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Biggest Mistake on Resumes
The resume is the place where you can share why you are qualified for the job you are applying for. The problem is, most people use it like a dating profile. They put a lot of stuff on there, hoping that something will resonate with anyone with a pulse. They don’t have a specific match in mind.
I love mountain biking, watching TV, small towns, big cities, long walks on the beach, snowboarding, lazy Saturdays, adventure, ice-cream, kale, and looking for someone funny, serious, intelligent, adventurous, driven, laid back, to settle down into an adventure.
Certainly if I put enough buzz words on here, I’ll match up with someone. So, you cover every possible scenario where the final factor comes down to whether the person is breathing or not.
This is the same thing people do with their resumes. They put down any and everything without focusing on a specific job or person. If you aim for nothing, the saying says, you’ll hit it every time.
You need to make your resume stand out, but not in an obnoxious, printed on pink paper stand out. You want your resume to be the one the hiring manager remembers after fanning through all the stacks. Better yet, you want your resume to be the one they compare other resumes to.
Here’s my take on making your resume awesome AND effective.
1- Have as many resumes as you have job’s your applying for.
But that’s a lot of work. I’m applying to a lot of jobs! Only follow this tip if you’re serious about getting a job. You should use different language, highlighting different skills, and emphasizing different experience depending on the job that you are applying for. This brings us to the next tip.
2- Write each resume with a specific job in mind.
Don’t have the same resume for non-profit jobs as for corporate jobs. This is not about being deceitful, it’s about being savvy and smart. You want to use the language of that industry and/or organization. If you’re applying for a job at IJM and you were involved as a volunteer, move that closer to the top. Don’t bury it in the volunteer section towards the bottom like on your corporate resume.
What do they care about that I have been involved with? Put this near the top.
What experiences do they deal with that I have to? Put this near the top.
– Talk their language.
– Recognize their culture.
– Pay attention to their values.
But this takes time? Exactly. Few people are going the extra mile, you can stand out with a little more effort.
3- If you have to think more than 3 seconds on how to describe something you’ve done because it doesn’t sound impressive, either state it simply and truthfully or leave it off.
Don’t say: “I was in charge of font-line customer satisfaction and retention” when you were a “cashier”.
Don’t say: “Kept financial records and data measuring the effectiveness of organizational priorities” when you collected receipts for expense reports.
Don’t say: “Responsible for quality control for 15 different products” when all you did was sample the food before taking it to the table you were serving.
If you have to stretch to make it sound impressive, the person reading it is either going to roll her eyes, laugh, or stop reading all together. None of which you want. Making something sound fancy is what a kids does. I know, I have young kids and their imaginations are hilarious. If I’m reading a resume, I don’t want to think, Oh, this is hilarious. What a great imagination. Well, unless they were applying for a job at a movie studio as a creative writer. But even then, I don’t want to read fluff that’s getting flagged mentally as complete bs.
4- Show me what you’ve done!
This is so important. Especially when you’re trying to land a good job with a great organization, which will make it more competitive. Don’t focus on what you’ve learned. Degrees are important. But they’re not the linchpin for many jobs. If you’re trying to land a job as a doctor or teacher, yes, having the specific degree is a necessity. But for many jobs like marketing, or what I do with mobilization, the specific degree is far less important that the experience you have. You need to show them your experience.
Highlight the experience you have that will be a benefit to the specific job.
But I don’t have any experience! I just got out of school. How am I supposed to have experience yet?
If you don’t have enough experience you have two options. 1- apply for a different job—one you do have experience for. 2- Go get the experience you need for this job.
I just met with a recent college student who said she’d love to write for the organization where I work. She was asking whether or not she should get her masters in journalism before applying for the job.
Here’s the bullet points from my response:
– I don’t think it’s a requirement.
– That may or may not make you a better writer
– They’re going to hire a writer who’s a good writer. The best way to be a good writer is to write. You don’t have to go to grad school to do that. You can write for free. You can practice for free. You can spend $100 on books and learn a whole lot about the craft of writing.
– You can go if you want to, but there may be much cheaper routes to the experience you want.
– Why not start writing the type of stories you’d like to write for another organization for free?
This is a great example where getting the experience you need is not as difficult as it seems. It will still require work. But it’s possible.
Think about what experience you are lacking for your job and go get it.
What experience do you need?
Sales: pretty much any business ever will let you try.
Planning/Details: volunteer organizing trips at your church or events for your Rotary Club.
Photography: Offer to take pictures for a friends’ wedding. Too much pressure? Go for the engagement pictures first.
Writing: start a blog.
Teaching: Find an after school program.
Music: any bar still open at 3:00 AM.
There’s plenty of ways to get experience. It may not be exactly what you’d be doing for the job you want. But it will show you’re serious and also have something to go off of.
You don’t have to have planned the same type of event, but if you’ve planned an event, you can do the next point:
5- Connect what little you’ve done to what you’ll need to do in the new job.
– I’ve never sold your product, but I’ve sold kitchen knife sets door to door. (This shows sales experience and a level of determination that will stand out).
– I’ve never taught algebra, but I did tutor kids in the after school program in geometry.
– I’ve never done social media marketing for a large firm, but I launched my own website and have grown 50,000 fans on Facebook.
– I’ve organized 7 trips for my church, including all logistics, planning, fundraising, etc…and I can do that for the trips I’d be in charge of for the CEO.
What have you done that is in line with something you’ll need to do? This is the key. Find that. Leverage it to the tilt.
6- Shouldn’t have to say these, but just to make sure we’ve dotted all our lower case j’s.
– No clip art
– No misspelled words
– Nothing made up
7- The Design, Lay-out, Look and Feel
I don’t think it matters what font you use as long as it’s not cartoonish. But how you design your resume says something about you too. Lay it out with some white space. Don’t cram every inch of the space with content. Some people will choose to be more artsy. That’s fine if you’re artsy and looking for that.The key here is what you say is important, but don’t let it get lost in how you lay it out. Find a way to show your personality, just don’t let it slip past a clean, professional look.
The resume is not going to land you your dream job. You still have to nail an interview (or 10) and get passed other steps. But the resume could be the reason you don’t get your dream job. Don’t be one of those people.
What lessons have you learned on resumes that have helped?