So why am I tossing them in the trash?
It's not the misspelled word, lack of quantifiable results, or absence of action phrases. It's the basics. Or, what should be the basics. Here are the common elements that can eliminate a good candidate from the interview pile:
Not Connecting the Job Posting to the Resume
This is a pet peeve of mine. I pick up a very impressive looking resume and have no idea what job the applicant is applying for. They have an objective statement that is vague and doesn't seem to reflect any particular career path. There are impressive titles and projects, with no connection to the skills I've asked for in my job posting. Sigh. Toss!
- Take the time to read the job posting, look for key words, and clearly state how you fit the job.
- Look at the LinkedIn profiles of people in the same position, in the same company, for ideas on how to draft your resume to fit the same job. Are they listing a lot of projects? Are they highlighting education or certifications? How do they describe their current role?
- Contact someone you know in the organization who can provide you with an insider's scoop on the position, and what the hiring manager may be looking for in a candidate.
No Cover Letter or a Generic Letter
Despite career counselors' wise advise to always send a cover letter, I am constantly shocked by how few candidates actually take the time to write a good cover letter. I do not care if it is personalized to me or not. What I do care about is if the candidate can solve my problems, fit in with my team, and perform the job. After my eyes glaze over from 30 resumes, I pull out the ones with cover letters. Well written? Relevant? Personal? You've got my attention.
- Cover letters that catch my eye include specific examples of getting results in a similar role under challenging circumstances. For example, a project manager who kept a team motivated despite numerous changes in scope.
- Include a reason why you want to work for the company, the department, or even a particular manager.
- Fit the letter to the job. Your resume might look like every other candidate, but your cover letter should give me a reason to pick up the phone.
Buzzwords, Jargon and Acronyms Overload
Yes, some companies run your resume through a scanner and look for key words. No, I don't care if you are a "synergistic storyteller with a PCM, DCP, and LSD." I care if you got results for your former employer. I do care if you have relevant certifications and education, but a solid track record is key.
- Have a trusted friend read your resume and provide honest feedback. Can they understand it?
- Cut out the fluff. A short resume with succinct information is better than eight pages of fluff.
- Don't submit a novel. I don't have time to read it. Two or three pages is more than enough for most jobs. Consider sharing an online portfolio of work, or a link to a longer resume.
TMI That Makes Me Cry
I'm starting to get resumes that include personal information and "cutesy" bits of information. Unless you are applying for a job with SNL or The Onion, please leave it out. I don't want to read about how you met your wife, what your favorite sports team is, or what you did on your last vacation. If you've been told by a career counselor that this will make your resume stick out, they are right. It sticks out in a not-gonna-hire-you way.
- Leave out your age, birthday, and reference lists. This is private information and not something you should share with potential employers.
- Be careful what you post on social media! Employers can, and do, check LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites. Strong political opinions should not be "public" on these sites, nor should compromising pictures!
- Use a professional photo on LinkedIn. I pulled up a profile once with a photo that looked like it had been taken at a bachelor party in a strip club. Do you think I called that candidate for an interview?
If you need help writing a resume, there are many resources available. A good place to start is your college alumni association. You paid good money for that degree. Get your value out of the college resources! Veterans should check out the VA Employment Resources site. Know some great resources? Please share in comments on this blog.