17 Résumé Writing Mistakes To Avoid If You Don’t Want To Horrify Recruiters!
Applying for a job is not at all an easy task as one starts second-guessing his or her caliber. Am I really good enough for this job? Will this job actually excite me as much once I start working? Could I have done better in the interview process? However, there are very few aspects that actually go on to decide your future in terms of job search more than the one sheet of paper – the résumé.
For the better or worse, the HR manager only goes through your résumé for a few seconds, as he needs to go through scores of other résumés as well. So, in order to make a lasting impression, you need to make sure your résumé comes across to the recruiter in a positive way. On the other hand, if you end up making a silly mistake in your résumé, your application will most definitely end up in the list of rejected candidates instead of the ones shortlisted for interview. So, what exactly are the mistakes that you should watch out for, and how can you actually do that yourself? In this article, we have compiled many such methods and ways that help you in avoiding silly mistakes in your résumé. And in order to do that, we talked to a number of people related with the hiring process – HR managers and recruiters and found out what some of the common mistakes they thought applicants make in their résumés. Some might come as shocking for you, so be prepared! Here it goes –
Having a single résumé
Everyone understands the pain that a job seeker goes through because they have been one themselves at some point in time. However, that cannot overshadow the fact that an applicant sends the same résumé while applying for ten different positions – especially when they are starkly different from one another!
According to the hiring experts, this is one of the most common mistakes applicants make when they are trying to get a job. According to a job search consultant Ron Auerbach, recruiters often come across résumés that look and feel nice, but ultimately what matters is that the résumé should be molded in order to match the job requirements. When a résumé lacks that, no matter how impressive it may be, it shows to the recruiter that the applicant doesn’t have the focus and attention to detail. He goes on to urge applications to never send generic résumés while applying for jobs. Instead, it should be tailored to match the requirements of the position one has applied for.
Way too artsy
Making sure that your résumé stands out is definitely a part of the plan, but being way too creative with it is simply too much. While adding some sort of clip art or writing the text in artsy calligraphic handwriting may seem fun enough to you, but a serious HR recruiter would definitely push your résumé towards the rejected pile.
According to Auerbach, a recruiter judges the résumé first by the look and the feel of it. So, even if you have mentioned a whole lot of information that makes you the best fit for the job, it will ultimately be a waste, as the HR manager would feel that you aren’t professional about the job. While it may or may not be true, but the first impression is always the last impression. So, you should avoid being too artsy with your résumé and stick to the points.
According to Laura Handrick, another recruitment specialist, using colored or the bizarre shaped paper is the very first sign that the applicant isn’t really serious about the job position. She goes on to say that recruiters, in fact, get irritated seeing such kinds of résumés, and urges applicants to stick to the simple white paper. You surely want your résumé to stand out, but definitely not in the wrong way!
This is quite obvious, but surprisingly a large number of applicants tend to ignore the importance of grammar while writing their résumé. According to Laura Handrick, this puts a bad impression of the applicants in the minds of recruiters. If they aren’t able to pull together their résumé without tons of grammatical errors, what would their company emails look like, argues Handrick. She goes on to add the fact that HR managers love hiring people who can communicate in a clear and concise manner. Also, thanks to available apps such as Grammarly, one can easily rectify the grammatical errors before submitting their résumés, if they’re serious enough about the job.
Using flowery language
While grammatical errors and wrong usage of words may be bad, the use of exaggerated language and showing off of sophisticated vocabulary isn’t exactly loved by the HR managers, either. If it could easily otherwise be communicated in a clear and precise manner, there is really no need to use flowery words – it does more harm than good. In fact, recruiters might not even know some of the words, which clearly defeats the very purpose for which you used them.
Cydney Koukol, chief communications officer for a leading talent development agency Talent Plus, goes on to say that there is a sharp rise in the number of applicants who think use of flowery words will make their résumé stand out in a positive way, when in fact it actually does quite the opposite – it makes your résumé look bad in front of recruiters.
Using more than one page
Another one of the common mistakes made by the applicants looking for a job is cramming too much information in the résumé that makes it run for well over two to three pages, is actually frowned upon by the recruiters. The point of writing long résumés on the part of applicants is understandable, though. You have diverse experience and you wish to convey it all through your résumé – it makes perfect sense. But if you think from the recruiter’s perspective, you would realize that he or she needs to go through tons of such résumés, and there is not more than just a few seconds to go through each résumé. By deciding to add multiple pages in your résumé, the recruiter most possibly will miss the important information and consider you a non-professional applicant for writing so much.
Dana Case, head of operations at mycorporation.com tells us from her experience that she hasn’t accepted any résumé that had more than one page in it. A single page is more than enough to enlist all your previous experiences, no matter how diverse they are.
Cramming too much text
While it is not a good idea to use multiple pages in your résumé, it isn’t exactly a good idea to incorporate all that information on one page, either! Like mentioned in our previous point, it is well understood that you may have vast experience and you’d like to share all of that with the recruiter. But, cramming way too much information makes you compromise with the font size and margin – both of which lead to confusion and chaos and ultimately no one is able to decipher what you wanted to say in the first place. Remember, recruiters only have a few seconds to scan through your application. If you contain too much information, they won’t be going through it in any case. So, stick to the point and mention only the information, which you believe is most relevant and important for the job you are applying for.
Founder of Remote Bliss, Rebecca Safier confirms this. She says that going through a résumé, which has lots and lots of information crammed up is simply an eyesore for any HR manager. She advises applicants to instead mention only the most relevant job experiences in order to make it short and succinct. We agree with her when she goes on to say that sometimes more is less and less is more! So, choose your words carefully and create a neat-looking résumé that includes only relevant information.
Using outdated information
If cramming too much experience is bad, then using outdated experience in your résumé is even worse. According to Jordan Wan, who leads CloserIQ, mentioning job experience that dates back to more than five years is totally a waste, as it’s not a useful piece of information a recruiter might or will consider while going through your application. He mentions that some applicants even end up mentioning job experience that dates back a decade! He goes on to say that the best way to avoid such a scenario is to mention only the recent and most relevant job experiences in the résumé, while the skills and other explanations can go in the CV of your application.
Not mentioning the promotions
We usually tend to concentrate more on our job experiences focusing on where and when we worked and for how long, but a crucial piece of information that is missed is the number of promotions we earned at each company. This is an opportunity missed if you have not been mentioning this on your résumés up until now. According to recruiters, by failing to mention the promotions earned, you are missing out on mentioning your accomplishments. From now on, don’t forget to mention the promotions you have earned at a particular job and also indicate the time you spent at each level in the respective company.
Adding vague titles
If you have worked all your life as a freelance content writer, then there is no need to mention your title as some CEO of a company that does not even exist in the first place! This is the most common error people who are new to the job search make. No doubt your experience working as an intern is crucial in landing you a job when you graduate, but that doesn’t mean you should start calling yourself an industry professional as yet, adds Shirley Paolinelli who works at The Motion Agency as the director HR. Instead, she suggests the right words to choose would be something along the lines of “XYZ industry intern looking for a full-time role”, or “aspiring XYZ professional” as more appropriate and realistic.
Using cliché phrases
Never ever fall for those cliché phrases, making yourself believe that this is what a recruiter might want to hear. The reality is, a recruiter looks for exactly the opposite – someone who is not afraid of being original. By using cliché phrases copied from some website, you would yourself be considered a cliché by the recruiter!
CMO of HealthMarkets, Michael Stahl urges applicants not to use cliché phrases such as ‘out of box thinker’ or ‘team player’ as these traits are anyway assumed to be present in a person. You are not supposed to point out that you have them. Instead, you can and should include examples from real-life experiences that prove those traits.
Similarly, words such as ‘multitasking’, ‘seasoned’ and ‘game-changer’ are frowned upon by the recruiters and come across as cliché phrases to them.
Enlisting the responsibilities
Quite a lot of applicants end up explaining their previous job profiles – the list of responsibilities in their résumé. This isn’t exactly what a recruiter is looking for to read, and it also makes your résumé dull and out of place. It doesn’t convey to the HR manager anything remotely close to what you did during those years at a particular job and if and what you achieved at the company. The recruiter experts urge that applicants should, instead, gear their language more towards their achievements and challenges they accomplished instead of listing vague responsibilities that could cover literally anybody who held that post.
Not mentioning the positions held
Like mentioned in the point related to promotions, it is crucial to enlist your achievements in the positions you held and laying focus on what you actually accomplished, instead of giving out a vague list of responsibilities you were supposed to carry out.
Most recruiters emphasize on the fact that they like to see what an applicant has actually achieved and what kind of results he or she has produced for the previous firms. How did their actions help the company make more money? Or, how did their actions actually improve the efficiency of the firm? If recruiters cannot get an easy answer to at least some of these questions, they tend to ignore your résumé and move on to other résumés on the desk. Also, what an applicant mentions or skips in his or her résumé actually goes a long way in showing what the applicant thinks is important, and what is not. This helps the recruiters make a decision, easily. So, to avoid failing at every job interview, do yourself a favor and include the list of achievements and positions you held at the previous jobs.
Writing for the job you already have
Always remember the fact that the résumé you submit is not meant to be a summary of your prior job experiences. Instead, it needs to advertise why are the right fit for the job and how your skills can be used at the organization. There is a stark difference between the two and applicants often tend to miss that; making their task of finding a job more difficult.
Most job recruiters agree to the fact that a job seeker is not supposed to write for the job they wish they had or want, they have to write for the job they have. Your skills and experience shall be brought forward in such a manner that a recruiter feels that you actually ‘belong’ in that place.
Having a professional objective
There was a time when people actually used to write an ‘objective’ at the top of their résumé, just below the title – a couple of short sentences that focused on explaining the goals and objectives of the applicant for the respective position he or she was applying for. However, this is no longer the norm, and people don’t write that anymore.
Even recruiters do not encourage that. An HR manager who talked to us explains the rationale behind this. He said that in the modern day, a recruiter is more interested in what you bring to the table, rather than what your goals or objectives are. In fact, if you really want to talk positively about yourself at the top of the résumé, you may consider adding a short summary of achievements.
Using the phrase “References available”
Like the ‘objective’ part, this was once the norm, but is not encouraged by the recruiters anymore. Most recruiters concur on the fact that using the phrase ‘references available upon request’ is simply a waste of space in your résumé. The HR manager already knows that you must have some references. So, as and when the recruiter needs it, he will ask for it – no need to mention it as a phrase separately on your résumé.
Using an unprofessional email address
Do not ever think about using an email address you created during your teenage years, using all sorts of fancy names. firstname.lastname@example.org isn’t exactly an email address a recruiter wants to see on your résumé. You are not a teenager anymore and it is time to use a more professional-sounding email address.
Using an unprofessional email address leaves a bad impression on the recruiter, who thinks you are still trapped in your teenage years and lack the competency and maturity to handle an office job. Your email address is a badge, a part of your professional identity. So, make sure you let your email addresses ruin scores of job opportunities. Go ahead and create a decent, professional email address for yourself right away, if you don’t have one. Typically, your email address should contain your first and last name.
Un-synced online profiles
In the modern era, most of the things are online, and your work history and experience are no different. If you go for a job search, a recruiter is likely to go through your LinkedIn profile, so it becomes crucial to keep your profile updated at all times – especially when you have submitted a job application. It doesn’t exactly need to match word by word with your résumé, but it should be consistent with the jobs and experiences you have mentioned in your résumé and the timeline should tally as well. If different profiles have different jobs and experiences listed, the HR manager might find her/himself confused and reject your application. So, keep your online profiles updated while applying for a job.