Too many candidates dread the thought of working on a resume. Typically, this fear is the reason why so many resumes are poorly crafted. People often don’t know where to start or what to say, yet interestingly enough, make the same mistakes. Therefore, if you’re reading this, it’s likely you’ve acknowledged the problem. In order to correct the issue, we must examine the common errors before proceeding to a solution. So, let’s review and unveil the Top 13 reasons why your resume may be an #EPICFAIL.
Note: If you make it to the end, you just may discover what you’re doing wrong and how fix it!
#1 – FIRST PERSON TENSE
Your C/V is not a journal; leave ‘I, We, Me, My, and Us’ out of it.
#2 – POOR FORMATTING
As Sports Information Director in my early career, I designed media guides, game day programs and other publications. What was most important in that ‘work-beyond-content’ was formatting. The look had to be pristine, spelling correct, including uniform and consistent spacing, underlining, bold text, and fonts. In my current work as an HR recruiter, I have noticed that many don’t pay enough attention to these fine details and it distracts the eye from the important content. Pay close attention to all formatting within your C/V. This is your career publication and it should be produced with pride!
#3 – TOO MANY ACRONYMS & INDUSTRY-SPECIFIC JARGON
Have you ever spoken to our brave men and women in the military and ask them what they do? You may get a response like, ’11 Bravo, 2nd Battalion, 101 Airborne,’ when ‘infantry’ would do. That’s how hiring managers feel when reviewing resumes laden with uncommon acronyms. Keep in mind that a layman may not know the language of your company or profession. If you choose to use “uncommon” acronyms, upon first usage, spell it out in its entirety and put the corresponding acronym in parenthesis. You may then use only the acronym when referencing it later, ie: Greatest of all Time (GOAT).
#4 – LACK OF VISIBLE PROGRESSION
HR Leaders and hiring managers want to see career progression. Thus, it is very important to illustrate those advancements on your C/V. If you’ve been at a company for 7 years and earned 3 promotions over that span, the title and date should be listed for each promotion. Don’t just list ‘HR Director May 2007-Apr. 2014.’ It should read: ‘HR Manager May 2007 – June 2009; Sr. HR Manager July 2009-Sept. 2012; HR Director Oct. 2012-Apr. 2014.’ You may lump the title and dates together under that company, followed by a more detailed list of bullet points, or you may list each role separately with supporting bullets.
#5 – JOB DESCRIPTION
Most resumes reflect the daily routine of worker bees: Wake up, clean cell, remove dead bodies, feed larvae, tend to the queen, collect nectar from field workers, control temperature, produce beeswax, guard hive. That, my friends, is the job description of a bee. More so than National Geographic, if bees spoke, they’d provide greater insight into the tactical and strategic challenges of managing a hive. Likewise, when speaking to HR practitioners they spout off the cause, effect, response and resolution of the hive’s problems. Yet, that information is not often listed anywhere on a resume. Ladies and gents, if you want the job of the queen, harvest the honey of the hive on your C/V.
#6 – REDUNDANCY
Having a bullet for every single job responsibility is absolutely ludicrous, especially when the same exact bullet is listed verbatim for a previous job. Instead of falling into the trap of redundancy, summarize your duties in 3-4 sentences underneath the job title. (ie: ‘Top HR Leader for manufacturing plant of 400 non-union employees. Lead a team of 6 direct reports, while reporting to a HR Director. Primary duties include X, Y & Z.’) Thereafter, tell me what you’ve done (accomplishments).
#7 – LACKS ACCOMPLISHMENTS
HR leaders, if your resume is laden with day-to-day responsibilities and lacks what you ‘created,’ ‘developed,’ ‘implemented,’ or ‘designed,’ – accompanied by the outcomes yielded by those actions – your C/V is ineffective. Listing a bunch of tactical duties does not differentiate you from the rest of the pack. Ninety-nine percent of people put together a list of job descriptions and call it a resume. The one who provides particulars of how they raised the bar for that business, are 10x more likely to be taken as a serious contender for the job (especially, at the outset of the courtship process) and ultimately, will get the phone call.
#8 – SUB-PAR CONTENT
The majority of humans are omnivores. While I respect those with alternative eating lifestyles, if your C/V lacks ‘meat’ it likely won’t go too far (ie: ‘During Thanksgiving, if you have macaroni & cheese, collard greens, string beans, mash potatoes & gravy, corn bread and sweet potato pie on the table, there is going to be a problem. There’s no ham or turkey!) That’s what happens when I see a resume with no meat. It’s a bunch of fixin’s with no lickin’s. Make sure the plate that is your resume serves a strong dish of protein; otherwise, the hiring manager may walk away malnourished!
#9 – WIMPY BULLETS
I went to Catholic School and as a youth, the nuns taught me proper sentence structure: Subject + Verb + Direct Object. When formulating bullets on your C/V, it should inversely mirror that format: Action (Verb) + Problem (Subject) + Resolution (Direct Object). For instance a powerful bullet properly formatted will read like this: ‘(Reduced) (turnover) at plant by 27% in first year with various (employee engagement techniques) to include Rewards & Recognition, Weekly forums, Monthly Luncheon and Mentorship program.’
#10 – NEGLIGENCE
Proofread… Proofread… PROOFREAD! While important to note, keywords are as insignificant as sprinkles on a doughnut if your resume is glazed over with multiple spelling and grammatical errors. So, instead of focusing on trigger words, be sure to proofread! Spell check and ensure each bullet point consists of a complete sentence or phrase. Have multiple eyes review your resume in search of typos. Take a break from your document and sift through it, hours later, for mistakes. Don’t victimize yourself from having a chance at being considered for the ‘perfect’ role due to negligence.
#11 – VAGUENESS
Thinking or communicating in an unfocused or imprecise way is the definition of the word VAGUE. Upon meeting my now spouse, I once vaguely suggested we go to a baseball game. Little did I know, she too, was attracted to me; however, my indirect proposal led her to assume that I wasn’t serious. Eventually, we did go to a game – two years later. Being vague cost me 24 months of time with her. What is being vague costing you? Seventy-five percent of resumes I review from HR professionals, are much too vague. Many provide few specifics, metrics, results or details of how they improved the business, yet are baffled when no one calls them back. Well, to put it simply, its because your C/V is vague.
#12 – TOO FOCUSED ON THE C/L INSTEAD OF THE C/V
Hear ye! Hear ye! If your cover letter is better than your resume, ‘Houston, we have a problem!’ First of all, no one reads cover letters. The only people who religiously read essays are college admissions officers (FACT: I know this, because I used to be one). If the hiring manager wants an author, he/she will ask for a writing sample. If you’re worried about a cover letter, your priorities are wrong. Do you think the hiring manager is going to request that you walk him/her through your cover letter during an interview? THINK! Why are you not getting calls? It’s the resume.
Finally, before you dive in and recreate that failing C/V, I leave you with the most important question of all:
#13 – WOULD YOU HIRE YOU BASED ON YOUR C/V?
HR leaders, during the recruitment process, have you ever experienced the excitement of coming across an outstanding C/V that makes you pick up the phone and start dialing instantly? Now look at your resume. Do you feel a talent acquisition leader would have the same feeling when it comes to your background? If you are in search of a new job, I believe it’s imperative that you ask yourself that question. ‘If I were the hiring manager, would I get excited about my resume?’ If the answer is no, you have work to do!
Now that we have finally made it past everything you’re doing wrong, let’s make it right! Read “Build your Resume like a Bacon Cheeseburger.” It sounds odd, but the recommendations may change your professional life.
Also, consider this article by Tayyiba Iram, “Things You Should Remove From Your Resume Immediately.”
I wish you all the best in transitioning your resume from #EPICFAIL to #EPICSUCCESS!