Five Mistakes People Make on Resumes

How long do you think that HR looks at a resume, on average?  Cover your eyes and take a guess.

The answer, according to The Ladders is 7.4 seconds.  Yes, only a few seconds!  

What does that mean to the job seeker?  You have only seconds to make an impression, and you cannot afford to make mistakes that might cause your resume to be passed over. 

Despite much information and conventional wisdom about resumes, I see many things that resume writers could do better.  These are some of the worst offenders.  

  • Omitting a summary statement—When we look at a standard 8.5 x 11 or A4 page, our eyes naturally go first to the area about a quarter to a third from the top of the page.  This is what I call the prime real estate.  Use this to your advantage and include a summary of your key skills and experience tailored to the position.  It’s a waste of this prime real estate to state your desired position.  If you didn’t want the position in question, you wouldn’t be applying.  The summary can be written either in short statements or bullet points.
  • Choosing a complicated format—Resumes with multiple colors, columns, and text boxes stand out but sometimes in a bad way.  When I’m looking for a candidate’s education, it’s not helpful to have to hunt around and find it in the left margin.  Using a standard format shows respect for your reader.  HR reads many resumes and wants to find the standard information in the usual places.
  • Not providing contact information—While it’s becoming more common for candidates to leave off their physical address for reasons of safety and security, it’s not ok to leave off your telephone number and email address.  You should provide both so that HR can contact you using the method that best fits their work processes.  Please don’t try to make us contact you in the way that best suits you because it might not happen.  Many times, I’ve made contact by email to set up an interview and later find that I don’t have a telephone number.  I suggest at least providing your location—both city and state.  If an employer is not going to consider telework or to hiring someone from your location because of local labor laws, putting that information on the table later is not helpful.
  • Writing a job description vs. resume—Many candidates regurgitate their job description as a summary of their employment.  Employers want to know not only what you did but how you did it.  They want to see your accomplishments, and this will make you stand out from many other candidates.  I recommend a short narrative of phrases that describe the job with bullet points underneath that list for your accomplishments.  
  • Errors in dates, typos, or bad grammar—I see resumes that have not been adequately proofread.  HR operates under the assumption that how you present yourself in the recruiting process is the best version of you that we’ll ever see.  Don’t make a potential employer question your work quality.

Basically, this advice is aimed toward helping the reader find the information they need quickly.

Make those 7.5 seconds count and get your resume noticed!