I’ve said it before: I’m not a purist, and I’m not a perfectionist. Still, I’m surprised every day at the some of the really basic mistakes I see in resumes, cover letters, and e-mails from applicants.
Following these quick tips would take care of some of the most glaring errors and help your resume be taken seriously.
1. So much information is available on the Internet, including free resume templates arranged by job title. Use it rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. College Grad.com and Resume Templates.org are two I found in five seconds with Google. There are a zillion others; compare a few and see what works for you.
2. Someone in your circle of influence—maybe your cousin, former co-worker, or ex-boyfriend’s mom—knows how to find a job. Find that person and take advantage of their expertise! They will probably be glad to help you.
3. If speak English as a second or third language, I applaud your linguistic abilities because many of us in the U.S. speak only one language. But it’s all the more reason to double-check that spelling is correct, phrasing sounds natural, and that you've followed resume protocols of your new culture. Have someone read and edit for you.
3. Native English speakers, spell-check. And it never hurts to have someone proofread.
4. Cutting and pasting your job descriptions into your resume makes for a long document, much of which does not pertain to the job for which you’re applying. (What are COADD reports in PDD-format, anyway?) Keep it short and concise, two pages maximum. For each job, focus on your biggest accomplishments and the most critical job responsibilities. Stay away from minutiae.
5. If you are applying for different kinds of jobs, e.g. both administrative and social work, have different resumes for each. Further customize resumes with key words from the position description.
6. Know that in larger companies, a computer will probably have the first pass at your resume. It’s best not to get too fancy with your format, and key words are all the more crucial.
7. HR folks and recruiters are on the fence about “Career Objective” statements. They don’t have much meaning to me, and it seems to be an easy place to make mistakes. For example, many candidates forget to update it for their current job search. My bias is leave it off your resume and treat your cover letter as an opportunity to expand on your objective.
8. When e-mailing the recruiter, use more formal language than you might with your friends. Capitalize, use full sentences, spell-check.
Free bonus tip
9. If you use the phrase “detail-oriented,” if will only make any errors all the more glaring. Consider leaving that one out and let your flawless resume speak for itself.