Repeat Offenders, Part 1

The top ten mistakes job seekers make in their resumes.

To kick off my new blog about resume writing, what better way to start than with a list of the most common mistakes iHire.com’s resume team sees every day to give you an idea of what NOT to do before we give you tips on how to create the perfect resume for this challenging job market. I will be posting bi-weekly articles covering a wide range of topics in one of the most difficult tasks in today’s job search – creating your resume. I hope you find my insight helpful and please don’t hesitate to comment, ask questions, and spark discussions. Next time we’ll talk about 5 more “do nots,” such as writing in third person, including personal data, and the misuse of headers and footers.

1.       Do you have what I’m looking for?

Everyone has the same objective – to get a job. Years ago, before employers had more than enough applicants to choose from, an objective or goals statement was a welcome beginning to a resume. Now that the demand has reversed, your objective statement does little for you beyond taking up precious space on the top of the first page and showing you’re still following old-school ideas. Don’t waste space on your resume telling employers what they already know – you’re looking for a job where you can use your skills. Here are some objective statements from resumes the iHire team has recently reviewed, ranging from cliché to downright painful (all spelling errors kept intact):

Seeking a position that will allow me to utilize my wide-range production knowledge combined with my ability to work in a productive and positive manner.

OBJECTIVE:  sucessfully find a job

To obtain a position in a dynamic team environment that allows me to utilize and to expand upon my strong analytic skills.

To give an honest days work for an honest days wages

Dental Hygienist position-full time,part time or temp. in a friendly group or private office.

Challenging position with a company that encourages creativity and offers earned advancement opportunities.

2.       I am me.

The next offense (committed in several of the objective statements above) is using first person pronouns in your resume. Professional resume writing requires mastery of “resume speak” – a concise, hard-hitting approach that eliminates unnecessary “filler” words, including I, me, we, the, a, an, their, his, her, etc. While your resume needs to be written in first person (we’ll cover the mistake of writing in third person in the next blog), never use the extra stuff that makes your resume read more like an autobiography. Compare the following:

Fluffy: I am a highly knowledgeable Sales and Marketing Professional with more than 15 years of experience in high-volume retail operations. I have an extensive record of initiative and leadership resulting in measurable contributions to store profitability, productivity, efficiency, and strategic objectives. I have strong communication and organizational skills, the proven ability to work collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams, and the talent for managing key accounts.

Neat: Highly knowledgeable Sales and Marketing Professional with more than 15 years’ experience in high-volume retail operations. Extensive record of initiative and leadership resulting in measurable contributions to store profitability, productivity, efficiency, and strategic objectives. Strong communication and organizational skills, proven ability to work collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams, and talent for managing key accounts.

See the difference? Save the pronouns for your cover letter.

3.       I have references, you know.

Another previous trend that has fallen into the unnecessary category is including “references available upon request” at the bottom of your resume.  Similar to the objective, employers know that you are both looking for a job with their company and will supply references when they ask for them. More importantly, NEVER include your references or supervisors’ contact information on your resume. Create a separate document for this information and do not post it publicly. You don’t want your references’ contact information falling into the wrong hands – especially with so much of your job search being done online.

4.       Bullet happy

Bullets can be our friend, but their services are often abused on a resume.  We see so many resumes that are either entirely or close-to-entirely bulleted – every statement is part of a lengthy bulleted list. The reader has no idea where to start and may decide not to bother.  Can you quickly find the achievement in this list without reading every line:

  • Provide day-to-day financial reporting and general ledger accounting.
  • Processed payroll, handled accounts payable/receivable, and prepared federal and state tax forms.
  • Conduct year-end closing functions and complete corporate income tax forms.
  • Saved $7K per year in outside accounting fees by preparing tax returns internally.
  • Assembled and presented consolidated financial statements and relevant efficiency reports including ad hoc reporting.

How about now?

Provide day-to-day financial reporting and general ledger accounting. Processed payroll, handled accounts payable/receivable, and prepared federal and state tax forms. Conduct year-end closing functions and complete corporate income tax forms. Assembled and presented consolidated financial statements and relevant efficiency reports including ad hoc reporting.

  • Saved $7K per year in outside accounting fees by preparing tax returns internally.

Save bullets for the exciting details – results, achievements, and accomplishments.

5.       Repeat after me.

Take a look at this description of a job seeker’s previous position:

Sous Chef: Jefferson Hotel & Resort

  • Maintain in house menu specifications
  • Assist in banquet production
  • Assist in the development of new menus
  • Assist in maintaining proper production in line with food cost
  • Manage weekly ordering for the restaurant
  • Manage 8 restaurant line cooks

Seeing double (or  triple)? This person used the same verbs over and over again – this bores the reader and shows a lack of vocabulary and creativity. Don’t forget about the usefulness of a Thesaurus. For example, there are numerous synonyms that create more excitement than Manage – Facilitate. Supervise. Direct. Spearhead. Orchestrate.  Variety is the spice of resume writing!

Stay tuned for my next post featuring 5 more common resume writing mistakes. Have you committed any of these resume writing “offenses”? What are some of the challenges you face when writing or updating your resume? Are you a hiring manager or HR professional who has other mistakes to share? Tell us!

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