Common Resume Errors
Unfortunately, there are so many pitfalls to writing a resume that you are bound to fall into one trap or another at some point. The following map of potential mine fields should warn you about some of the commonest errors the recruiters of ABA Staffing see everyday, but there are always other pitfalls to be aware of.
What could possibly go wrong with writing an Objective? It’s so easy. You know what you want to do after all, don’t you?
Judging from some of the resumes I’ve seen, you wouldn’t think so.
Beware of including an Objective that lists too many position titles or industries, it makes you look unfocussed:
“Seeking a position in finance, customer service, sales or administration”
“To gain a position in the Advertising, Marketing, PR, or Human Resources”
Beware of writing an Objective that says everything yet nothing:
“Seeking a challenging position that provides increasing responsibilities and potential for professional and personal growth”
“To obtain a position where my experiences and abilities will be effectively utilized.”
If you can’t be specific in your Objective, then don’t include one with your resume.
Keep your Objective short and to the point. The example below is from an actual resume received via e-mail:
“To find a position that is involved in design, administration, preparation, or implementation of instruction/training/marketing via distance education/learning, using one or more of the following: interactive one-way/two-way video and audio, WWW/Internet, CD ROM, computer multimedia, or paper based.”
Some people decide to list a summary of their skills. This is a quick way to outline various skills right at the beginning of your resume and all in one place. Perhaps people think having all those skills in one place makes them look very talented, perhaps they feel that is the most logical way to demonstrate their skills.
The problem with a Summary is very often the skills are taken out of context or the resume reviewer is forced to make connections. This goes against the whole thrust of resume writing which should emphasize context (only relevant, useful information should be included) and should be user friendly (your resume should be easy to read and easy to follow). I have received a number of resumes where there was a long list of skills in a Summary, followed by an anorexic Work History detailing only the dates, company name and job title. I was expected to figure out what skills were learned where. This made it difficult to check how authentic the skills were as listed in the Summary (candidate’s opinions) as compared to the Work Experience (actual duties and accomplishments).
Unscrupulous candidates can hide deficiencies with a Summary and a diluted Work History. However, this strategy is myopic; recruiters and employers are automatically put on guard when they see a resume like the example just quoted. They are more likely to think there is something to hide, even when there isn’t. Summaries are often used in conjunction with Functional Resumes as opposed to Chronological Resumes which we are promoting.
It is better to list your skills in the Work Experience section to give your claims substance and a context. If you do wish to list a Summary, don’t dilute your Work Experience. Of course, this sort of destroys the purpose of your Summary because you will most likely be repeating the same information twice.
Bulleting the information in your prior job descriptions can be a mistake. Although this may appear to make the resume easier to read, it also makes it harder to comprehend. Listing your duties and accomplishments makes more sense when you put it in a nicely written paragraph. Once you bullet it, you rob it of context.
There is an exception to this rule about bulleting: Technical candidates probably should bullet their Work Experience because so much of what they do is more easily reduced to listing software, operating systems and the computer languages they know. For somebody applying for administration work though, a carefully worded paragraph describing the company they worked for, their duties and finally their accomplishments, will do far better.
When writing about your Work Experiences you should also make sure that the name of the company, your job title and the dates you worked are clearly marked and differentiated.
Finally, when you are writing your paragraphs describing your Work Experiences, make sure you write in an impersonal manner, using the third person:
YES = Processed checks and made collections calls. Oversaw three staff in accounting department. Responsible for reconciling company ledgers and presenting results at weekly staff meetings.
NO = I processed all the checks and then I made collection calls. I supervised three staff in our accounting department and was also responsible for reconciling the company ledgers as well as presenting my findings at weekly staff meetings.
While you should maintain the impersonal third person character of your writing in all the jobs you list, your current position is allowed to be in the present tense while every other job should definitely be in the past.
Your education should usually come after your Work Experiences. If you are a recent graduate with little or no work experience, then list it above your Work History.
Pitfalls in the Education section include listing too much information. If you are a recent student, you may list courses you completed as long as they are relevant to your application (see “Targeting Your Resume”). Otherwise, if you have been in the workplace for at least a year, your education should be a fairly concise section. Include only the level of your degree, the area of specialty and the college/university. You may include the fact you graduated with honors.
Beware of listing a degree if you have not completed it. If you have yet to finish your degree but wish to include it on your resume, make sure you clearly show that you are still in the process of obtaining it. Perhaps include the month and year you expect to receive it. Employers will assume you have a degree if you list one and may get mad when they find out you “lied”.
Many people have started to include a skills section at the bottom of their resume. Usually they list various software applications or office procedures/equipment they are familiar with here.
Beware of including irrelevant information. If you are applying for a customer service position where you will be on the phone 80% of the time, you may not need to include every piece of office equipment you are familiar with. Include only those skills which are appropriate. Target your resume.
References do not belong on a resume. Take any references you have on your resume and move them onto a separate sheet headed References or Contacts. References take up precious space on a resume that could be dedicated to targeting the position you are applying for. Make a habit of taking a separate reference sheet to any interview you obtain.
Do not send References with your initial application. Everything has its place and a Reference Sheet should be given to your prospective employer once they have agreed to meet with you and consider you for a position.
Beware of using exotic fonts:
Think conservative. You may have over 5000 fonts on your computer system but you are better off using an elegant standard like Times Roman or Arial rather than Algerian or Beeknees. I think people use these fonts on their resume partly out of the novelty value, and partly because they think it will help get their resumes noticed. While it certainly does that, it’s a distinction that should not be courted, like going to an interview naked. You may be remembered but you’ll never get the job.
Spelling & Grammar
Make sure that you go over your resume thoroughly with a spell checker, dictionary and thesaurus. There seems to be no end to the resumes I’ve received with obvious spelling or grammatical errors. As a resume reviewer you quickly learn to separate the mass of resumes by the finest of measures. Spelling and grammar are one of the easiest ways to discount a resume. This may be one of the only occasions in your life when a little paranoia and obsessive-compulsive behavior can be healthy.