This is the continuation of the post Resume Don’ts, where we began to provide a detailed point-by-point list of things you should try to avoid when preparing your resume. Your resume is an important document, as it is the key that opens a door to an interview; therefore, it is critical that you avoid as many pitfalls as possible in creating it. In the previous post, we covered a number of out “pet peeves” (which were a miscellaneous collection of small items), untruths, and duties versus accomplishments. The remaining “Don’ts” are described below.
Recruiters are suspicious people. They need to be because of the importance of hiring the right candidate. Everything in your resume therefore should be unambiguous and have the objective of making the recruiter excited to call you for an interview; consequently, the more questions you can answer in advance, the better. Also the fewer questions you raise about yourself and your experience the better.
Here are a few examples of choices that could lead to unnecessary questions:
- Not listing your work experience in reverse chronological order i.e. most recent first. There are a couple ways of approaching your employment history but we find this way is the most helpful. If a candidate chooses another approach (without the reason being obvious), we immediately wonder why.
- Not explaining obvious gaps in employment. Were you in jail?
- Using a complicated writing style. If we don’t understand your resume, we just move on.
- Only years are shown (e.g. 1998-2005) in the time period for each job. Why not show the month? What are you hiding? But we are less concerned if the particular job was a long time ago.
What is the most appropriate length for your resume? Let’s give you a few pointers:
- The more experienced you are, the longer your resume should be. If you just had one job, then you have very little reason to be longer than one page. It is annoying to see an inexperienced person submitting pages and pages; you’ll probably get discarded very quickly.
- Even if you have a lot of experience, longer than 3 pages could be excessive. It usually means you need a full resume re-write focusing on summarizing your experience.
- The more senior your position, the more your resume will be scrutinized. A little extra length could help cover your career more completely.
- As you progress in your career, either reduce the space used for your earlier jobs, or eliminate altogether, or just note the bare bones info, company name, job title, and length of service.
We usually hear complaints from candidates that they don’t know what to eliminate to save space. But apart from formatting problems (see below), they usually include lots of irrelevant information. Here are a few examples:
- Objectives. We often scratch our heads trying to understand why candidates include an Objective statement. It seems only relevant if you are sending an unsolicited resume to someone, so they can use it to direct your resume to the appropriate area in the organization. But if you are applying to a specific job, why would an employer be interested in what your objective is? Of equal importance is the fact that most objectives are poorly written with eye-rolling generalities. Unless you can craft a sensible, attention-grabbing objective, then just omit it. As a matter of fact, probably just omit it regardless.
- Personal information. This harkens back to our comment about potential discrimination. Most personal information is a potential reason to exclude you. Stop putting yourself at a disadvantage. Not to mention that some people use a half-page to put all this information. How is this important enough to use so much space? Allow the reader to evaluate you initially on your skills and experience, nothing else.
- Education. A lot of space is potentially wasted by including all your education details. If you have a tertiary qualification, then please delete your high school information. Also, there is no need to list all the papers you passed. If you are part-way in your course of study, just indicate that.
- Endless detail about your responsibilities. We covered this in Part one Resume Don’ts. Focus the space on your accomplishments – describe how you added value to your employer.
- Hobbies/Extra curricular activities. Generally we would say, nobody is really interested in what your hobbies are. It could probably work against you by suggesting things you’ll be focusing on other than your prospective employer’s work! But this needs a bit more thought and selective inclusion. We’ll talk about this in the article, Resume Tips.
The bottom line is your resume needs to be easy to read. Again, assume the recruiter has many resumes to review and they are busy. If you can’t make it easy for them, they will just move on to the next resume. Here are a few points to note.
- Use enough “white space”, which is literally the white space between paragraphs, etc that you see when a page is printed. Continuous blocks of text are too difficult to read because it’s tiring on the eyes and nothing in particular is being emphasized. White space makes a resume look cleaner, less cluttered (therefore easier to read and scan), and directs the reader to important points. Also leave enough white space on the top, bottom, left and right i.e. the margins.
- Ensure the different sections of your resume are easy to identify. The reader needs help to quickly recognize where sections start or end or even your different employers.
- Weird fonts and colours. Assuming you are not applying to a creative position, keep it simple, and use colour in particular, selectively. Use an easy-to-read font and vary the size selectively for emphasis. Do not use an over-large or over-small font for the main text – size 10, 11, or 12 is usually acceptable, depending on the font.
- Be consistent: similar items should be formatted in a like fashion. For example, if you use one format for sections headings and another for position titles, etc., then use the same for all section headings and all position titles. “Sudden” changes in the formatting can make the reader question if it was meant to emphasize something i.e. it causes confusion.
- In attempting to be different, please don’t make lunatic design choices. For example, we once saw a resume where all the text was centered on the page like a dinner menu. Sure you don’t want your resume to look like everyone else’s, but keep it sensible. Speaking of which…
- Do not use Microsoft Word resume templates. They have been overdone.
- Do not do your resume in Excel (yes, we once received an actual Excel version). Even when printed, Excel just does not have the structure to produce a professional document easily; it is not designed for this. Instead, learn to use word processing software (e.g. Word, etc.).
Not tailoring your resume to the job advertised
Please don’t believe that one resume will work for all job applications. Pay attention to the job requirements and alter your resume to emphasize the points on your resume that meet the recruiter’s requirements and de-emphasize those that don’t. This is especially important if you include a skill list.
If it’s obvious to us that you submitted a boiler plate resume, we’ll most likely discard you as a candidate.
We hope the list of “Don’ts” above helps you create a compelling, relevant resume. But we repeat, if there is anything here that contradicts a specific point you want your resume to make, then by all means feel free to ignore our advice. You may also want to check out the post Your Resume and You for a more general discussion on resumes.
Good luck on your job search! Your thoughts or questions are welcome in the comments below!
If you need more personalized resume advice, why not check out our Career Coach advisory option? We’d love the opportunity to help you!