Hey Everyone! Often times when I help clients or recruit talent at career fairs with my company, I see and hear the same repeated resume mistakes. These exact mistakes can sometimes prevent candidates from progressing to next steps in a job application, whether for an internship or full-time opportunity. Some of these are mistakes I've even made myself when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and was looking for an internship. After talking to and applying to several companies with zero major leads, I eventually learned the hard way about my mistakes from these experiences and brutal feedback. Once I started working with mentors and coaches, I learned how to correct these mistakes and started getting positive results, advancing in my applications process and actually getting interviews! That said, I'm going to share what I've identified to be the top 10 things students and young professionals are doing wrong with their resume. By resolving and fixing these mistakes, you'll find yourself having a better chance at advancing to next steps during a job application process.
For the audio version, please refer to the below video and make sure to subscribe and like my channel on YouTube: @tips_bytaylor
Let's start backwards with these mistakes... starting at #10!
#10 – You Have an Unprofessional Email Address Listed on Your Resume
When we were younger, many us, including myself, had fun email addresses with our nicknames incorporated into it. However, these aren't professional when applying for a job and come across as cheesy or childish. Instead ditch the "firstname.lastname@example.org" or "email@example.com".
Don't push it off anymore, and go ahead and make that new email address using a simple combination of your first and last name. If your name is pretty popular like mine, you can incorporate a few numbers or even your middle name/initial, but do your best to keep it simple. The other pro of having a new email address is that you can keep your professional inbox and emails separate from your personal/junk. Which keeps you organized, and less likely to miss an important notice regarding next steps for an interview or inquiries.
#9 – You Have Poor Formatting
If you search resume templates online, Microsoft Word, or Google Drive, you'll see that the structure is pretty similar and consistent throughout. Many people don't follow standard formatting but DIY it the best way they know how which might cause it to look a little unorganized, making it harder for a recruiter to follow along or quickly find pertinent information (GPA, education, etc) and desired characteristics. Try using or following a template to keep your resume neat and organized.
#8 – You Have Little White Space
You have WAY too many things on your resume that you're trying to cram together, that it starts to all run together and makes it overwhelming for the reader to look at and figure out where to start.
Use tips like decreasing your margins, decreasing fonts, or increasing spacing between sections and experiences to make it easier for the eye to process and digest.
#7 – You Have Little to No Relevancy
Your resume doesn't include anything relevant to the position you are applying for. We can all agree that we don't always have directly related experience for positions we apply to, especially when it's our first internship or job we are applying for. And that's okay!! You can still include desired characteristics or experiences from leadership positions or projects to help you align with the company's needs and what they are looking for in an ideal candidate.
#6 – Your Resume is Longer than ONE Page
The average recruiter spends 10-30 seconds reviewing your resume for the FIRST TIME. Just like a first impression in real life, you only have a few seconds to make it good and lasting impression. If successful, the recruiter might spend an additional three to five minutes reviewing your resume.
This said, having multiple pages to your resume decreases the chances of a recruiter reading everything you bring to the table. Instead, consolidate your resume down to one page. Honestly, unless you have 10-20 years experience or on the executive level, you can get your resume down to one page by including the most relevant information.
#5 – Your Descriptions are Too Wordy
The descriptions for your experiences are too wordy and long. They resemble paragraphs and make it harder and more overwhelming for the reader to quickly skim in 10-30 seconds.
Instead, use neat bullet points to quickly summarize your experiences for each position to make it easy to follow and digest. Also look to add buzz words that will align with what companies are looking for and stand out.
#4 – You Only Talk About What You Did, Not Your Achievements
Companies look for more than just your day to day transactions and tasks at previous experiences. Rather than only focusing on these, make sure to include accomplishments and projects as well. These may sometimes be overlooked as minor changes or updates, but are still very much so important and valuable. Spend some time reflecting and brainstorming on some of the process improvements, time reductions, cost savings, analysis, and leadership qualities you have displayed in previous experiences and will bring to the table in your future endeavors.
#3 – It Has Fluff
Fluff is anything that doesn’t add any real value to your resume. These can include multiple things including...
a) relevant courses when you’re a junior or senior in college
- companies have an idea of which courses you should have taken by now, this section is intended more for underclassmen to confirm relevant courses they have taken or are currently enrolled in that might be requirements for internships, (i.e. calculus, thermodynamics, programming, basic sciences, etc) most the typical freshman or transfer has not taken yet.
b) leadership positions or volunteering from over 5 years ago
- most of these aren't really relevant to you anymore and not to sound harsh, but ideally you should have something new to replace these by now. Also if you're a college student in your second year or higher, you should really remove your high school leadership and volunteering, because your college experiences should override those now.
c) organizations that you were only a "member" of
- organizations you were not active in as a leader or did any committees, volunteering, etc. If someone were to ask you about that organization and what your contribution was, would you be able to answer their question confidently without saying "I went to meetings and was just a member" then go ahead and remove it. If you are a professional who was / is actively involved with affiliations, but running out a space you can still list 2-3 affiliations, as long as you are able to speak to these if asked.
c) soft skills section
- soft skills are skills companies already hope or assume you have as a potential candidate (i.e. analytical, adaptable, ability to work well with others, critical thinking skills, etc). Instead of listing these without context, incorporate these into your objective or descriptions throughout your resume. Everything doesn't have to be included in your resume, once you get to next steps you can explain / highlight more of your skills and experiences during the screen call and interview when asked.
Don't be afraid to remove fluff from your resume, which will then open up valuable real-estate for other important information you can highlight.
#2 – You Have Little to No Metrics
I define resume metrics as numbers, values, measurements, or quantifiable data / results that depict the magnitude of work you managed or accomplished consistently over a period of time (whether daily, weekly, monthly, annually, etc). By adding these into your resume, it makes each of your descriptions that much more impressive (i.e. lead and mentored an executive board and general body membership -vs- lead a 30-person executive board and membership of over 300 students). The second one sounds more impressive right??
Aim to have at least one metric in each bullet point, or about 90% of your description bullets to make you stand out to recruiters.
#1 – You’re More Concerned About the Cosmetics on Your Resume
We all want to stand out, and sometimes we think we have to be super flashy and extremely creative to achieve this when that simply isn't true. Often times, I'll hear from clients or students who ask what colors they should use for their resume (the answer is neutral, try to avoid pinks, greens, reds, blue, etc), templates, if they should include pictures, graphics, etc. Although these are all creative ideas, I honestly don't think the resume is the right place to showcase these. As previously mentioned, the average recruiter is only spending 15 seconds reviewing your resume and any distractions that take away from the content that really matters (aka your descriptions) might hinder you and can sometimes come across as unprofessional.
In addition to this, when I see students who obviously spent more time dedicated on how their resume looks versus the content and what it says, it speaks a lot to what their priorities are. Although formatting and white space is important, don't worry so much about making your resume standout from everyones and be the most aesthetically pleasing / perfect. By focusing on the quality of your resume and descriptions, this is what is going to make you stand out the most and align to what companies are looking for.
Alrighty y'all, so these are the top 10 things I personally see people doing wrong with their resumes. Hope this post helps you and you have learned something new today! If you found this blog article to be helpful, make sure to share it with a colleague or friend.
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Until next time y'all, take care!!
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