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Does your résumé draw a picture of you as a goal-oriented go-getter, or as an unmotivated follower? Does it convey someone who rises to challenges and solves problem, or someone who creates them? Do you come off as pompous when you were aiming for confident? Ultimately, what your résumé says about you depends on the experience, values and opinions of the people reading it, but some common mistakes can make your résumé send the wrong message.
The "One Size Fits All" Résumé - Gone are the days when you would create the "perfect" résumé and make dozens of copies of it to pass around. Your résumé should be custom-built and focused on each job for which you apply. No two prospective employers should receive the same résumé from you. Customize a clear objective that is based on what the employer is looking for, then craft your skills and accomplishments to show that you can do what they need done. Example: "Objective - The account manager position with a company desiring a focused, self-starter with a proven record of leading people and boosting profits." If the job posting includes minimum and preferred qualifications, specifically outline those as a "summary of qualifications."
The "What I Did, Not What I Can Do" Résumé - Sure, you want to outline job duties and accomplishments at previous employers, but only in a way that supports your ability to help your next employer. Avoid phrases such as "Duties included" and "responsible for." Instead, outline the results in specific terms, give numbers where possible and suggest how these skills can transfer to your new job. Example: "Can effectively manage projects to minimize loss. Saved company $20,000 by eliminating unnecessary steps in procurement process."
The "But it Makes More Sense This Way" Résumé - Your résumé should be structured like an inverted pyramid, with the stuff at the top being very specific and detailed, and the stuff at the bottom being more general. If your résumé must be more than one page, make sure the first page could stand on its own if the other pages were lost. Relegate to subsequent pages only information that supports what you say on the first page, but isn't essential to get the point across. Sometimes, this means abandoning a strictly chronological recap of your career.
The "I Know How to Use Templates" Résumé - Hiring managers have seen just about every résumé template your word processor or page layout software has to offer. By using a template, you may make your résumé pretty, but it won't stand out from the pack, or worse, it will send a message that that you don't have much creativity or are unwilling to think outside the box. Don't worry about making your résumé pretty. Focus instead on making it well-structured and informative.
The "Jack of All Trades" Résumé - Many job seekers, particularly those who have not sufficiently researched their desired job and focused their job search, cling to the cliché, "Jack of All Trades," in hopes that it will convey an ability and willingess to do anything. Unfortunately, these folks conveniently ignore that the time-honored phrase actually concludes "…and master of none." Employers are looking for candidates who have a clear idea of what they want to do and have mastered their trades, so err on the side of showing consistency rather than versatility. Do your research, know what the job you are seeking entails and show how you can do and have done it.
The "I Have Too Much Faith in the Spellchecker" Résumé - Many common spelling and grammar errors can't be caught by a spellchecker, and can be particularly embarrassing if missed. Have a human being (or, better, several people), preferably someone with a good grasp of written English, review your résumé. When you review, pay particular attention to things you might normally skim over, such as your name and address at the top of the page, company names, etc.
The "You Can't Afford Me" Résumé - In our zeal to show we are the "perfect" person for the job, we tend to forget to leave room on our résumés for improvement. As a result, we come off as over-experienced or pompous. In addition to including your skills and accomplishments, find ways to express professional goals that may be shared by the employer and which the employer can help you achieve with little investment.
The "I'm Hiding Something" Résumé - If you have a gap in your job history, you earned your degree decades ago or have switched careers, you may be tempted to leave some things off your résumé or use a "functional" approach instead of a "chronological" one. As a result, you end up giving the hiring manager unanswered questions about your history. Downplay, but don't hide negative parts of your work history, and make troublesome items secondary to your qualifications and accomplishments. Again, focus on what the employer needs and your ability to provide it, and many trouble spots will be easily overlooked.
The "I Don't Know Who (or What) Will Read This" Résumé - Four out of five résumés today are scanned or loaded into searchable databases, so it's important to use descriptive keywords to describe your abilities. However, keep in mind that almost every résumé is eventually read by a human being, so it should be well-written and avoid jargon that may not be evident to the hiring manager.
You only get one chance to make a good first impression, so know what your résumé may be unintentionally saying about you and avoid common mistakes.