Oftentimes, hiring managers must sift through hundreds of resumes before finding at least a few good ones. At the same time, coming across the really bad ones can be relieving, because it means they can discard it and quickly move on to the next.
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As the CEO of a resume writing company and former hiring manager at major companies, including HP and IBM, I've reviewed thousands of resumes throughout my 26-year career.
If you don't want your resume getting tossed in the trash, avoid these five biggest mistakes that can make you look like a weak candidate:
1. No LinkedIn profile
Your LinkedIn should be in the top section of your resume, where your contact information (and professional website, if you have one) is displayed.
Employers want people who are serious about advancing in their careers. This means optimizing your professional network and proudly showcasing your accomplishments online.
Make sure you update your LinkedIn, too. Remember, your resume should feature information that's relevant to the specific job you're applying for, while your LinkedIn should appeal to a wider audience and paint a more complete picture of your background and skills.
2. Not listing (enough) hard skills and soft skills
Hard skills are related to technical knowledge and training (i.e., Photoshop, Excel), while soft skills are more like professional traits (i.e., leadership, time management). I always suggest a 2:1 ratio — for every two hard skills, include one soft skill.
Jennifer Roquemore, CEO of Resume Writing Services, agrees. "Resumes that are flooded with too many soft skills just come off as disingenuous. When recruiters see only soft skills, and no hard skills, it raises red flags," she tells me.
"On the flip side," Roquemore adds, "listing only hard skills and skipping out on soft skills can make you seem like a one-dimensional candidate."
3. An unrelated resume title
Your title should be at the top of the resume, beneath your contact information.
Keywords in your resume title tell recruiters right off the bat whether you're an ideal candidate for the position. If you're applying for a job listed as "Senior Brand Manager," for example, and your resume is boldly titled "Brand Marketing Manager," then bingo — recruiters will likely read on about your skills and experience.
If your resume title is "Social Media Manager," however, then recruiters may still consider taking a look (if there are similarities between both jobs), but they won't be as confident that you're a strong fit.
4. A flashy, over-the-top design
Too many bright colors, too much of one bright color, too many lines or shapes going in different directions — all these things are turnoffs that make candidates look like they're trying too hard.
While it should be the content that matters, most hiring managers despise flashy resumes. I've seen many people do this in attempt to "stand out" from their competition. But that's not how it works.
Ultimately, it's all about your audience. It's typically best to keep a simple format (i.e., black and white text, clean lines, a consistent font), while in some industries, such as graphic design or advertising, your resume may reflect your creativity and ability to do the type of work that the job entails. Just don't go overboard.
5. Awkward formatting and poor grammar
Here are some of the most common formatting and grammar mistakes to watch for:
- Using first person pronouns. The standard, accepted practice is to leave out personal pronouns like "I," "my," and "me." So instead of saying "I spearheaded digital marketing campaigns," just say "Spearheaded marketing campaigns."
- Spelling out numbers. This makes it hard for hiring managers to skim through resumes for quantifiable and measurable accomplishments. It also takes up valuable space.
- Not starting bullet points with a strong action verb. Some examples of action verbs to consider: Assisted, oversaw, utilized, led and analyzed.
- Using the wrong tense. While this seems like a simple grammar fix, it's a mistake many job seekers make. Always use present tense when describing your current work, and past tense for previous jobs.
- Too long or too short. Keep your resume length between one and two full pages. If you have little experience and are struggling to include enough content, consider mentioning college courses, volunteer work, or even hobbies (if you can find a way to relate them to the job you're applying for).
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