Top 5 Mistakes I See as a Certified Professional Resume Writer

I write resumes for a living. That’s what I do. I help people get jobs, or at least I help people take what is often the first step of getting a new job. I help all sorts of people in their job search pursuits, from recent college grads who don’t have a clue to over-the-hill boomers who aren’t in sync with today’s job market.

I help everyday job seekers trying to get ahead, those seeking career advancement, those in career transitions and more. Yet as diverse as my clients are, I see the same mistakes again and again when I write resumes regardless of the client’s particular background.

Here Are the Top 5 Resume Writing Slip-ups I See as a Certified Professional Resume Writer:

1.  They Don’t Seek the Help of a Professional Resume Writer Fast Enough
I see this one all the time and it perplexes me.  Clients who decide to hire the help of a Certified Professional Resume Writer only after they have been unemployed or underemployed for a year or longer. I don’t understand why people wait so long. Paying for professional resume writing services isn’t that expensive; it is surely something people can budget for.

After all, a job-winning resume pays for itself in no time. And let me add here that not every job seeker needs to hire a professional resume writer. But if you have actively been seeking a new job for several months and your efforts have proved fruitless, then please don’t wait to get the help you need.

2.  The Grisly, Poorly Formatted Resume
Though we might not want to admit it, most people including hiring managers and those in HR, are going to pass judgment on you based on the presentation or the outward appearance of your resume. This is human nature. I am especially bothered by a resume with good content but with slipshod formatting because I believe that to be an unfortunate waste.

Sloppy resumes make a bad first impression and scream lazy; they are like showing up to a job interview with spilled mustard on your tie and parsley in your teeth. Those in HR are flooded with resumes and a poorly formatted one gives them an easy excuse to trash it before they read a word.  So if you want anyone to take you or your resume writing seriously, take some time to format it properly.

3.  The Generic Objective Statement in Your Resume Writing
I see this one far too often despite so much information out there talking about how objective statements are dated and practically meaningless. Instead, use that all-important top-of-the-page section to sell yourself in a short summary that highlights your skills, accomplishments and experience.

You can include a specific objective within the summary, “seeking a leadership position in marketing and sales,” for instance. But it should be within the larger context of your background summary. For a recruiter, few things are worse than reading, “Actively seeking employment opportunity at a good company.” To that, my response is, “Yeah, you and everybody else on the planet. Next.”

4.  Far Too Much or Far Too Little Information
I’ve worked with management-level clients who provide me a five-page resume detailing every job they’ve ever had since they graduated high school 20 years ago. On the other hand, I’ve also worked with director-level clients who provide two or three little generic sentences per job, such as

“Responsible for business operations.”
“Managed a team of 15.”
“Oversaw supply chain.”

Information such as this is no better than a basic job description and it forces the reader to guess what the person actually did, a task the hiring manager is unlikely to do. Instead aim for 4-7 meaningful bullet points per job including both descriptive and achievement-oriented information. This is not an absolute rule but it should provide some guidance in your resume writing regarding length.

5.  Resume Writing with Potentially Discriminatory Information
As a Certified Professional Resume Writer, I still see plenty of resumes with identifying content that should be left out, such as age, race, country of origin, religion, etc.  Clients who are not native to the U.S. may not understand the somewhat unspoken rules about what to omit and to include in a resume. And many clients who haven’t had to write resume in 20-plus years may not realize the rules have changes.

There are, however, a few exceptions when it may be okay to include this sort of identifiable information. For example, if you are applying for a teaching position at a catholic school, you may opt to include “member of St. Michael’s Catholic Church” under your association or membership section. The key here is to do this subtly and without elaborating.

86 Keys is a full-service resume writing company offering results-getting resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn Profiles and more to job-seekers of all levels, professions and industries.

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