By Shannan Buckley, Recruiting and Operations Specialist
No matter how strong your experience and background may be, if you can’t put it together in your resume, you’re going to have a very hard time landing a job interview. We review dozens of resumes every week, and have found that even the most experienced professionals can make a mistake on their resume. Here are a few of the most common types of errors:
- The wrong focus: Your resume should show why you are a good fit for the job you are applying for. This tends to trip up people who are applying for jobs with a different focus than their current role, career changers, and recent grads. If you do both recruiting and PD but are applying for a pure recruiting role, you need to make sure your recruiting experience pops. If you’re an attorney who wants to go into PD, you need to highlight training programs you’ve been involved with. If you’re a recent grad, make sure to focus on your most relevant internships and jobs, not the ones you liked the best. Colleges look for well-rounded applicants, but firms and companies want focus.
- Careless mistakes: Your resume not only demonstrates your experience, it demonstrates your ability to craft a document. We have seen qualified candidates have their resumes immediately rejected because of small mistakes, such as putting down the wrong end date for a position, or misspelling the name of their employer.
- Bad formatting: You need to put as much time into the presentation of your resume as you do with its content. That means ensuring clean, consistent formatting throughout. Misaligned bullet points, inconsistent spacing, or an overwhelming font can all make your resume look sloppy and unprofessional.
Sometimes when editing your own resume, it can be hard to know where to start. People often aren’t aware which mistakes they need to look out for. I’ve put together this comprehensive checklist to help you get your resume just right. It starts with the content and ends with the format, and is based on the most common resume mistakes we’ve seen. I encourage you to go through it and ask yourself each of these questions. If the answer to each question is “yes,” then your resume is ready to submit!
- Do you clearly demonstrate you have the necessary skills and experience for the job? Read the job description again and customize!
- Do your most important skills and experiences pop?
- If you are using the word “relevant” before a section, are the things you list actually relevant to the job you are applying for?
- If you include an objective, does it actually fit the job you are applying for? (You could also just delete this section.)
- Have you deleted your interests section? (These sections take up valuable space, have nothing to do with the job at hand, and can distract your interviewer. Delete it and fill that space with something more useful!)
- Do you have the correct dates listed for each job?
- Did you really do everything you say you did? (Recent grads, people can tell when you try too hard to puff up your work accomplishments!)
- Do you specify which positions were temp/contact/internships? Contrary to what your instincts may be, this is actually helpful to you, as it quickly explains the reason for a short tenure.
- Will a hiring manager understand the terms and acronyms you use? This is especially important for people changing industries!
- Have you deleted any unnecessary links (i.e. a personal blog) or organizational affiliations (i.e. volunteer work with a controversial organization) that an employer might misinterpret or be put off by?
- Does your resume demonstrate your professionalism? Jokes and cutesy references do NOT belong on your resume!
- Are all your proper nouns capitalized and your common nouns lowercase?
- When you capitalize a word, do you do so consistently?
- Are all of the verbs for previous jobs in past tense? Sometimes people forget verbs in the middle of a bullet!
- Are you consistently using (or not using!) oxford commas? That’s the optional comma before “and” in a list.
- Have you checked for and deleted any excess spaces between words and sentences?
- Does every bullet point end with the same kind of punctuation?
- Have you googled and applied any grammatical rules you weren’t sure about?
- Is your font clean, professional-looking, and easy to read? If you aren’t sure what font to use, I highly recommend Garamond.
- Are your bullet points indented an equal amount, including bullets for different jobs?
- Do you use consistent line spacing between each job/section/bullet/etc.?
- Are you using the same format for each date listed, with the same sized dash each time, and with the same spacing on either side of the dash?
- Are you using fonts consistently between sections (i.e. putting all job titles in italics)?
- If you have two pages, does the break fall in a good place? Make sure there isn’t an extra line from a previous section hanging out at the top of your second page.
- Does it look right when you print it?