I recently partnered with 6FigureJobs.com to review member resumes, so I’ve been spending every spare moment lately assessing the backgrounds and work histories of mid-career professionals and executives. In and of itself this is nothing new for me, but the volume is certainly more intense. What’s remarkable about seeing so many resumes now & throughout my 30-year career is how extraordinarily similar they all are. And that is most definitely not a good thing.
The problems most of these resumes have in common:
- Overused formatting. Resume after resume seems to use the same format. Thousands of resumes I’ve seen quite literally have identical formats, often an MS Word template. While thousands of others don’t use that exact template, they do use the same fonts, lines, and text formatting. The problem? You cannot stand out in a sea of applicants by looking exactly like your fellow candidates. I would also add that a poorly formatted resume makes you look, well, not good. In one document I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, all text was centered and italicized!
- Inappropriate length. One of the changes resume writers have seen in this recession is that resume lengths have gotten shorter. While just a few years ago resumes would stretch to 3 pages for executives, that trend seems to have reversed. Some recruiters and employers still want resumes to be as long as needed to detail your entire work history, but most want to see no more than 2 pages, or about 10-15 years of your work history. The vast majority of resumes I’ve reviewed are too long or too short. The problem? If your resume is inappropriately long, you’ll look over-qualified. If it’s inappropriately short, you’ll look under-qualified – the perfect length ensures your relevant experience is showcased without inviting age discrimination.
- Weak or absent achievements. It amazes me that folks are still overemphasizing their responsibilities and omitting or including only weak achievement statements. This practice dramatically weakens the branding of your resume and limits the number of interviews you will receive. The problem? Employers and recruiters want to know not what you did, but what impact your actions had in each job. When you omit these details, your resume cannot stand out next to your competitors. It also means your resume will lack key words, which in turn means you will appear much lower in search results.
- Outdated elements. Please folks, listen up … all of the following practices went out of style 30+ years ago and are no longer used on resumes:
- Speaking about yourself in the third person (excels rather than excel – who talks about themselves this way?)
- Objective statements (rarely used in white collar resumes anymore – exceedingly rarely)
- References Available Upon Request (your readers know that; don’t waste space telling them)
- Poor career branding. Strong branding and positioning statements are hard to find on resumes, particularly executive resumes. Those I see are generally generic with tired, over-used phrases that could be true of anyone The problem? Branding helps you stand apart from other candidates – without clear branding and positioning, your resume fails to grab your readers’ attention or communicate your hireability.
- Inadequate key words. I’ve read comments by job seekers online that some think the emphasis resume writers place on key words is done just to scare potential clients into buying our services. Have they not heard about the applicant tracking systems (databases) used by most mid- to large-size employers and recruiters? Or the fact that LinkedIn, job boards, and most corporate websites are all database-driven? And that these databases screen applicants based on the number and type of key words found in your resume? The problem? If you want your resume to be read by humans, it must first pass database analysis, which includes a count of your key words. End of story.
The solutions to the above problems are simple to enumerate, but not so simple to implement:
- Create a unique look for your resume. Stand out. Get noticed.
- Tie your resume’s length to your positioning, career goals, and job search strategies. Don’t guess. Strategize.
- Limit responsibility lists and buff up your career achievements and results focus. Enumerate and detail. Leverage specifics.
- Bring your resume into the 21st century. Eliminate what doesn’t work. Prove you’re on-trend.
- Turn your branding around. Make your uniqueness shine. Be the star of your own show.
- Boost your key word count. Add the right words in the right places. Tailor your key words for each posting.
Rework your resume today. Or better yet, send me a copy for a complimentary resume review – it includes a 10% discount toward any purchase. And don’t forget to send me the link to your LinkedIn profile – I’ll be happy to evaluate it, too.