Resumes are one, maybe two pages of writing that share a brief summary of your professional career. They are maybe 200 to 300 words at most, and they provide only a tiny glimpse of what was years of work experience. Employers are expected to make complicated, long term hiring decisions based on that minimal amount of personal data.
This is why every word on your resume matters. Employers have to be very selective about who they hire, and every mistake you make, no matter how small, tells them that you may not be the right person to invest in.
There are some mistakes that nearly everyone makes
There are some mistakes that nearly everyone makes on their resume, and if you can be the one applicant that doesn’t make these mistakes, an interview is almost a guarantee. The following are several mistakes that you’ll see in nearly every resume:
1. No Specifics
Picture this: The job calls for someone with great communication skills. You have great communication skills, so you put on your resume “Excellent Communication Skills.” You may feel like you did a good job addressing their needs, but in reality all you did was list a cliché that literally everyone else’s resume can also say.
Even the tasks you shared should be specific. If you’re applying to work in a distribution warehouse, for example, “Loaded Trucks” is simply not detailed enough to help you appear any different than someone else that also loaded trucks.
Solution: Don’t tell. Show. Prove that you have these skills by listing something specific on your resume. “Loaded an average of 225 boxes on trucks for distribution” puts specific context into your resume that is unique to you, and helps you stand out compared to others that shared less specific information.
2. “Meh” Achievements
Picture This Again: You work in sales. You have managed to sell $2,500,000 in products. You have a client base of over 1,000 people. You also are very good at organizing your desk.
Two of those things are incredibly impressive. One is much less so. But so many people feel the need to list every possible experience they can, almost as though if they don’t address every single part of their work history they are going to lose out on the job. Yet adding all of this less impressive information only serves to drown out the more valuable experiences you’ve had.
Solution: Evaluate everything you place on your resume. If you’re only putting it there to fill space or because you think there might be a very small chance that the interviewer cares even though it’s not an important part of the position, it may be worth removing.
3. Using Boring Action Verbs
Action verbs are the words that go after bullet points in your resume. They are words like “Managed” and “Provided” and “Assisted.” These action verbs are critical for putting context in your resume. They are also frequently way too boring.
The point of action verbs is to help the company picture you in the role. If your action verb is boring and generic, it doesn’t create that mental image you want to create with your resume.
Solution: Choose industry specific, useful action verbs that are interested and accurate for the job. Rather than “Knowledgeable” and “Provided,” use words like “Catalogued,” “Negotiated,” and “Choreographed.” Consider the words most appropriate for the job that will show that you have real experience.
4. No Keywords
More and more companies are using applicant databases, known as Applicant Tracking Systems in order to review resumes more quickly. These databases search resumes for specific keywords related to the job. Most people do not write resumes with any keywords in mind, and that can mean that even if you have a great resume it’s possible that no one will see it because it doesn’t show up in a search.
Solution: Pay attention to potential keywords as you write your resume. Imagine what a hiring manager may search for, review the job description for hints, and keep the idea of an applicant tracking system in your mind as you write your resume.
5. Copied and Pasted Achievements
Have you sent in a resume to more than two companies? Then there is a 99.9% chance that you copied and pasted a large portion of your resume between them and maybe changed a few words at most to fit the new job.
Now, there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this approach. Resume experts tell you to write a new resume for each job, but not even the most hard working job applicant is going to waste that kind of time. However, far too often the resume is copy and pasted without any second thought, and that can mean that you’re not taking the time to write to each job.
Solution: It’s okay to copy parts of your resume. But do so carefully. Thoroughly do your research by evaluating the job advertisement, the company, and more. Make sure that each and every word is exactly as you would write it if you had written it from scratch. It’s possible you won’t change much, but at least you’ve given it the level of time and attention necessary to ensure that you’re writing to each job.
Avoid Mistakes and Get the Job
If a job opening receives 100 applications, then at least 95 of those applications are going to have all of the mistakes mentioned above. Be the 5% that avoids these common resume mistakes by creating a resume that truly stands out, and one that will be unique and impressive enough to beat your competition and become worthy of an interview.