Six Seconds. That’s the average amount of time a recruiter is going to spend looking at your resume. That’s it. When every second counts, little blunders snowball into outright rejection in the blink of an eye. You want your resume to stand out, but make sure it’s not for the wrong reasons!
These days, sometimes a hiring manager isn’t even the first to review your resume – it’s often picked apart by software that can scan your resume for certain keywords or phrases and assign a score based on how good a match your resume is with the job posting. Only if you beat the bot can you get your six precious seconds to impress a recruiter.
Want to know what to avoid so you can make the most of those six precious seconds? Check, double check, and triple check that you’re dodging these resume bloopers before your hit submit!
Nothing sticks out more a missing word. Or soemthing that’s been misspelled. Our brains are trained to detect errors like this, so even innocent misspellings or dropped words raise red flags that signal to recruiters that A) you’re careless or B) you’re unqualified.
The good thing is that sending out a typo-riddled resume is easily avoidable! Go through your resume with a fine-toothed comb on your own, and then send it over to a friend or parent for a second read-through. This will help you catch typos, missing words, or weird grammar rules that you might’ve glossed over.
2. Sloppy Organization
Resumes aren’t typically known for being entertaining bodies of work. The whole point of a resume is to clearly lay out the qualifications that make you a good fit for the job. “Artsy” design decisions can come off as distracting, unless you’re applying for a design-focused position. Choose a basic, simple font (no Comic Sans, Papyrus, or Magneto!) like Arial or Helvetica. These plain fonts may not have much to offer when it comes to personality, but that’s exactly the point. What should stand out in your resume is your accomplishments, not your choice of crazy fonts, bright colors, or wonky formatting.
Recruiters and hiring managers spend most of their six seconds looking at 4 things: 1) the job titles you’ve held, 2) the companies you’ve worked for, 3) the start and end dates of your employment, and 4) your education. The way you organize your resume should make these 4 things front and center to maximize your chances of getting through to the next round: the interview!
3. Too Long
This tip is two-pronged. First, keep your resume to one page and one page only! (The only exception is if you have many years of experience.) You can fiddle with the margins a bit, but don’t try and cheat the system by using size 8 font. You resume is your introduction to the company. Highlight relevant details of your experience and your most recent education, as this is what your employer will care about the most.
The second point is that more words don’t equate to a better resume. Trying to cram as much information as possible onto your resume is going to result in a cluttered mess. Remember, you get six seconds. Make every word count and use impactful statements that clearly explain your accomplishments.
Pro-Tip: Keep the information from each bullet to two lines or less. One line is ideal!
4. One-Size-Fits-All Resumes
Want to beat that applicant tracking system (AKA: ATS)? You’ve gotta have a resume tailored to the exact job description it’s screening for. Some ATSs are set up to scan through each applicant’s resume looking for certain keywords, which can determine whether or not your application gets seen by a hiring manager.
To make the most of this, review the job description and look for main or repeated phrasing that can apply to your abilities. Unfortunately, what this can mean is creating a customized resume for each job. Using just one resume for all your applications will result in a vague description of your skills that can apply to everything. That’s not to say that you should completely rewrite your resume for each job; keep the overall structure the same and only include your most relevant experience. If you don’t have a lot of experience and need to fill space, designate certain points on your resume that you will change out for each new application you do.
Even if the company you’re applying to doesn’t use an ATS, your resume will resonate with a recruiter better if you sound like the perfect fit on paper.
Pro-Tip: Include the name of the company and position you’re applying for in the file name of your resume to make sure you’re attaching the right documents to the right application!
A picture may be worth 1000 words, but if you add an emoji to your resume, those words will just be “don’t hire” repeated 500 times. Even if you’re applying to a new, hip company, stick to words and words alone. Adding emoji is a sure-fire way to land your resume in the trash.
6. Irrelevant Work Experience
Adding work experience that is completely unrelated to the position you’re applying to will give you no added benefits, it will merely take up precious space. If your prior job experience isn’t related (or you don’t have much to begin with), don’t panic!! Look at ways to relate the experience to the job you’re trying to get by playing up your transferrable skills.
7. Meaningless Clichés
“Hard Worker.” “Team Player.” “Passionate.” While all three of these things are desirable attributes in future employees, they are so over-used that they have become meaningless. Avoid injecting these clichés into your resume. Instead, demonstrate these traits in other ways in your resume by rephrasing them. Use simple, strong action words to signal that you’re someone who gets things done. For example, instead of saying “I’m a passionate team player who works hard,” try “Drove projects to completion with 90% success rate while on a dynamic team.” Describing your experience clearly, concisely and accurately will go much farther with recruiters than empty banalities.
8. Outdated Resume Rules
Today’s job hunt is nothing like when your parents were looking for work. In fact, anyone who hasn’t looked for work in 10 years (or more) doesn’t have a handle on what the job search is like these days. As a result, the advice they give you probably isn’t relevant anymore. First of all, you don’t need an objective statement. It will just pigeonhole you and take up precious space. Secondly, don’t include the phrase “references available upon request,” or even worse, the actual references. Finally, if you haven’t stepped into the 21st century, make the leap! Consider including a link to your professional profile, like LinkedIn.