Q: What are the most common resume problems that you see? I am working with a group of soon-to-be college graduates. We are writing their resumes. We are hoping to pick your brain before we release their resumes to the working world.
A: A resume is a snapshot of a candidate’s work experience. In short, a resume is like an advertisement. Think about a print advertisement that you may have seen in a newspaper, magazine or journal. A print advertisement often capitalizes on a product’s strengths and minimizes any weaknesses. A print ad would never have a typo or misspelling within the ad. A print ad is easy to read.
The most common resume problems that I see include:
- A disorganized or fragmented format. Honestly, there are many sloppy resumes in this job market. Using different formats and fonts can be confusing and look just plain messy. Have a trusted friend or colleague provide feedback on your resume. Thank them for their feedback, even if the feedback encourages some editing.
- Typos, misspellings, etc. This is more common than you would think. I received a resume this morning. The candidate had a typo in the name of their current employer. Yet, the candidate claims that she is “detail-oriented” in her accompanying cover letter. Hmmm… I don’t think so.
- Lack of metrics. Tell me what you contributed – how you helped save money, how much you sold, how you increased client retention. Especially in sales roles… my clients are expecting to see this information on a resume.
- Inaccuracies in how you address me in your email or cover letter. Don’t address me as Mr. Sinacole. That’s my husband. Don’t address me as Ms. Sinacol. That’s not how I spell my name. I am not a sir either. Spell my client’s name correctly too!
- No email address. If you exclude an email address, that makes it difficult for me to reach you. And make sure that email address is appropriate for PG-13 audiences. I won’t contact you if you have an email address like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Several pages. For recent college grads, a one-page resume should suffice. Think back to my analogy about the print advertisement. You should not include every last detail of you (the product) but you should highlight your strengths and achievements.
- No LinkedIn. I am always impressed by recent grads who already are on LinkedIn. Take the time to create a profile and start using this tool. Include your LinkedIn address on your resume.
- No relevant skills. Sometimes including relevant skills are all it takes. If you have Salesforce.com experience, include it! If you have worked with Excel at an advanced level, mention it!
Your resume is often your first impression with a prospective employer. Make it a good one!
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.