Does your resume look like a zombie, using old, outdated tactics that died 10 years ago? Or is it like a mummy: dry, lifeless, and stale? Or is a hulking beast, weighed down with too much information? Is it a weird conglomeration of different styles, making it look like Frankenstein’s monster?
Check out these horrifying errors and learn what you can do to breathe new life into your resume:
1. The Zombie Resume
Like old corpses digging their way out of the grave, a zombie resume tries to resurrect old, ineffective strategies that may have been great 20 years ago but don’t really work that well in the modern world. These errors are usually in format, including the visual appearance and the key sections.
The biggest format offender is the “classic” two-column approach, where the section headings are listed on the left and the content is on the right. While it can still be appealing when used correctly, the problem is the WAY that this document is formatted. If you use the template straight out of Microsoft Word, many are built with tables or text boxes. However, computers don’t read these like humans. They process the first column DOWN, then move on to the next column and read that down. The final effect is that the headings are completely divorced from the content.
Have you ever heard that your resume should be “one page only?” That’s another classic zombie resume. Unless you are seeking an entry level job, this tactic died years ago. There is simply no way for an experienced job seeker to layer in enough key words to survive the screening and capture key achievements to impress hiring managers within one page.
Ways to improve:
First of all, understand how different computers and systems will interpret your resume. It is possible to create a visually-appealing resume that still uploads smoothly into an online application. Another option is to save your documents as PDFs, especially when emailing your resume. That way, you know what you sent will appear the same way on the other side.
2. The Mummy Resume
For a mummy, the writing itself is dry, boring, and lifeless. Whether this is a lack of clear achievements or simply repeating such deadly phrases as “responsible for,” these are the things that both recruiters and hiring managers hate to read.
A classic mummy strategy is the Objective Statement. Ever feel like these are boring, generalized statements that could apply to almost any job? That’s because they are. HR hates objective statements because they are vague. Who wouldn’t want “a stable job with a dynamic company that has plenty of opportunity for growth?” On the flip side, sometimes Objective Statements are extremely specific, such as “To become the Production Manager at ABC Company.” In that case, if you miss out on the targeted job, you won’t be considered for anything else.
Ways to improve:
While sometimes we need to use antiquated phrases such as “excellent communication skills” to increase our key word count, your entire resume should not read like the job description. Make it a balance of key words, top responsibilities, and achievements. Plus, let your personality come through in the summary.
Struggling with achievements? Think in terms of top metrics. It’s one thing to say, “led a development team,” but it is much more impressive and informative to write “led a team of 12 developers that produced 3 new CPG products within 3 years.”
Kill the Objective Statement. Instead, write a solid, engaging summary that tells the employers why you are the best candidate for the job.
Bonus points: modernize your contact information. Include your LinkedIn profile and only list your city and state for your location.
3. The Hulking Beast Resume
Has your resume grown to unbelievable proportions, with every new job adding what feels like miles of content? While this can happen to anyone with a long career, some industries such as IT are more susceptible to adding massive bulk.
While spreading out onto three pages is an obvious sign of a beastly resume, the writing itself can be the problem. It is tempting to write in run-on sentences or highly detailed bullets.
Ways to improve:
GET TO THE POINT. Resumes are not the formal, stuffy documents that they were 15 years ago. Read it out loud. If you must take a breath before coming to the end of a sentence, it is too long. You need to either break it into multiple sentences or trim it back significantly.
Not sure what to keep? Read the job description. If your skills, duties, achievements, education, and anything else on your resume doesn’t relate to the job, it is hurting your chances.
4. Frankenstein’s Monster Resume
WAAAAY back in the day, we did things like different fonts, different styles, and other formatting tricks to help guide the eyes. However, modern resumes should be more consistent in their look and feel.
This goes double for the writing style itself. Nothing reflects more poorly on a resume than two distinct writing styles within one document. It can be switching the tenses from first person to third, or being inconsistent with present and past tense. Similarly, if someone else wrote your original resume, you need to either match the writing style yourself or pay a professional to make sure that the tone is the same throughout the document.
Ways to improve:
Pick one font and stick with it. Make sure your voice is consistent throughout the document, especially when drafting your achievements. A pop of color can be effective, but make sure that the colors complement each other and don’t distract from your overall message.
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