A resume is not a silver bullet. How many times have you bought a product simply because you thought it had a snappy advertisement? The goal of a product’s marketing is to get you through the front door or onto the website, and the battle is only half-won at that point. You still need to get a real feel for something before you can make a smart buy. Employers feel this way, too. Your resume will get you through the door but you still need to crush the interview if you want to land the job.
This is not to say your resume—your advertisement—is not important. It will get you through the door, after all. A hiring manager is going to have at least five or ten (or probably more) other resumes to consider and you would be safe in assuming that most or all of them are stronger than yours. However, you can also safely assume that all of them will have some problems, so you can tip the scales in your favor by making sure that your resume is as problem-free as possible.
Typos and grammatical errors
I had a writing teacher once who used a notorious grading tactic called the OGLE: the One Grade Letter Error. He defined the OGLE as egregious and completely unacceptable. You could write a perfect paper that hit on every point, covered every angle and flawlessly cited every reference. If you were careless enough to leave a misspelled word, a misused homonym (e.g. there vs. their vs. they’re) or a punctuation problem in your final draft, your A paper would immediately and irrevocably become a B. Take the time to make sure you don’t leave these kinds of errors in your resume; they are immediately obvious and fatally off-putting.
“This guy says he’s detail-oriented and has strong communication skills, but he can’t even take the time to run a spellcheck? PASS!”
Use of “etc.”
Where do I start? There are so many things wrong with using “et cetera” or “etc.” in your resume. You may think you are being succinct, but instead you are demonstrating a profound carelessness and lack of attention to detail. You are cutting corners. You are creating confusion for anyone reading your resume. You may even be unintentionally implying to a reader that you possess skills that you do not actually possess. Using “etc.” in any professional capacity is an OGLE.
Instead, consider using the term “including but not limited to” and back up your statement with specific examples that “etc.” would allow you to simply omit.
Orphaned text awkwardly appears alone and out of context at the bottom or top of a multiple-page document. Examples include the first or last line of a paragraph, a single bullet point, or employer information appearing apart from that job’s details (think company name, dates of employment and title at the bottom of a page, with all your duties and responsibilities of that job listed on the next page). This can be a symptom of careless formatting or having too much/too little information on your resume—you can easily add or strike a line or two somewhere to fix any instance of orphaned text—and once again shows lack of attention to detail. Allowing orphaned text to exist in any professional documentation is another OGLE.
Errors in dates of employment
When the dates on your resume don’t add up, the red flags fly and there are no earplugs on Earth that can muffle the alarms. Recruiters and hiring managers alike will immediately notice any discrepancies in your listed dates of employment, and careless errors in this area will kill your credibility quickly. The dates will also be confirmed during reference checks. Make sure that you double and triple check these dates for accuracy.
Undemonstrated skill sets
Whether your resume is technical or not, you likely have a “Skills,” “Summary” or “Core Strengths” section on the front page. If you list a particular skill set here, be sure to demonstrate that experience where appropriate—preferably including measurable results if possible.
For example, you might list that you are experienced with HTML. Be sure to also include details of that experience in the bullet points under whatever job or jobs had you utilizing HTML. Perhaps you redesigned an employer’s website and user interface using your knowledge of HTML, increasing their web metrics over a given quarter by 150%. You want to include all these specifics, otherwise a prospective employer might wonder: “Where and how did this person use HTML? How many years of HTML experience does this person have? How did this person’s use of HTML impact the employer? Does this person really have HTML experience?”
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