Top 3 Rookie Resume Mistakes (and how to fix them)


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Writing a résumé? That’s a big deal, especially in today’s job market. The goal of a résumé is to land the interview. In order to do that, you have to get by the initial HR screening. Not everyone makes it to Round 2.

 

Here are three errors that I often see in student résumés:

1. Inconsistency of any kind. A résumé is more than a statement of your qualifications. It is your first test as a potential employee. If information is scattered and inconsistent, the employer immediately knows something very troubling about you. In a tight job market, inconsistency can be enough reason to trash an otherwise-solid résumé.

The solution: Be consistent in everything, including the choice of fonts and the size of bullet points. Place dates, locations, etc. in a similar place and in a similar style throughout the page. Above all, do not rely on your memory or your eyes! View hidden characters in Microsoft Word to ensure that you didn’t miss anything.

2. Inattention to space. Without getting too Gestalt-ish here, newbie résumé writers tend to hug the left side of the page, leaving a huge field of white space on the right side of the page. To the other extreme, I’ve seen resumes that use every inch of space, leaving no breathing room whatsoever. White space is needed to establish grouping of like information and balance of the page.

The solution: Experiment with page layout techniques. Adjust the margins a little bit. Try a slightly bigger or smaller font to get the page count that you want. Turn a long skinny list of certifications into a three-column arrangement.

And above all, learn from the experts. For example, résumé templates often use table rows and columns to enable horizontal layouts. Don’t just grab a tired old template,though; create your own. Add a table and keep experimenting with rows and columns until you’ve got a template that works for you. Use MS Word’s options to hide the borders once you are done.

3. Turning the résumé into a letter. The résumé is a fact sheet: it should contain phrases, lists, and straight data–and that’s all. If you are using full sentences–especially in the dreaded Career Summary–stop right now. If a busy HR staffer can’t get the gist of your contact information, education and work experience in ten seconds or less, the old TL;DR will strike you down.

The solution: List facts in the résumé and use the job application letter for details. Together, these two documents can get you the interview you want.

Other thoughts? Please add them in the comments below.

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