Thirty seconds. According to a 2012 survey by CareerBuilder, that’s how long hiring managers spend skimming each resume they receive. In this economy, with hundreds of applications for each position, you have to create a resume that is as flawless as possible—but too many job seekers make crucial errors. Avoiding these 7 common, but avoidable, mistakes may mean the difference between getting an interview and having your resume ignored.
Mistake #1: Failing to Proofread
Spelling and grammatical errors are at the top of employer pet peeves when it comes to reviewing resumes. In fact, in a recent survey from Adecco, employers said these types of errors were the number one reason why resumes were ignored. Here’s the truth: employers expect resumes to be perfect, so if spelling and grammar rules are not your strength, find a friend or mentor who will look over your job application packet. Another pair of eyes will certainly see things that you will not—and help you get your foot in the door.
Mistake #2: Formatting a Party Invitation, Not a Resume
Constructing an easy-to-read resume is an art. Pay attention to the way you use white space, or the spaces between sections. Without enough white space, dense text will overwhelm the reader and make it almost impossible to find the most important points that highlight your experience and knowledge. The same is true for “stylish” fonts. While fun fonts with flair may be perfect for a poster or brochure, fonts that are considered professional—Ariel, Times New Roman, or Courier, for example—are the ones to choose for job application documents.
Mistake #3: Presenting Incorrect or Unprofessional Contact Information
Few people think about the impact their contact information has on a potential employer, but there’s a world of difference between having an email address like “email@example.com” and “firstname.lastname@example.org.” It’s your responsibility to update your contact information to reflect your job search goals—and, of course, to make sure it’s accurate. One number typo in your phone number may mean the difference between an interview and a longer, more stressful job search.
Mistake #4: Not Understanding Length Requirements
Resumes should not be longer than one page, perhaps two if you have been in the workforce for many years. Resumes that do not fit these guidelines call attention to themselves—and not in a good way. Longer than 1 to 2 pages? Employers may be annoyed and toss your resume aside. Shorter than a page? You may be saying much more about your lack of experience than you’d like to be. If you don’t have job experience, find the skills and educational experience that are relevant. If you have too much experience (i.e. years of work experience), include only the most recent positions or expand upon those jobs that are most like the position for which you are applying.
Mistake #5: Ignoring the Gaps In Job History
While it’s natural, especially in this economic downturn, to have some gaps between assignments, employers will raise a suspicious eyebrow to resumes that don’t account for them. Either in the resume or in the accompanying cover letter, explain the reason behind the missing time. It’s better to account for these special circumstances in a straightforward manner.
Mistake #6: Creating Useless Information Overload
A resume is only as good as the information on it, and if you’re providing a lot of information but none that’s useful to an employer, you’re not likely to make a good impression. When describing your previous jobs, use active verbs and specify what unique contributions you made. Reiterating a job description doesn’t really help employers know what makes you unique.
Mistake #7: Sending an “Every Job” Resume
Your goal is to stand out among hundreds of other applicants—a generic resume won’t get the job done. Highlighting the skills that make you perfect for each specific job will help you get noticed, especially if you elaborate briefly upon the most relevant ones in your cover letter. Also, make sure you provide all of the information requested in the job posting, so that you don’t seem like you are simply “shotgunning” your resume to any and all potential employers.
A few extra minutes of detailed editing, enlisting a friend’s second opinion, or participating in a resume-writing workshop can make the difference between a resume that gets noticed and one that continues to be ignored by employers. Avoid these errors and make your job search a fruitful one.
By Sara Collins
Sara Collins is a writer for NerdWallet, a site that helps job seekers make smart financial decisions by staying informed about topics ranging from jumbo mortgage rates to college tuition planning.