People always ask me what the exact formula is to submitting a resume that will stand out. Well, there is no secret formula. HR recruiters are people and people have preferences. In the initial screening of applicants, HR Professionals are looking for a reason to reject your resume rather than a reason to move forward. For that reason, it is crucial to avoid these ten resume pitfalls. It may just strengthen your application to get to that next level.
- You attach a resume in a format that is not compatible with the employer’s software operating system – If your prospective employer does not have your exact version of Word or whatever program you utilized to create your resume, chances are the document that you submitted will be altered when opened on their computer. I have had several instances in my career where I could not open a resume at all due to software compatibility issues. The altered formatting is very distracting when a recruiter or hiring manager is trying to review a resume. In all my critiques, I give detailed information on how to avoid this resume pitfall.
- Cover letter contains a condescending tone or lack of interest in long term – I know you are probably thinking, “duh!” However, I have received multiple cover letters that say something to the effect of, “I think you will find me more than qualified for this position” or “I believe a year in the job will prepare me for my future career goals.” If an HR recruiter believes you feel you are settling for this position, they will reject you because they assume that you will offer your resignation as soon as you find a better offer. Hiring someone is a huge investment of time and money. No one wants to hire you if they don’t think you are going to stick around.
- You didn’t fill out the online application completely – If you are applying with a larger company, there is a good chance that you will have to fill out an online application. This application will probably be long and tedious. Please do not ignore the application and just attach a resume. A lot of online applications give you the opportunity to attach your resume and then the system will auto-populate your information into the application. This process is not a perfect science. Please go back through and edit your application thoroughly. You have no idea what an HR person will look at for their initial review. I will admit that most of the time, I completely ignored the online application and simply opened the attached resume. However, I worked with some hiring managers who only reviewed the online application. I had some job postings where I only reviewed the screening questions in the online application. The point is that you never know. Take the time to do it right!
- You put “see resume” anywhere on the hard copy or online application – Don’t do this. Writing “see resume” on your application can non-verbally communicate that you don’t care enough about the open position to follow instructions. Some recruiters don’t find this offensive and some do. It’s best to err on the side of caution.
- You did not tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific job – I’ve had applicants put the wrong job title on their cover letter. For me, that was an automatic rejection. It indicates a lack of attention to detail and interest in the position.
- Spelling or grammatical errors – Edit, edit, edit! I cannot say this enough. The key to a good resume is constant editing. I always automatically reject for blatant errors or misspellings, but didn’t dig too deep. However, I worked with several hiring managers who would scrutinize cover letters and resumes simply to find that one little error and reject the candidate.
- Cover letter or resume ‘trash talk’ previous employers – This rule should be a given, but it’s not. I’ve read countless cover letters that claim leaving their last employment due to discrimination, sexual harassment, nepotism, unfavorable working conditions etc. These reasons may very well be true, but it’s not appropriate or relevant information to bring up in your initial application.
- Resume presents conflicting or vague information – The number one rule to resume writing is DON’T LIE. This obviously includes blatant lying such as making up previous positions to make you appear more experienced. However, I also mean that intentionally vague information. When reviewing resumes, I always raise my eyebrows when I see someone write that they worked somewhere from 2014 -2015. This could mean January 2014 – December 2015 (23 months tenure) OR it could mean Dec 2014 to Jan 2015 (2 months tenure). I tend to think that, when people are vague on their resume, they are trying to hide something. This may not be true, but it’s always what comes to mind.
- Unaddressed Gaps in employment – Most job candidates have a gap in employment for some reason or another. It’s important to address these, but don’t feel pressure to get into too many specifics and alter the focus to the positive as soon as possible. It could simply be, “after six long months of searching, I secured a great position at ABC Bank where I was able to grow the loans department from 6 to 12 employees.”
- You did not follow instructions that were listed in the job posting – Read everything and follow instructions! A lot of professional articles will encourage you to bypass the application process to avoid submitting your resume into a ‘black hole’ of an online applications. This is excellent advice. If you can figure out a way to appropriately contact a hiring manager directly via email or phone, by all means, do it. Some hiring managers and HR professionals do depend more on Blogs, LinkedIn, professional recommendations etc. Please make sure that you submit your resume through the proper channels as well. I never got annoyed at direct inquiries. I do get annoyed when I find the candidate did not submit a detailed and thorough application through the requested channels as well.
If you need help strengthening your resume, please contact me to order a detailed critique of your resume.