A spot-on resume doesn’t just mean being able to list the perfect combination of job experience; knowing what information to include, what to leave out, and how to best format your resume are incredibly vital factors that could push yours to the top. Whether you’ve been at it for months or are just starting the job search process, make sure your resume is in tip-top shape before hitting “submit”. Here’s a heads-up on what to avoid:
1. No sign of results. More important than your daily tasks are the results you have been able to produce. Include an accomplishment statement (do not label it such) as the first line of information under each job title. If you can, quantify your results. Numbers are easy to read and will give hiring managers a clear idea of the results you’ve achieved without having to dig deep (which most won’t). You likely have produced results in every position you’ve held, but if you can’t think of any stand-out examples, omitting this line from one of your experience summaries is better than forcing it.
2. Spelling, grammar, or formatting errors. Use your computer’s spell check and a second pair of eyes to scan your resume for grammatical or spelling errors. If you’re having trouble with formatting, the internet is full of free templates you can download and use with Word or fill-in directly on a website.
Be concise. Using a small font or adjusted margins to crowd lots of text into one page won’t do you any favors. Instead, break experience down into bite-size pieces. A hiring manager will likely scan your resume anyway, so make it simple! Leaving lots of white space makes your resume aesthetically pleasing and will produce a single-sheet that’s easy to scan.
Never, ever, double-space after periods. Though this may have previously been standard, only one space after a period is necessary and submitting a resume that uses the double-space format could make you look incompetent.
The jury is still out on the Oxford comma (recommended by the Chicago Style Manual, MLA, and Government Printing Office; shunned by AP). Commas take up valuable space but can cause confusion when omitted. Whether you choose to use it or not, make sure your use is consistent throughout the entire document.
3. Including irrelevant experience. Especially for job-seekers over 60, your job history is likely extensive if you count everything from that ice cream shop you worked at in high school, on. Though some jobs that aren’t directly relevant may depict a healthy skillset, only include non-relevant work experience if it clearly demonstrates a skill that will be beneficial to the job you’re applying for. If the important skills you gleaned from an irrelevant job can be summed up in the “Professional Skills” section of your resume, do that. For relevant experience, be specific and concise.
4. Not including continuing education. Make sure your resume includes any noteworthy certifications or coursework you’ve completed throughout your career. For late-career applicants, remove any graduation dates from your education section. Though it’s technically illegal for employers to discriminate based on age, don’t give them the option to subconsciously do so. If you have education beyond high school, don’t include lines about your high school education or GED.
5. Summary/Objective. Because you’re taking the time to apply, employers can infer that you’re looking for a job and are interested in their specific opening. Unless you’re pursuing a career change, eliminate your objective or summary paragraph from your resume. In the event you find yourself a career-change applicant, one or two sentences may be helpful, though this is definitely a “when in doubt, leave it out” scenario. In either situation, let your cover letter do the talking about goals, achievements, interest in the company, and if applicable, why you’re seeking a new career path.
6. Not including up-to-date contact information. Making sure your new cell number is listed on your resume is a given, but including contact information relevant in the digital age (such as email or LinkedIn) is just as important. Including contact methods that have evolved out of the digital age shows employers you understand modern day communication. If you’re applying for a job in the media field, include your website and consider including a social media handle (@_), especially for Twitter. Of course, when including links to your digital self, it’s important to do a thorough vetting of content.
You should always be cautious of your online persona and doubly for those actively applying to jobs. Even if you do not include your digital information, it is easy for potential employers to track you down online—and many hiring managers do. Make sure your website content is free of format and copy errors and your photos for all social media accounts are professional.
7. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Though it becomes more time consuming, making slight alterations to your resume based on each job you’re applying for could up your results. Especially if you have a diverse background, you may choose to highlight certain aspects of your experience for one job, and others for another. Submitting a resume that’s tailor-made will allow you to list specific skills you find listed on the job posting.
8. Including references. Never include references unless asked for. References should be on a separate page if they are a required piece of the application.
9. Writing in third or first person. It is assumed that your resume is about you, so never use personal pronouns such as “I” or “my” and definitely do not refer to yourself in the third person. Duties and results should be listed as facts such as, “Grew company social media following by 30% in the first six months,” or “Managed client communication for firm’s three largest clients.” As a side note, always address past work experience using past-tense verbs. Only use present tense when explaining current duties.
10. Omitting keywords. In many cases, your resume will be scanned by a computer before ever reaching human eyes. Companies often vet applications using software that scans resumes for keywords. Read the job description carefully and use the same words in your resume when applicable, especially the words or skills listed under “requirements”.