I’m going to try something new because I’ve been in the “working world” for about a year and a half now and I think its about time I stop spouting other people’s knowledge and start sharing my own. With that, I’m going to throw in a disclaimer: You can’t sue me for bad advice.
I’m a Graphic Designer working in the Marketing department of a software company, so I do the pictures not the words (that’s my tagline. Not really…) I’ve been bossless for about a year now, meaning I don’t have a director- I work under the COO right now. But we’re now looking to fill that spot and fortunately I am being involved in the hiring process. How many recent graduates can say they got to pick their own boss..?
UNfortunately this means resume reading, and lots of it Ugh. But being on this side of the resume is a nice change of pace, and quiet frankly a freaking relief, not to mention a huge learning experience.
But everyone has been on the other side of the resume before. I was fortunate at my graduation time to not have to do a lot of work on my part to land the job have. But there are people out there that look for months, years to find a job and it all starts with the resume.
Your resume, is who you are. It’s the single piece of paper that advocates for you when you’re not there to do it for yourself. And if your resume fails at this, well there’s only one person to blame. You are the creator of that resume, so if fails that’s because you set it up for failure.
Being part of the hiring process for my new manager, I’ve looked at over 50 resumes. Every single one brings me back to college classes where I was taught what not to do when developing a resume and it astounds me how many people make these mistakes because honestly, most of them are common sense. I’ve picked out the top 7 mistakes I encountered while reading these resumes.
1. Spell check is your best friend.
In the technological world we live in these days there’s this wonderful little thing called spell check. I’m not prefect- I can’t spell to save my life. I’ve handed out many things that have had spelling errors on it and I’ll admit that I sometimes forget to use this trusty little tool. BUT when writing your resume, the single piece of paper that tells someone who you are and what you are capable of, you should NOT have spelling errors. Is that what you want to tell people you’re capable of.. spelling words incorrectly..? Of course though, even spell check doesn’t catch everything, that’ why asking a friend or family member to scan over your resume doesn’t hurt either. The position I have been scanning resumes for is a Marketing Manager, and these of all people, should know better than to send in a resume with spelling errors. Shame on you. This is sure to land your resume in the trash can.
2. PDF it.
When I was in school I converted everything to PDF, this of course was because of the programs I used, but I’ve gotten into a habit of converting mostly every final document I send as a PDF. I do this for many reasons;
- Not everyone has the same programs, version or fonts you do. This means the way you see it on your screen isn’t always how someone else sees it on their screen, so just don’t take the risk.
- PDF files are easy to open and view. Most people won’t be looking at your resume on their tablet, etc but why not give them that option.
- Spell check is your best and worst friend. It can save you, but it can also sink you. Here’s a story: When hiring a new employee at our company a few months ago, I was given the opportunity to interview him. With this, the hiring manager sent me over his resume via email to prepare. It was a word document so when I downloaded it, it opened right in word. Well on a black and white resume, what’s the first thing you see..? Christmas! Green and red squiggly lines. Since I wasn’t the one person who decided his fate, he was still considered- he got the job and has definitely excelled. You might think that this disproves my point but really it doesn’t. If the hiring manager had been the kind of person who threw a person’s resume in the trash can because of a little spelling error (like I would have), then he never would have gotten the opportunity to prove himself. When you send your resume in a word doc the reader doesn’t even have to read it to see that you didn’t take the time to use spell check. Which in a lot of cases, depending on what position you’re applying for, could land your resume right in the trash can.
3. Are you really qualified?
I’ve been there too. Everyone goes through that time where they apply to anything and everything.. where you jump on every opportunity that you come across so that hopefully in those 100 positions you apply for, you get at least one interview. But you know what.. you aren’t actually qualified for most of them, are you? Everyone is desperate at one point or another. But if you’re applying for a manger position you should at least make sure you have at least some experience as a manager (or at least some experience in the working world.) I can’t tell you how many people right out of college with no experience are applying for a manger position. People will laugh at you and then.. your resume gets thrown in the trash can.
4. Less is more. Seriously.
As a resume writer you need to think from the point of view of the resume reader. There have been over 50 resumes submitted for the position we’re looking for. If I read them all thoroughly, how long do you think that would take? (You do the math, I don’t do math..) Whatever the answer is, most people don’t have that time lying around. There is room in your resume for sentences; that room is in the beginning for any kind of “objective/about” statement and that’s the only place. Majority of your resume should be bullets and phrases because they are short and concise and they get to the point. One resume we received was 5 pages long. 5 pages…? I get that, with more experience comes more pages but that just means you need to find the most important things to say about each job you’ve held. 5 pages is not something I want to read. Trash can.
5. There is such a thing as an ugly resume. Don’t have one.
You think because I’m a designer, I have an edge or maybe I’m just more critical but a resume can be ugly. Trust me. The format and presentation of your resume can make it sink or swim. Your resume should be easy to understand and interpret and the way you lay it out plays a huge role in that. As a designer, I know that you can make things appealing without images and fancy design.
One thing that can help is being creative with fonts. Just because Word gives you a default font doesn’t mean you need to be default (and if you’re worried about the person who receives your resume not having that font then stop and go back to #2.)
Another thing is structure and adding elements. I hate word, so I can’t get specific here about how to do these things because we’ll I don’t design in Word but add some structure so it doesn’t look like you just typed everything out and add some elements like line dividers and call our boxes, etc.
Take the time to do some research on the best ways to layout your resume and design the typefaces. Resume appearance can make you memorable and get you the job (or at least the interview.)
6. When you refer to the company to which you are applying.. call them by the correct name.
Now this might be me being picky because as a marketing professional at my company we have been aggressively trying to get our company to follow our brand guidelines (this is our next plan of attack) One of these brand discrepancies is the use of the acronym that has been adapted for our company’s name. So for example, if the company is called ABC Operations, don’t call them ABC for short when you’re writing you cover letter or addressing them by name, because that’s not their name. Like I said, this may be me being picky but I know for a fact that the acronym that’s used for my company is not written anywhere that a prospect candidate might see it so there’s no reason that prospective candidate should think using that acronym is okay.
7. There’s confident.. and then there’s cocky. Tread carefully.
When I was in school this is one thing my teachers stressed. Artists are cocky, we are proud of our skills and love to talk about our work so we were taught that its good to be confident in how we talk about our skill but getting too cocky can be a real turn off. One of the resumes that was submitted started right off, the first thing at the top of the resume, by telling us the job titles that he preferred, none of which included the actual title given in our job description. Another resume told us that his qualifications “demanded immediate consideration.” The second example isn’t so bad but could have been written in a less cocky way.
Like I said you can’t sue me for bad advice but I’m pretty positive this isn’t bad advice. I’m not here telling you how to write your resume, I’m not telling you what key words you should use and how to phrase certain things, not even the kind of content you should include. Because that’s the kind of advice you shouldn’t take from me. What I am telling you how to avoid the stupid little things that you over look, and reminding you to do that little things that take 5 seconds to make your resume better.