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Candidate Help & Advice

Seven Reasons Your Resumé Is Hurting Your Career

Crumpled Resume photo from ShutterstockI have reviewed over 300 random resumés in the past two weeks and, based upon that sample and my past experience, I can tell you that it is highly likely yours is working against you. Why? Because it contains common errors that detract from your initial impression and your overall professional presentation.

There are two types of resumés — egocentric resumés and committee resumés. The former are written by those who think they know what they are doing and don’t listen to the advice of others. The latter are written by those who listen to others but, in most cases, don’t know enough to select useful advice among what they are given and make revisions based upon random inputs. Which ones are better? It’s hard to say. But what I can say is that the majority of resumés fall far short of the mark and tend to work against their owners.

Even a great resumé will tend to work against you, which is why I recommend my clients withhold giving people their resumés in most situations. As suggested in Chapter 6 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!),

“Strive to meet with contacts and hiring decision makers without sending a resumé in advance. Avoid sending your résumé to anyone unless there is a critical need for it.”

The primary exceptions to my guideline concerns people who are in the direct or indirect decision chain related to current or future job openings — recruiters and hiring managers (or others who have direct influence in the hiring process). They may need to see your resumé in order to consider you for specific current or future positions that need to be filled by someone like you. Ninety percent of the people who ask for your resumé, however, don’t need it and I wouldn’t recommend giving it to them except in unusual situations.

So, anyway, let’s get back to why your resumé is hurting you. My comments are in the context of human beings reviewing it, as opposed to the context of trying to win the impersonal job application and software screening lottery. Here are some of the more notable problems and what human readers prefer instead:

1. It contains mostly responsibilities statements — I want to know specifically what you accomplished while you had responsibilities, not just descriptions of the responsibilities. This leads to the next point….
2. It lacks enough quantifiable results, or has enough of them but not in your more recent jobs — I want to know the numbers associated with your accomplishments (dollars, quantities, percentages, peer rankings, etc.), especially more recent ones.
3. It is weighted down with a lot of preliminary info at the top, such as long bulleted lists of skills and experience or functional skills categories with bullets beneath them — I will turn off if you bombard me and I can’t tell what is important and what is not.
4. It expresses no thought of the future — I need to know what you have done in the past, but I also want to know where you see yourself going in the future (your next objective).
5. It is crammed onto the page, with narrow margins and a small typeface — I want it to be comfortable to read without a magnifying glass and see that you have organizational skills that allow you to fit the most important information onto the page(s).
6. It has typos, inconsistent formatting (indents, fonts, etc.), and other quality flaws — I want to see that you have enough personal initiative to review your work thoroughly and put your best foot forward.
7. It is beyond two pages, which is too long for most people — I will only give your resumé ten seconds for the initial scan and maybe a minute for the second look (if it gets a second look), so less tends to be more.

I review hundreds of resumés each month and repeatedly see these seven errors (and others). Improvements in these areas will definitely help you in your career and job search results, which is what I want for you. Good luck and best wishes!


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