Five Resume Mistakes That Will Kill Your Candidacy
Jim Pallouras was a senior executive at a national retailer based in the
Northeast when he was laid off as part of a downsizing.
He'd joined the company after leaving the military, worked his way up the
ladder and took pride in his contributions as the retailer expanded nationally.
When Mr. Pallouras sat down to update his resume for the first time in years,
he was faced with the challenge of condensing a 30-year career full of
achievements into an effective one- to two-page document. Yet, he remembers
thinking, "How hard could it be?"
He started by listing every important aspect of his life dating back to the
1960s, including every job title he'd held at his former employer, as well as
his accomplishments from high school through the Army. When he was done, his
resume stretched to three pages, starting with an objective statement and ending
with his marital status.
Once Mr. Pallouras's resume reached employers and recruiters, they took one
look before dropping it into the wastebasket. It was wordy, overdone and out of
touch with the realities of a today's job hunt.
Fortunately, it wasn't long before Mr. Pallouras realized his resume had
problems. After gathering critical advice, he revised it to present a more
competitive version of himself. The rewrite worked. His new, improved resume
generated interviews, which led to another senior-level position.
Red Flags Flying
Executive recruiters, professional resume-writers and human-resources
managers say they've seen more poorly written resumes cross their desks recently
than ever before. So before you waste time, money and postage with a resume that
will eliminate you from consideration, review the following common mistakes to
make sure you avoid them in your documents:
Mistake #1: No Dates Listed
"I can understand that by leaving off graduation and employment dates, the
candidate's intention may be to avoid possible age discrimination," says
executive recruiter Edward M. Hughes, vice president of Hughes & Podesla
Associates in Somerville, N.J. "But most corporate recruiters use resumes to
screen out rather than screen in candidates," and a resume without dates won't
be considered, he says.
From a recruiter's perspective, candidates eliminate dates on their resumes
for only one reason: to hide information, such as a history of job hopping or a
long period of unemployment. As an alternative, Mr. Hughes suggests focusing
only on the last 10 to 15 years of your professional experience.
"It's a double-edged sword," he says. "You want to diminish the negative and
do everything you can to get an interview. But the people on the recruiting end
tend to be myopic to the fact that the economy has put many well-qualified
senior execs into the position of having to vie for fewer jobs, and you have to
be somewhat sensitive to that."
Mistake #2: Few Achievements Shown
The most frequent resume faux pas is to fill it "with unsubstantiated claims
and too much industry jargon that doesn't sell the candidate," says Alesia
Benedict, executive director of Career Objectives, a resume-writing firm in
Rochelle Park, N.J.
"A resume is a marketing document designed to sell your skills and
strengths," she says. By including and highlighting specific achievements that
present a comprehensive picture of your marketability, Ms. Benedict says that
you'll attract many more interview offers.
Mistake #3: Outdated Information
A glaring red flag on many resumes is job descriptions dating back 30 or more
years. "A resume isn't your biography," says Ms. Benedict. Employers want to
know "what you've done lately, so including information from the 1970s is hardly
relevant and can do much more harm than good," she says.
Mistake #4: Calling Yourself a Consultant
Many candidates use the term "consultant" to describe their current work
status. But unless you can quantify your consulting activities, recruiters and
hiring managers will be skeptical.
"The consultant title tends to be death on a resume unless a specific task
and result are stated and the consulting project is for a recognizable concern,"
says Steven M. Lavender, president of Morgan/Webber Inc., an executive search
and consulting firm in Massapequa, N.Y.
Mistake #5: Irrelevant Information
Recruiters and HR specialists agree that listing personal information isn't
appropriate or necessary on an executive resume, and including your photograph
is the worst offense of all.
"Your resume is the one step in your job search over which you have total
control," says Frank Fox, executive director of the Professional Association of
Resume Writers in St. Petersburg, Fla. "Based on the strength of that one or two
pages of information, you'll either be selected for an interview from among
hundreds of other candidates, or passed over." Thus, every word you include
should be meaningful and help to sell your skills and experience.
Don't Forget to Network
For unemployed senior-level executives, handing out resumes should be a
full-time job. "Eighty percent of jobs are filled through networking, so contact
absolutely everyone you know -- in addition to headhunters -- who's in a
position to hire you" or suggest others for you to meet, says Mr. Hughes.
"Networking can include personal business contacts, people you've worked for,
people who worked for you but have moved on, vendors and sales representatives
you've dealt with in the past five years, and even people listed in the alumni
directory of your alma mater," he says.
With an impressive resume in hand, you'll greatly increase your odds of
earning a closer look.
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