Friday, April 29, 2011

Is Your Resume Going into the "Keep" or "Discard" Folder?

Let's talk resumes again, as it's a continual problem for many...

Your resume is how you get your interview and your foot in the door. Unfortunately, a piece of paper is representing you and all of your hard work, so why don’t you make sure that is it working for you and not against you.

A recruiter, HR professional, or resume screener will typically spend about 15 seconds scanning your resume for key words, items they are looking for, and during this few seconds they determine if they want to put it in the “keep” or “discard” pile.

Here are some resume errors to avoid and things to remember that will definitely help improve your chances of your resume staying in the “keep” pile:

  1. First, make sure you don’t have any spelling or grammatical errors.
This is the easiest thing to avoid, but also the fastest way to get your resume put aside. Spell check, re-read your resume, and have a friend or professional read your resume to help ensure it is error free.

  1. Creating carbon copies of your resume.
Don’t do this. We all know that creating a customized resume for every job you want to apply for is time-consuming, but we also don’t care, because we want a customized resume. It shows initiative, it shows you care, and it shows you are dedicated. A screener can tell every time when they are reading a “one size fits all” resume. You may be lucky that your resume stays in the pile, but if another applicant who created a customized resume has applied, chances are they would get called first for an interview.

  1. Vague descriptions of your positions.
Some people think it hard to write about their accomplishments during their jobs, but the resume is the time to sell those accomplishments. First, you should be using bullet points to describe your accomplishments, and not full sentences. Second, make sure you are not listing your job duties, but rather are highlighting your accomplishments in that position.
For example,
a) Attended group meetings and recorded minutes, is an example of listing your job duties, while
b) Used laptop computer to record weekly meeting minutes and compiled them in a Microsoft Word based file for future organizational reference, describes your job duties as an accomplishment.

  1. Looks do matter.
You have invested the time and energy to make sure the content is worthwhile, but now you need to do the same with the formatting. Make sure you use white space liberally, create at least one-inch margins on your resume and leave some blank space between various sections so a screener can distinguish distinct chunks of your resume. Stick with two fonts at the most, for example one for the headings and the second font for the body text. Use bold and italics to your advantage, but avoid underlining. Many resume writers will bold their job titles and italicize subheading or job date ranges, but don’t underline as studies show most readers find underlined text difficult to read.

  1. No action verbs.
Your bullet points in your resume should include action verbs, such as implemented, resolved, developed, etc. If you do a search for “resume action verbs,” you’ll find plenty of web sites dedicated to listing resume action verbs you can use.

  1. Not including a cover letter.
If the position you are applying for specifically asks for you to send a resume and cover letter, you better be sending both. I know screeners who won’t even look at resumes if the applicant hasn’t included the required cover letter. It shows that you aren’t following directions, and this is the easiest test an organization can ask of an applicant to follow. In addition, when you send your resume and it is to an email address, make sure you put something in the body of the email. Don’t just send your resume as an attachment and say nothing in the email. (Yes, people really do this!)

In the end, avoiding these resume errors helps you create a tailored resume that will work in your advantage, and highlight why the screener should contact you for the position.

Until next time, wishing you great success in your career endeavors!!

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