory information by identifying yourself as being in a protected class you will be making the HR person very uncomfortable. There are some HR people that automatically discard any resume with this type of information in order to avoid potential EEOC liabilities. Look, I know why people do it. A resume seems very impersonal and you want the resume to show that you are a real person too. Your resume just isn’t the right place. So – Leave the info of – let you personality come through in an interview.
3. Objective and Summary Statement
This is something that is less about being stupid and more about changes in style. Twenty years ago we were all taught that you start out your resume with a slick all encompassing statement. Invariably they all looked like this:
To find a new job with a great company where I can use my powers of awesomeness to the best of my ability.
Sounds great right? Wrong! The truth of the matter is that there is virtually nothing said in an objective statement that isn’t either implied or said somewhere else. So it is pretty much completely redundant and a vestigial tail of sorts. But I need to write an objective! Here are all of the reasons why and my responses:
I need to tell them I’m looking for a new job – You sent them your resume, right?
I need them to know how awesome I am – you put your accomplishments in your resume right?
They need to know that I’m looking for a strong company – You sent them your resume – if they aren’t strong it’s kind of your fault for not doing due diligence
I’m looking to change professions and need to state it – 1. this should be in a cover letter – 2. You shouldn’t bank your hopes that someone will think outside of the box about you based on two sentences at the top of a typed page.
I’m not going to beat this one to death. Errors make you look sloppy. Period end of story. I’ll be honest – with me it depends on the day when I see an error on a resume. Sometimes I correct it and move on. Other days I fantasize about ridiculing them. However, you can sometimes overcome spelling errors. The errors that I think are much harder to overcome are when your dates don’t add up or when you tell me something different than what is on your resume. This makes people think that you are lying…
5. Omitting Information
Something new that I’m seeing is that people don’t include either their phone number, address or their email address on their resumes. I totally understand the reasons behind each of these:
No Phone – stops all of the straight commission sales opportunity people from calling you when you post your resume on CareerBuilder or Monster
No Email – Not sure on this one – Probably because they updated an old resume from before the days of email
No Address – We are in a post post office world. Why put your address – people will never send you anything in the mail
Here’s the problem with each of these. If you don’t put your phone number on, you can’t be called. I know that sounds crazy but some people prefer to communicate by voice instead of email. Not having an email address is an even bigger problem. Voicemails can get deleted, you need to have a second way for someone to get in touch after they leave you a message. Finally, addresses are still relevant. First, not having it on a resume makes it look like you are hiding something because it is expected – remember my recurring theme – you need to do what the man says. Secondly, many recruiters and HR folks assume that when someone leaves an address off of a resume that you are planning to move from out of town and haven’t relocated yet.
Scott began his career in recruiting with much success at the nation’s largest privately owned staffing firm before focusing his efforts on insurance with Capstone. Scott’s focus at Capstone is developing relationships with individuals considering a career change along with offering advice on résumé writing, interviewing, and technological resources available for job seekers. Scott is a graduate of Grand View University in Des Moines, IA and in his spare time enjoys spending time with his family and pets, gardening, and cheering on the Iowa Hawkeyes.