Job seekers often ask: What types of resumes are most likely to get tossed aside?
- Functional resumes with no experience
- Unorganized resumes
- Resumes with errors
- Overly personal resumes
Looking for work can be difficult for all job seekers in any position, even despite your employment history. And your resume format can make or break your chances. In fact, some have compared the search to a job in itself, since a person can spend hours pouring over career listings and applying to new positions.
Most people are all too familiar with the job-search struggle. Applicants may create various types of resumes (yes, there's more than one resume format), apply to positions, and interview — only to hear the same sentence over and over from each hiring manager: “We’ve decided to go in a different direction.”
If you’re not getting the interest you want from the hiring manager you want, despite your career experience, accomplishments, job titles and employment history, it may be time to consider your resume — and the types of resumes that frequently get tossed. We all want our resumes to pop, but it can be hard to know where to start.
Let’s start with the basics; we'll talk about the various types of resumes a person can write:
- Chronological resume: A resume that lists experience from oldest to most recent.
- Reverse-Chronological resume: A resume that lists experience from most recent to oldest.
- Functional resume: A resume that lists skills and strengths over work experience.
- Targeted resume: A resume with information targeted at a specific position or company.
- Combination resume: A resume that combines elements of Functional, Targeted, Chronological, and Reverse-Chronological resumes.
Regardless of the resume-style you choose, it’s possible you may be making a few key mistakes. Many resumes get tossed aside, and today we’re going to talk about some major reasons why.
1. Functional resumes with no experience
You may already be familiar with functional resumes, as they’re often utilized by certain types of professionals and there are tons of resume samples like them. For those with gaps in work history or those looking to switch industries, these resumes highlight skills over experience.
However, many professionals view functional resumes as a waste of time, especially if the “skills” overwhelm the experience. In other words, your work history/job titles/resume writing matters, regardless of the timeline or industry.
Even if you’re looking to change fields, include your experience in your resume writing and in each job description. You can always discuss your transition goals in a cover letter (your cover letter may also need some help!), and you can gain advice by networking with people in your desired industry. Use your skills, rather simply telling employers about them. A potential employer will respect it more.
If you have a gap in your work history, consider leveraging your network or transitioning back into the workplace through temp jobs and consultation positions. If the gap is substantial, consider what you did during the gap. Volunteer work, finishing a degree — these are elements you can (and should) list on a resume you give to a potential employer. Above all, be honest about your experience, and remain focused on your goals while keeping your prospective employer and any hiring managers in mind.
2. Unorganized resumes
An unorganized resume can take a number of forms, and none of them make it a professional resume. Perhaps the structure is inefficient or some elements of the resume are excessive to hiring managers.
There are tons of types of resume formats. But when organizing your resume (which will look like a professional resume after this!), remember to keep the most important info near the top: work experience and professional-looking contact information. By organizing your resume in terms of relevance—contact info, experience, and accomplishments—you’re saving employers time.
And the other stuff? Most of it can go. Are you applying for an acting or modeling gig? If not, no headshot is needed in these types of resume formats. (If you’ve got a great headshot you want to use, LinkedIn is a perfect compromise that a prospective employer would respect.) If you have adequate work experience, you don’t need an “about” section. Additionally, you can ditch the objective. Your job application is the objective.
As for education, certainly include any schooling and certifications you have, on top of each job description (it's sometimes equally important!). While educational milestones are important, they should still be toward the bottom (unless you went to a really amazing school). Education is an accomplishment, but your experience is everything.
3. Resumes with errors
Regardless of resume formats, we've all seem resume samples with errors. And we all know errors can be hugely problematic in all types of resume formats for hiring managers. Whether it’s incorrect contact information or an embarrassing flub (like forgetting the “L” in “public”), typos show employers you lack attention to detail. Take a moment to review your resume, and more importantly, let someone else review it, too.
Not all errors are typos, however. An error can be an abstract mistake, such as lacking format. If your resume has eight different fonts and a rainbow color palette, for instance, you’ll probably want to revise. Resume formats should be clean, with uniform sizing and simple color schemes.
When it comes to errors, omitting or falsifying details is perhaps the biggest error you can make. Stretching the truth may get your foot in the door, but probably not for long. The truth may be revealed through any number of ways: a background check, bad references, or worst of all — getting the job and being unprepared.
4. Overly personal resumes
When writing a resume, it can be tempting to preemptively add information you might be asked in an interview. After all, isn’t it better to show initiative?
While initiative is important, employers will view unnecessary information as a timesuck. You do not need to highlight references, list hobbies, or explain reasons for leaving a former job. These are all conversations that—if you move forward in the application process — you’ll probably have in an interview. Instead of personalizing your resume, go the extra mile by organizing it in a clean and efficient way.
There may be other personal details you’re considering disclosing — details that strongly impact your life. Perhaps you live with a disability or have spent long hours working for a political organization. There is no hard and fast rule in these situations, but if you feel discrimination may negatively impact your chances, you can forego these details. On the other hand, perhaps you’re waiting for a company that aligns with your beliefs and personality. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make.
Resume-writing is daunting, to say the least. Not only are there many types of resumes, but there are a wide variety of formats and potential mistakes to make. And while there are plenty of imperfect resumes, you might be encouraged to know there is no such thing as “the perfect resume.”
When it comes to writing yours, remember all employers are different. So, even if one employer decides your resume isn’t up to snuff, that doesn’t mean another won’t love it. That said, following a few simple steps can elevate your resume above the rest. Just remember to advertise your experience, show off your organization, check for errors, and keep it professional. The rest will fall into place.