Resume Mistakes and Passive Words Don’t Win Jobs

Frustrated with her lack of traction in a job search, a former student asked me to review her resume over the weekend. Since most of my courses include a discussion about the importance of resumes, I was surprised that hers missed key elements of an effective resume. In fact, she was guilty of violating five of the six common resume mistakes.

The main issue with most resumes today is that they’re loaded with too much irrelevant information. Hers was 2 1/2 pages long due to multiple, lengthy bullet points for each prior job. It read like a job description and did not reflect her actual experience and accomplishments. Rule #1: Keep your resume short with a no more than five accomplishments under the most recent position and then steadily reduce the number of bullets for earlier positions.

A wordy, cover-all-bases objective statement is unnecessary for entry-level jobs. In fact, if it misses the point, the hiring manager might stop reading before getting to the substance of your resume. Save the space. Your objective is to get a job, so get right to the point. No need for an objective or goal statement unless you are a limiting your search to something very specific and don’t want to be considered for other opportunities.

Resumes also shouldn’t include photos or home addresses. The latter is hard to resist, but an email address and phone number are the only essentially contact elements necessary for a resume heading. One HR manager told me that a physical address might be distracting–especially if a hiring manager is concerned about a potential employee’s commute time.

Replace boring verbs with ones that connote action. Words like increased, achieved, increased and expanded followed by measurable results catch attention of hiring managers.

Spend some time on the design of your resume. Avoid bullet points under bullet points. Keep the format clean and simple with sufficient white space so the eye doesn’t get tired looking at type. Never use less than 11-point type–12 point is preferred. And unless you’re applying for the role of creative director, don’t use colored or off-size paper that you might think will catch someone’s eye. Check out the resume formats of friends who landed jobs or select one of the resume templates available from Microsoft.

Finally, don’t rely entirely on Spell Check to catch your typos. Dropping the letter “l” from public won’t be caught by Spell Check, but it definitely will raise an eyebrow with hiring managers at public relations agencies. Carefully proof read and have a trusted friend do the same.

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