As I started to plan a blog post for the week, a job seeker sent me a resume that looked more like a catalog of job descriptions. When I spoke with him, he suggested removing his education from the resume. This led us to think about the mistakes job applicants make on resumes. There are too many to cover in one post, so we picked a few highlights.
As many readers know, automated applicant tracking systems, or ATS, scan your resume first at most companies because their hiring teams receive hundreds of applications for each job. Managers search their ATS databases for matches to open job orders. Your resume has to have the correct keywords and format to be selected for further action. It could also be rejected immediately when a representative finally reads it unless it grabs their attention.
Here are some of the mistakes we see frequently that could eliminate you as a contender for your dream job:
- Providing unnecessary contact information,
- Not including a branded, accomplishment-based summary,
- Using an outdated resume format,
- Sending a job description-based resume that won’t differentiate you from other applicants, and
- Leaving out your education.
Avoiding these errors will increase your chances of landing interviews and jobs.
Contact information may disqualify you.
Your contact information matters. Incorrect formatting, missing information, or even too much information will reduce the chance you will be contacted.
Remove your street address: A few years ago we recommended that clients include a street address on their resume. We no longer encourage this. A client pointed out that employers could find a photo of their home or apartment building online. This gives employers an idea about your salary needs, whether or not you have children, and other aspects of your lifestyle.
Show only your city, state, and zip code on a resume. Place your name, city, state, and zip code, along with your cellphone number on top of page one. Do not place it in a first page MS-Word header. ATS systems may disregard headers.
Email Addresses Matter: Your email address can also impact the chances you will be contacted.
Certain email domains, such as Yahoo!, AOL, or Hotmail are sometimes rejected by corporate email systems, or are perceived of as being “out of date.” Many job seekers are using Gmail.
There are other options if you prefer not to use Gmail. Your professional or trade association may offer free email addresses.
Incredibly, we saw several resumes recently that had no email addresses. Include an email address and check it regularly to make it easy for prospective employers to reach you.
Do not skip the summary section.
Our high school English teachers taught us to start writing assignments with a strong title and topic paragraph, yet we receive many resumes that jump directly to work history under the contact information. The reader immediately gets lost in details. Include a strong title, accomplishment-based summary, and core competencies section before going into details.
Immediately inform your reader about your role. For example, you may be a “Customer Service Supervisor,” “Cost Accountant,” or “Executive Assistant.” Then, follow this with a short narrative that includes a few accomplishment highlights drawn from your work experience section.
Also, include a list or table of core competencies. Emphasize “hard” core competencies employers search on in your industry or function. Use terms such as “GAAP Financial Reporting” and avoid general terms such as “Verbal Communications.”
Your resume will now have keywords for the computer and a strong opening section for the hiring manager or recruiter. The hiring team is more likely to receive the resume from their ATS, and then see a reason to read it.
An ATS may not interpret outdated formats accurately.
An outdated format will reduce your chance for an interview, too. Functional resumes, for example, do not work well today.
At one time, functional resumes were a good option for job seekers with employment gaps and career- changes. Job seekers used functional formats because the resume either had a list of employers and dates at the bottom of the resume, or did not have employment dates at all.
The functional format separates job functions from the employer where job seekers performed the function, and the dates of employment. This makes the resume more difficult for an ATS to read. It is also harder for an employer to determine the job seeker’s recent accomplishments.
While hiring teams and their computers prefer reverse-chronological resumes, we can use an effective accomplishment-based summary to emphasize the experience and skills we want to highlight.
Emphasize accomplishments instead of job descriptions.
Job seekers often send us resumes that read like HR job descriptions. Job descriptions are valuable because they contain keywords employers search for. They should be used sparingly in resumes, though.
Employers know your job description. They do not know what you contributed to the company. How much did you improve sales or customer satisfaction, for example? What problems or opportunities did you address, by taking what actions, to get what quantifiable results? Tell the prospective employer what you did that differentiates you from other applicants.
Include your education.
Another costly mistake can be leaving education off your resume if it is irrelevant to the job. Hiring teams may exclude any candidates without degrees or diplomas from their searches. You will benefit from having the degree on your resume even if it is in an unrelated field.
Another blog post covered the role education has on your career in more detail. For now, it’s sufficient for us to suggest you do not leave your education off the resume. Of course, we cannot promise you will be noticed when you follow our suggestions. Your chances of results will improve, though.