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Job Search Skills

What's Wrong with Your Resume?

By Julie Dobrinska
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If your resume isn't getting any action, it might be time for a checkup. Sometimes a few simple little tweaks can make your resume work harder for you. We've listed a few potential problem areas below, along with some quick fixes. Review the list and see how your resume stands up.

A.  Faulty Contact Information
Contact information at the top of your resume should include your name, address, home telephone, and email address. If you have a personal website that is appropriate for potential employers to view, it is acceptable to list the URL in this section as well. A cell phone number can be listed, but only if you're prepared to have a conversation with a potential employer on your cell phone.

Problem: Incorrect email address or telephone number

Be sure your contact information is accurate. If your resume has an incorrect area code or transposed telephone number, don't count on getting a call. Most resume reviewers have a whole stack of resumes to go through and may not spend extra time trying to find your correct phone number.

Problem: Cell phone issues

If you've listed your mobile number on your resume, be sure to indicate that it is a cell phone, so that potential employers are aware of that when they dial. Then, hve it with you at all times and be ready for that call. Answer the phone professionally. And, if you need to, ask for a moment to get to a quiet place or pull off the road, so that you can concentrate on what is being said.

Problem: Voicemail Greeting

You'll also want to check your voicemail greeting for all phone numbers listed to be sure that it is appropriately professional. One person's message said "You know what to do and when to do it!" Another job seeker had a cutesy greeting from her five-year-old.  That may work fine for friends and family, but a standard "You have reached…" greeting would be better during a job search.

Problem: Inappropriate email address or no email address listed on resume

An email address is a must, since many employers prefer this method of contact. Be careful here, though. What kind of message does your email address send? You may think that "sexymama222@xyz.com" or "buffbob@xyz.com" is cute; however it is completely unprofessional. The same for witty email addresses like "anotherdayanotherjob@xyz.com" or "hiremenow@xyz.com".

 If you don't have an appropriate email address to list on your resume, there are dozens of free and low-cost email providers available.  Create a simple email address like bbrown@123.com or bonniebrown@123.com. If you do create an email account specifically for job searching, remember to check it frequently. You don't want an email from a prospective employer to sit unattended in your inbox.

One more thing about email addresses – if you're presently employed, don't list your company email address on your resume unless your boss is aware of your impending departure.  If you're caught job searching on company time, your current job might end sooner than you planned.

B.  Objective Blah-blah-blah's

"Seeking a permanent position within a growing organization that utilizes my skills and blah-blah-blah." The rule-of-thumb for including an objective statement on a resume is that it should be tailored to the employer's needs, not your wishes. So scrap that "perfect job" scenario objective and focus on your targeted employer.

Problem: Objective seems to be a canned, one-size-fits-all statement.

If you include an objective in your resume, zero in on the position you are applying for. It pays to put a little thought into what the requirements are for the position to make it meaningful to the interviewer. Check common job descriptions for the position and use some of those keywords in your objective. If you can tie together the requirements of the position and your skills, an objective can be a powerful selling point.

Problem: Objective doesn't really say anything

Too many objectives often contain buzz words tied together into a sentence that initially sounds impressive, but when looked at a little closer doesn't say much at all. Be sure your objective or focus statement makes sense to the employer. The reaction you are looking for is "wow, this person seems like a good fit for us", not "say what?"

C. TMI (too much information) Syndrome

This is a major dilemma for a lot of people. When touting accomplishments, it is so easy to go overboard. You do not have to list every project you ever completed, every club or organization you ever joined, every hour you donated to a charitable organization, or the names and birthdays of your children. Watch this carefully. Too much information might harm your chances of getting the job.

Problem: Unnecessary information

Don't list every single project you tackled or conference you attended.  Focus only on the key information that will convince an employer to give you an interview.  Items such as marital status; personal statistics (age, date of birth, height, weight); unnecessary headings; references; and/or salary requirements should not be included unless specifically requested. Also refrain from typing the words "resume" or "professional resume" at the top of the page. They can figure that out all by themselves.

It's also not necessary to add the "references available upon request" statement that seemed so standard 20 years ago, but many include it because it signifies the end of the resume and closes it out nicely. So that's a matter of space and opinion – whether you have room on your resume and whether or not you think it's worth the ink.

Problem: Interests & hobbies

There's no need to include this information unless your hobbies relate to the field or position for which you are applying or they provide some other specific advantage. But regardless, you should not include political, religious, or controversial subject matter. Although it's fine to be a card-carrying member of the NRA, if your potential boss is an anti-gun guy, you may have just shot yourself in the foot!  Here's a good rule of thumb - when in doubt, leave it out. 

Problem: Photo included with resume

Unless you are applying for a position that specifically requires a photo, like actor or model, it's best not to send one. Companies that are concerned about charges of discrimination don't want to know what you look like when screening your resume.

D. Sloppy Appearance

Imagine going to a job interview with your hair mussed, two different shoes on, and a huge ketchup stain on the front of your shirt. Not a pretty picture, is it? The same applies to the overall look of your resume. It should be neatly organized, formatted consistently throughout, contain white space, and be completely error-free. In your absence, the resume is presenting a picture of you, so you want it to impress.

Problem: Typos and grammatical errors

This is critical! Recruiters, HR professionals, and managers have tossed resumes of qualified candidates in the garbage because a word was spelled wrong. No kidding – it's that important!  It's not just about spelling - it's about attention to detail and commitment to quality.

So have someone you trust (who knows how to spell) review your resume, even if you have had the resume professionally prepared. It's a simple thing to check and too costly a mistake to overlook. 

Problem: Overcrowding

It's a myth that resumes should always be one page in length, but two is usually the limit. However, don't be so hung up on keeping it short that you squish everything together. That makes for very unpleasant reading and could cause your resume to end up in the circular file.

Use a font size from 10 to 12 points. Much larger and it looks like you are trying to fill up the paper; much smaller and it becomes hard to read. It is also best to keep to the more common fonts such as Courier, Arial, or Times New Roman. This is especially important since the majority of resumes are either sent electronically or scanned into a computer system upon receipt. Using fonts that are standard to most computers will ensure that it looks the same on both ends of the transmission. If you use a font that is not supported by the computer you send it to, the receiving computer will substitute another font, sometimes with disastrous results.

E. Lack of Substance

As important as the above items are, they can't compensate for a lack of content. Be sure that your resume tells an accurate story of your skills, abilities, and accomplishments in an interesting and dynamic way.

If your resume reads more like a "to do" list than a showcase of your achievements, replace line item job duties with results-driven accomplishments. Action words are great to tell your story, but are not nearly as important as keywords, which are typically nouns and noun phrases that are used to "match" your resume to the skills or qualifications needed in the ideal candidate. Keywords are an absolute must in today's electronically-driven job search process. And if you can substantiate your performance with facts and figures, by all means, get them into your resume.

The bottom line is that the resume is your primary sales tool in getting an interview, so you want this document to represent you well.  Basically, the resume is painting a picture of you for a potential employer, and you want to look good!

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