The 8 Biggest Mistakes on Resumes, and How to Correct Them
A Note From The Editor
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When you’re an entrepreneur, you do a lot of searching for the right candidates to join your team. Hiring takes up a tremendous amount of time, so one of the best things you can do if you’re looking to get hired, or you’re looking to hire someone, is to pay attention to the common mistakes on resumes.
As a job seeker, keeping these mistakes off your resume will help you get through the stacks of applicants to potentially get hired at a great startup. As a hiring entrepreneur, identifying these key mistakes early on in the resume process will save you time as you sort through applicants.
Here are the eight biggest mistakes I see on resumes and how you can correct them.
1. Saying too much
Having a lot of experience is a great thing. However, put yourself in the mindset of the person hiring and take a good overview of your resume’s length. I typically like to see nothing longer than a page, maybe a page and a half, but really you should try to pare it down to a page.
People will fight me on this all the time and say they have so much experience that it simply won’t fit on one page. My argument is that when a candidate can show me that they can succinctly and effectively summarize their experience onto one page, it demonstrates you already are practicing two important skills you need at any startup or business. Also, don’t be afraid to put your LinkedIn profile link on your resume, and then list all the details there on your LinkedIn page, which will be the second place I go after reading your great, brief resume.
It’s always best to think of your resume as a job eliminator, not a job getter. I want to see if you have core competencies that match my team needs, then I’ll dig deeper with a LinkedIn search, phone interview or email after you’ve made the first cut.
Saying more of the right thing in less space will get you further with your resume.
2. Saying too little
Obviously, the flip side of too much is not saying enough. You should have a complete, robust page offering that gives the best details and the most statistically significant information about your past. Include metrics. I’m always amazed when resumes are filled with flowery language about “tasked with” this job and “responsible for” that initiative, but then there’s no data to back it up.
How many files did you reorganize into a complete new system? How many sales did you increase from quarter to quarter? Put metrics in the mix and also include any leadership or management positions.
3. Skip objectives
There’s an old school of thought that objectives should be listed at the top. I’m not in that camp. I don’t think the objectives section of your resume is relevant or important at this stage. When you’re in my office and we’re interviewing together, I like to talk to you face to face about your objectives. All this does on your resume is take up space on your one-page, metrics-driven resume. Skip it and save the space.
Did you know grammar and spelling are two different things? You can spell it correctly and still be using the wrong form of the word grammatically. There are their, there and they’re, as well as multiple uses for you are and yours, apostrophes, colons, semi-colons and more (oh my!).
Understanding grammar, verb-noun subject agreement, propositions and plurals are all basics of the English language that your spell check isn’t going to find each time. Have a second set of eyes read your resume and check for grammar.
One trick I always use is to read anything I write out loud. Read out your contractions to make sure they make grammatical sense in your sentence. That extra step of care shows me that you are considerate and deliberate in the quality of your work. Trust me, many aren’t, and your resume will do better.
Spelling, like grammar, matters. Spell check and auto correct aren’t going to get it right 100 percent of the time, so make sure you read it out loud and have a second set of eyes on your resume for spelling as well. It will make a difference.
Aside from metrics on a one-page resume, the other big thing I’m looking at are the timelines. If you have big gaps in your employment timeline, that’s not an automatically bad thing, but you should offer some kind of explanation. Gaps of more than about six months should either have an explanation in your cover email/cover letter or should include an entry on your resume timeline, like explaining that you took time off to travel the world, or started a business that failed.
Whatever it is, those are important and relevant details that can fill in a complete view of your history. When I see big gaps in a resume’s timeline with no explanation, it makes me wonder what was going on and why you wouldn’t mention it. It’s a distraction in a resume.
7. Inconsistencies, embellishments and lies
Don’t lie on your resume. It’s that easy. Actually, don’t lie in life at all. Trust me on this. It’s obvious when your years of experience don’t add up, when your timeline is all over the place, when you have massive unexplained jumps in responsibility or hop from job to job.
Inconsistencies and dramatic embellishments are white lies and I’ve seen it all from white lies to full-blown fiction on resumes -- don’t do any of it.
My final word of advice on resumes is to make sure yours is relevant to the position you’re applying to, or else don’t bother. If I am having a medical emergency, but happen to know an incredibly talented engineer, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop by his place for medical care -- I need a doctor!
The same goes with your resume and applying for employment. If your skills really don’t match up to what the job requires, even if you are really smart, talented and have great experience at what you do, it’s just not a good fit. Save both sides of the table the time and don’t apply.