Resumes – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The digital world we live in has fundamentally changed so many things in our lives, many for the better.  We have unbelievable acces to information, for one.  How many of you remember what it was like to break out the yellow pages to find a plumber?  Do you remember calling the airlines to try to purchase tickets?  Best of all, how did you know the vacation spot you were about to pay dearly for was any good? 

The flip side of the coin in today’s world of easy access is that employers and recruiters are flooded with resumes for every opening.  If you don’t have a professional or social connection to the hiring manager, your only opportunity to apply for the job lies in your resume, and we see thousands every month! So here they are, some of the big mistakes I find when reviewing resumes at Mom Corps, and some pointers to make yours the most effective it can be.

Resume Mistake #1:  Using up valuable space at the top for a generic objective
Recruiters spend on average less than twenty seconds looking at your resume, so you need to grab our attention and make us want to slow down and read more!  Often, I see an objective that reads something like this:  “To obtain a challenging position where my dedication and talent can contribute to the overall success of a team.”   Does that really say anything about the person behind the resume? Or, more importantly, does it capture my interest and make me want to continue reading?  The answer, of course, is no.  Instead of this generic introduction, begin with a Professional Summary, or a Summary of Qualifications,  a concise description of the skills you bring to the table, which will then be supported by your experience below.  For example, your professional summary might read: ”  Accomplished senior accounting professional offering 28 years of commercial real estate experience, working with various high profile firms.  Superior interpersonal skills, capable of resolving multiple and complex issues while motivating financial staff to peak performance.”  This candidate went on to list eight different skills she would bring to the table, all of which were supported by her work experience. 

Resume Mistake #2:  Typos
Misspellings, incorrect verb tenses, and incorrect language usage really leave a bad impression, making recruiters and hiring managers believe that you might not pay attention to details on the job.  With spell and grammar check available in all word processing programs you should never send a resume with this mistake!  Remember every time you edit your resume, before sending it out, check it again.  One caveat – pay close attention when spell check suggests a different spelling.  You can mistakenly change a correct “there” to an incorrect “their”.  Be sure to read the entire sentence before allowing changes that will also change the meaning of the word. 

Resume Mistake #3:  Writing complete sentences with personal pronouns
With so many resumes to review, the easier you make yours to read the more likely it will get the recruiter’s attention.  Writing in complete sentences tends to make resumes too wordy and difficult to read quickly.  Your resume should always be written in bulleted brief statements instead of paragraphs of sentences so we can immediately see what is important – your skills and accomplishments. You should also eliminate any personal pronouns, so instead of “I supervised a team of three accountants in my department and created the budget for the Board of directors. “, write:

  • Supervised team of three accountants
  • Developed budget model adopted by the Board of Directors

This example brings me to . . .

Resume Mistake #4:  Using a passive voice
Pretend for a moment that you’re the recruiter, and you have two resumes in front of you. One is filled with experience listed as I wrote above, the other looks like this:

  • Worked with three accountants
  • Worked on budget model for Board of Directors

Which candidate do you call?  When you use active verbs to describe your experience, you take ownership of your responsibilities; a powerful message to recruiters and hiring managers.  We want a candidate who will be proactive, a leader in the corporation.  Passive verbs can send the message that you are afraid of taking responsibility for your position.  Don’t be afraid of taking credit for your accomplishments and use strong, active verbs!

Resume Mistake #5:  Cluttering your resume with different fonts, font sizes, italics, underlining, etc.
This falls under the rule: the simpler the better!  We see countless resumes where the candidate has used all of the above, and then some!  It’s just plain distracting, and makes us want to move on to one that is easier to read.  Here are some style tips for those who are tempted to make every line different.  Stick to one font, and only use two sizes, a larger one for headings such as “Experience” and “Education”, and a smaller font for everything else.  Use only one type color – black.  Bold words sparingly.   Bolding the headings and company names is a good way to divide the information and make it easily readable, but stop there!  Use bullet points to separate details, which will make your resume look well organized.  Spend some time looking at resumes online, and you will see that a clean, uncluttered resume is much easier to read!

So now you have the scoop, five resume mistakes we see, and how to avoid them.  If you search for resumes online, you can find examples of each resume blunder, and examples of great ones as well.  If you need more help, go to our resources page where we have both resume and career counseling services.  After you create the resume that puts your best foot forward, register with Mom Corps Dallas to be matched with local opportunitites! 

Happy writing!