The Worst Resume Mistake You Can Possibly Make

Grammatical errors and typos are always high on the list of fatal resume flaws. But there’s actually a worse one, the most fatal of the fatal: Rambling and incoherent writing.

In fact, while reviewers are often willing to overlook an occasional spelling error, outdated technology references or even a brief, unexplained employment gap. But a resume that fails to succinctly convey who you are and what you do is going to be deleted, no matter how qualified you are. And it’s not because reviewers are placing more importance on the document than your technical qualifications. It’s because they couldn’t find your qualifications in the first place.

“The candidate may have the greatest technical skills in the world, but you can’t tell by reading their resume,” says Jai Shukla, senior IT recruiter for ICONMA, a Troy, Michigan-based staffing and consulting firm. “You know it’s bad when you read it several times and it still doesn’t make sense.”

Set the Stage

Rudderless resumes share some common characteristics. For starters, they fail to set the stage for the reviewer by providing a clear headline, objective statement or opening summary that highlights your specialty along with the position you’re seeking. Don’t lead-off with a generic statement that reads something like, “Experienced IT Professional Seeking Opportunities in a Challenging, Growth-Oriented Environment.”

You can further muddy the waters by failing to describe the scope of the projects in your work history, as well as your roles and responsibilities. Reviewers use these to evaluate the relevance of your experience and competencies. The worst-case scenario is when your experience bullets reference unrelated tools and exclude the skills and software programs you’ve included in your technical skills summary.

Stay on Track

Taralee Brady, talent acquisition manager for the Technical Team at Phoenix-based GoDaddy.com has read lots of pointless resumes. One of the more inexplicable was submitted by an experienced Linux admin who listed more than 20 programs and tools in his technical summary, yet for some inexplicable reason dwelled on his experience with Java development, .NET and MySQL in his work history.

Brady conjectures that candidates get off track when they try to load their resume with every possible skill and keyword.

That begs the question: How can you survive automated resume screening if you don’t include a bevy of keywords? The answer, says Brady, is to make sure those keywords, along with any skills that fall outside of your basic position, are described in context. For example, that Linux admin should have explained that he wanted to work with databases or application development, and categorized his skills as primary and secondary. That would have helped reviewers understand his qualifications and supported his goals.

As long as you’re clear about where your talents and interests lie, you don’t need experience with every skill or tool in the job description. When you try to compensate for a lack of skills, camouflage a poor track record or create a single document to send in for a variety of positions, you’ll end up creating a disjointed resume.

Keep it Clear

Nicole Foster, a branch manager and executive recruiter in Northern California for At-Tech Consulting, recently reviewed an eight-page behemoth that raised more questions about the candidate’s goals and background than it answered.

“You’re shooting yourself in the foot if your resume doesn’t read well or deliver a coherent message,” she says. “For goodness’ sake, ask someone else to read your resume before you send it, because if it doesn’t make sense, the reviewer will have no choice but to cast it aside and consider other candidates.”

Comments

  1. BY GrammarNazi says:

    In fact, while reviewers are often willing to overlook an occasional spelling error, outdated technology references or even a brief, unexplained employment gap. But a resume that fails to succinctly convey who you are and what you do is going to be deleted, no matter how qualified you are.
    Dice News in Tech (http://s.tt/1yttx)

    Makes no sense…

    • BY Mark Feffer says:

      Basically, what we’re saying is that it’s not fatal for you to have minor mistake on your resume. But if you don’t present a simple, concise explanation of your backgroud, experience, skills and accomplishments, the employer’s not going to bother with you. Put another way, you’ve got to make everything clear right away. If you bury your key points, reviewers aren’t going to spend any time hunting for them.

      Best,

      Mark

  2. BY Then Liu says:

    Very useful advice. Thanks.

  3. BY gk says:

    This is when the recruiters are getting too smart and not adding the value they should. If you want to post an automatic keyword scanner in place of a human recruiter (who understands what it takes to do the job or what the candidate can achieve in the job) can we post a mega version of the keyword scanner (or a robot for that matter) to do the job.

    While it is agreed that recruiters are busy with going through the resumes, automatic scanners should not come in the way of doing a quality hire or hiring a genuine, motivated candidate to get selected and do the job.

  4. BY Chris says:

    No, the sentence is missing a piece, the punctuation is wrong, or the word “while” doesn’t belong.

    In fact, while reviewers are often willing to overlook an occasional spelling error, outdated technology references or even a brief, unexplained employment gap.

  5. BY AUDIOMIND says:

    “Don’t lead-off with a generic statement that reads something like, ‘Experienced IT Professional Seeking Opportunities in a Challenging, Growth-Oriented Environment.’”

    Who has that kind of time to tailor each leading objective statement to each position they are applying for? You’ll end up having to tailor the entire resume to fit the position and that simply is far too time consuming when the process of applying nowadays (online in many cases) already takes an extremely long time.

    Your best bet?

    Networking with the hiring managers within the organization and bypass HR altogether.

  6. BY Justin Todd says:

    Nice article. I know every interviewer has their own pet peeves. As a director who has hired dozens of individuals and gone through hundreds of resumes and interviews, the worst thing you can do is represent a skill you dont have. If I catch this, its over. This has become a larger problem now as people start adding as many buzz words and hot products to their resumes as possible to minimize automated filter rejections.

    Justin Todd
    Director, DTCC

    UOP-OKC BSBM
    MBA – UT at Dallas

  7. BY Paula says:

    If you have excellent written communication and English writing skills, it should be demonstrated throughout your resume. I’ve had a recruiter actually say to me, “you know the content of your resume” I thought all applicants should “know” what’s contained in their CV as it is the first picture you display to the prospective employer.

    What gets me is, I re-write my resume for every spec, knowing they have 30 seconds to review my CV so I make it count and ensure that it “speaks” to the requirement, so I have no problem getting interviews.

    I do however, have a problem getting hired, as I’m consistently told I’m “over-qualified” no matter how much emphasis I put out there that I just want to be a part of the team.

    I’ve told this to other recruiters who’ve said to me, my confidence may be intimidating, while another recruiter said, while I don’t sound cocky per se, I sound so knowledgeable that the fear of the (intervewee) who’s “lesser” qualified won’t bring me in for the interview as they might lose their job…

    While I understand the precariousness of the job market, one would thinnk that shouldn’t hinder me from becoming employed since I have the “skills”
    Go figure!

  8. Pingback: 3 sure ways to ensure your resume packs a punch… | JobAus Blog

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