My great friend—and great publisher—Monique got up on a soapbox recently and let us have it. She gave us a finger-wagging tongue-lashing about horrible resumes.
And rightly so.
I, too, have had a good look at some pretty unimpressive resumes from folks who should know better. From intelligent people. Educated people. Skilled people. And experienced people.
Listen, if you are a serious job-seeker, then you are a serious resume builder first.
I suppose our greatest resume blunder is the typo. How easy is it to type “there” for “their,” or “of” for “if?” Proofreading is the solution here. Yes, even by two or three good readers. Read it out loud, too. One misspelled word may end your opportunity for an interview. So check, check, check. And recheck.
Then before sending your resume, really read the advertisement or job description for the position that interests you—and build your resume to fit accordingly. Instructional Design means instructional design; not interior design or industrial design. Unqualified applicants' resumes go straight into the circular file. [Say, “Thank you, Monique.”]
Hiring a service to do your resume? Then your eyes must be doubly alert for all manner of potential disasters—including the correct spelling of your name, your correct address, e-mail address and phone numbers. Hint: don’t pay for a resume until you proofread it first.
Things that fast-track your resume to the shredder are outright gaffes, boo-boos and pompous nonsense. Here are a few examples that you shouldn't try from home. These may tickle your funny bone, but each one detoured someone’s career path. Not yours, I hope.
- Cover Letter: "For more details, Google me.”
- Cover Letter: "I would love to interview for the position of (insert job title here). If you grant me an interview for (insert job title here), I feel confident you'll see why I'm the right person for the job." [Note: that paragraph was copied from an Internet template and pasted onto the writer’s resume—as is. Do not do this at home!]
- Cover Letter: "Upon your humble request, I will forward to your personal attention my letters of reference to be attached hereto and made part thereof."
- Objective: “I aim to work with your organization. You will provide me with challenging tasks to perform in an efficient way and then reach the top and achieve the maximum out of the given opportunities enriching my strengths and beating all my weaknesses.”
- Professional Development: "Consulted with internal business divisions to determine optimum learning modalities to meet business needs." [Copied from Monique’s FB post.]
- Professional Development: "Numerous hardware and software certifications. I could wallpaper my entire bathroom with them, but my wife would kick me out if I did. " [Gong!]
- Thank You Note: "Hi, Ray. If I don't get the job, that would be 'Hi Ray' robbery. OK, yes, this is a bad pun, but I couldn't help but think about someone stealing the above salutation. Hmm, I definitely took a risk there, as jokes that bad should probably be punishable by fines." [Gong! Gong! Gong!]
- Thank you Note: "Thank you for your consideration. Hope to hear from you shorty! "
When you e-mail a resume, be careful what you put in the Subject line. Only “Resume” or “Applying for job” will get your e-mail tossed faster than you can read this sentence. But don’t be silly, either. I always put “Paul Nichols’ Resume; [Title of Position].” Think about how that stands out in a crowded e-mail inbox. Write your cover letter in the body of the e-mail and attach your resume. And then what? Spell-check before sending. Spell-check again.
Speaking of cover letters, Monique recommends that if you're applying for a position where writing is an important part of the job, make your cover letter a sample of your own best writing. If your style is too wordy or loaded with important-sounding but empty words, the hiring manager will assume that's how you always write. "Next."
She also says, if you're applying for a job where graphic design skills are a must, show off your design skills in your resume. Send a well-formatted resume, in an attractive style, with plenty of white space and perhaps some bullet points. With things like that, the HR staff will move you to the head of the line. Hey, you don't even have to be a graphic designer to do this.
Do Not Do This From Home, either: “Hello? Acme HR Department? I just e-mailed you my resume. Did you get it?”
And now, how about some one-liners for your water cooler chit-chat tomorrow?
- "Instrumental in ruining entire operation for a Midwest chain store."
- "My intensity and focus are at inordinately high levels, and my ability to complete projects on time is unspeakable."
- "Education: Curses in liberal arts, curses in computer science, curses in accounting."
- "Personal: Married, 1992 Chevrolet."
- "I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse."
- "I am a rabid typist."
- "Exposure to German for two years, but many words are not appropriate for business."
- "References: None, I’ve left a path of destruction behind me."
- "Don’t take the comments of my former employer too seriously, they were unappreciative beggars and slave drivers."
- "I procrastinate—especially when the task is unpleasant."
- "I am loyal to my employer at all costs. Please feel free to respond to my resume on my office voice-mail."
- "Extensive background in accounting. I can also stand on my head!"
- "Personal interests: Donating blood. 15 gallons so far."
[Note: Donating 15 gallons of blood over the years is a remarkable achievement and worthy of high praise. In a resume, however, “Regular blood donor” is sufficient.]
Your well-organized, well-formatted resume must not have any of the following.
- Personal information ["Engaged. Finally after four divorces I found the one."]
- Attempts at humor [See #6 and #7 above.]
- Incorrect or omitted words ["Organized a militia of employees to form the committees."] Or ["As you can tell, my says it all."]
- Extraneous or inappropriate information and awkward phrasing. [See Monique’s #5 above.]
- Exclamation points [Never! Never! Never!]
- Excessive use of highlights. [If everything is highlighted, what's important?]
In the end, build these three great strengths into your resume: accuracy, truthfulness and clarity.
Oh, and dress appropriately for your interview.