A first culling rids the pile of resumes from potential candidates who do not meet minimum qualifications, which are quickly discarded or set aside, as are ones that try to stand out in tacky ways. (I once received a resume on fluorescent lime-green craft paper — all flash, little substance.) After that, managers look for other reasons to reduce the resume stack further by getting rid of resumes based on content.
Some applicants, when cutting their resumes down to add the latest and greatest achievements and still make the info fit on a page or two, make some of the content less intelligible. Others list tasks they’ve accomplished, but they neglect to attach specific results to those activities. Still others include information that may be proprietary or confidential — a big red flag to a potential employer.
To find other common issues that employers wish applicants would triple check on their resumes and cover letters, FairyGodboss checked in with four hiring managers around the country. Here’s what they had to say:
1. There’s no excuse for typos.
Mitchell Huber, Director of Sales of Benco Dental, had one (very emphatic) answer — spelling. “Just read the damn thing,” he said, adding that some mistakes he’s seen are ridiculous, such as one resume that spelled the applicant’s alleged alma mater incorrectly.
Spelling errors can occur for many reasons: you may legitimately not know how to spell a word, spelled it wrong by careless mistake, or your computer or phone may have “autocorrected.” Proofreading for spelling is best handled by your friends, colleagues, or by a professional editor. That’s because plenty of studies, like this famous one by Cambridge University, have shown that our brains “autocorrect” words we’ve misspelled, making it more difficult for us to see our own mistakes.
2. Be specific.
Danielle Brooks, President of Lake Washington Wellness Center, said she’s tired of seeing resumes and cover letters that are not geared towards the job. Don’t simply use one stock resume for every job application — curtail your experience to highlight whatever is most relevant to the job to which you’re applying.
Todd Tzeng, President and CEO of Falcon Fulfillment and a serial entrepreneur, seconded hating when the qualifications on a resume don’t seem to match the position. The takeaway? Don’t be generic!
3. Make sure your links are current.
Kristen Gill, Founder and Owner of Kristen Gill Media, said, “I’d say the one thing that I can’t stress enough is for job seekers to double-check the links they send in their resumes and samples. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve clicked on old, out of date or non-existing content.”
Gill added that if you’re including a portfolio, it’s best to keep it up-to-date because throwing things together at the last minute is “when errors can occur.” She also recommends keeping your LinkedIn presence current.
Reading through your resume once, twice, and a third time for the charm — and having a friend or two do it, too — will help you have more confidence that your application materials are free from these common but very costly mistakes.
Former professor Jill L. Ferguson is an award-winning author of seven books, including co-author of Raise Rules for Women: How to Make More Money at Work, and thousands of published articles. She is also an artist, business and higher education consultant, entrepreneur and founder of Women's Wellness Weekends.
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