Resume mistakes can have serious consequences for your career, especially if you don’t catch them early on. Send a CV full of typos, generic statements, or bizarre formatting, and you could cheat yourself out of the perfect job opportunity.
The job market is strong right now. The unemployment rate is just 3.7%, as of July 2019. And, it’s even lower (just 2.1%) for folks with a college degree. Still, no one is guaranteed a good job, even in a job seeker’s market.
There are a lot of details you need to attend to while you’re looking for work. Your resume is one of the most important components of your job application package. So, you want to be sure it’s on point.
Keep in mind that hiring managers don’t spend very long looking at resumes. So, any error could be enough to send your application to the “definitely not” pile. A CareerBuilder survey, reported on by The Muse, found that 38% of employers spend less than a minute reviewing a resume. And, 18% say they spend less than 30 seconds on each document. Making a good impression in such a short amount of time isn’t easy. But, it’s definitely possible.
Avoid these resume mistakes:
1. Making typos.
Most hiring managers reject applicants whose resumes have typos, grammatical errors, or related resume mistakes. Why are they so hard on candidates, given that you’re only human, after all?
Their reasoning goes like this: if you aren’t going to attend to such important details during the hiring process, what will you do once you’re hired? In the end, it’s not about the mistake itself. It’s about what the typo reveals about your attention to detail — or lack thereof.
Always double-, triple- and quadruple-check your resume to be absolutely certain it’s free of errors before sending it out.
2. Going it alone.
And on that note, if you don’t have a trusted friend reviewing your applications before you send them out, it’s time to line someone up. Another set of eyes can be a very valuable thing when it comes to proofreading your resume. As the original author of the document, you’re at a disadvantage. You know what your resume is meant to say. So, when you review it, you might overlook resume mistakes and instead see what you expect to see.
Also, no one is perfect. You probably don’t know every single grammar rule. So, it’s always a good idea to have someone else take a look at your resume before you finalize it.
However, it’s important to pick the right person to review your resume. Your great-aunt who loves you very much and thinks that everything you do is wonderful might be a good person to turn to for some things — but maybe not this. A friend who’s also a hiring manager, recruiter and/or grammar wiz is probably your best bet.
Be sure to let them know that you sincerely appreciate any and all feedback in advance. This will likely help them to feel more comfortable sharing their critiques, which will allow you to maximize this part of the revision process.
3. Using lazy formatting.
It’s easy to screw up the formatting on your resume. For one thing, many word processing programs seem to have a mind of their own, indenting and aligning components at will. For another thing, just as it’s easy to miss a typo, it’s common to overlook a formatting inconsistency. If you bold one job title, you should bold them all, for example. Ditto using italics or all caps.
It’s totally understandable to get frustrated when trying to format your resume to perfection. The important thing is not to give up. A poorly formatted resume, or even just a resume with a single formatting mistake, could cause a prospective employer to disqualify you. This kind of error can be interpreted the same way a typo might — as a sign that you don’t have good attention to detail, give up too easily, or cut corners with your work.
A beautifully polished and formatted resume says something about your work ethic, habits and your abilities. Be sure yours is sending the right message.
4. Sending the same version to every job.
Your resume should be custom-tailored for the employer and the position. Don’t fall into the habit of sending the same version to every job, even if the job titles are similar.
“Whenever you try to develop a generic resume to send to all job ads, you almost always end up with something employers will toss in the recycle bin,” wrote Peter Vogt in his piece on resume mistakes for Monster. “Your lack of effort screams, ‘I’m not particularly interested in your company. Frankly, any ol’ job will do.’”
Instead, revise your resume for the specific job. Be sure to cut any old, outdated or irrelevant information. You don’t have to list every position you ever had, just the ones that are most related to the job you’re after. You’ll want to try to communicate two simple things through your custom resume: that you’re interested in that job and company, and that you are uniquely qualified to fill the position.
5. Using bad keywords.
Most employers use applicant tracking systems to store and sort resumes. Why is that important? Because if you don’t use the right keywords in your resume and cover letter, your application could get caught in the filter and never make to a real, live hiring manager’s inbox.
Which keywords are the right keywords? For starters, look at the job description in the listing. Tease out words that describe the job duties and requirements. Then, look at other, related job postings on other sites — employer job listings and job boards. Include related terms that might help catch a hiring manager’s eye. Also, be sure to include keywords that speak to your performance and your achievements. Don’t just write about the duties you’ve performed in previous jobs. Instead, select keywords that speak to your accomplishments.
Just use your discretion. While not including the right keywords could disqualify you, overusing relevant keywords isn’t great either. You want to include the terms in a natural way that doesn’t feel forced.
6. Applying too quickly.
In this day and age, there’s a lot to be said for responding to a job posting quickly. If you can submit your resume and application within a day or two of it being listed, it could give you the upper hand. But, realistically, sending in your resume within a week or two of the posting is usually just fine. (If it’s been more than a month or two since the job was listed, it could already be too late.)
However, don’t let the feeling of being pressed for time overwhelm you. It takes time to do your homework on a company and a job listing, tailor your resume for that posting and revise your materials. If you attempt to operate too quickly, you might make a critical mistake. So, don’t rush. While timing is important, it won’t help you if your application is incomplete or unpersuasive.
7. Boring the hiring manager.
It can be easy to lose sight of the big picture when it comes to writing your resume. But the goal of this document is to get the hiring manager’s attention. It’s a sales pitch. If it isn’t interesting, you won’t make the sale.
Don’t lose sight of your audience in your effort to be “professional.” Let your enthusiasm and voice shine through. That often means being willing to let go of the robotic, dull language of many resumes and embrace making a real connection with the hiring manager through your words.
Forbes contributor Liz Ryan coined the term “Human-Voiced Resume” to describe this more authentic way of writing your CV. She explained:
What’s a Human-Voiced Resume? It’s a resume on one or two pages that sounds like a regular resume, only with a human voice. Instead of throw-uppy zombie language like “Results-oriented professional with a bottom-line orientation” you’ll write about yourself in the first person, the way humans do:
I worked as a school librarian for twenty years before moving into corporate libraries to help CEOs and their teams get intelligence they need. As a Research Director I ferret out business data, trends and analysis from all sources and compile them into easily-digestible reports that enable fast decision-making.
The rest of your Human-Voiced Resume will read the same simple, human way — the way I’m talking to you right now.
Finally, as with everything in work and life, if you have fun others will, too. If you approach your resume review process as if it’s boring drudgery, that will probably be reflected in your final product. Instead, try to find some enjoyment in the process.
— Gina Belli
This story originally appeared on PayScale.