Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How To Write a Bad Resume

As a professional resume writer with more than 15 years of experience, I've seen thousands of resumes. Some are good, of course, but some are just downright horrific. We all know that a resume, no matter how great it is, isn't going to get you a job. Your resume only gives you a shot at getting an interview. A bad resume takes away the chance that you'll even get that far. So, I've decided to put together a list of just a few of the things that make for a really bad resume. By avoiding these pitfalls, you might improve your odds of getting in the door for an interview. Then it's up to you to seal the deal.

1) Focusing on responsibilities, not achievements. Your resume is a sales tool. It's your marketing piece. You're selling a product (you) to a buyer (employer). Get them to see the features and benefits you offer. Why should any prospective employer "buy" you as opposed to any of the other products (candidates) out there? By highlighting your achievements, in quantifiable ways, you give potential employers a reason to want to hire you.

Example: Resume #1 says, "Exceeded sales objectives"
Resume #2 says, "Delivered 137% of sales goal, outpacing 122 reps nationwide"

Which candidate do you want to interview?

2) Putting anything in your resume that you might have to back-peddle from in an interview. In other words, don't exaggerate, don't lie, and don't inflate your achievements.

Example: "Ranked in the Top 10 of all sales executives in the country". Great – now when the interviewer asks you how many sales executives there were, and you have to say "10", you look idiotic and there's zero chance you're getting that job.

3) Using acronyms like alphabet soup. Like everything else, there's a time and place for acronyms. Some have become a part of our business vernacular and it's OK to use them (i.e. HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). But be careful about tossing around acronyms. Some can have several meanings, so it's probably a good idea to spell out your use of the acronym once in the resume (i.e. ABC – it can mean Activity-Based Costing, Always Be Closing, or Anything But Chardonnay – make sure a potential employer knows which one you mean).

4) Using different fonts. I have seen resumes with at least 10 different fonts, in 6 different sizes, and a wild array of bold, italics, small caps, colors, and even flashing special effects. Don't do it. Use one font, and make it one that most Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) will recognize – Times New Roman, Arial, and Georgia are all good, standard fonts. Use Bold and Italics sparingly – and some ATS have a hard time with Italics - so only use them if you think they're absolutely necessary.

5) Listing your reason for leaving each job. Just one word. Don't. No matter why you left, whether it was a layoff, downsizing, restructuring, firing, or voluntary, it's going to be perceived as a negative. Better to leave this discussion for the interview.

6) Using your current company email address or phone number as your contact information. No employer wants to think that you would use company resources for your job search, so don't use your current employer's phone number or email address on your resume. It will doom your chances of getting an interview. Make sure the outgoing message on your cell phone or home phone sounds professional, and open a professional-sounding gmail or hotmail account for your job search.

Today's job market is more challenging than ever before. If your resume isn't better than everyone else's out there, you don't stand a chance of landing the job you want. Make sure you're giving yourself every opportunity to sell yourself in an interview.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Four Myths About Resumes

There are a lot of myths about resumes - here's four of the most common resume myths that should go away - now.

1) Everyone Should Write Their Own Resume. Of course you can write your own resume, but should you? No one knows your career, skills, accomplishments and experience better than you. But are you trained to know how to take that information and distill it into a succinct, well-articulated marketing tool? Will the resume you create differentiate you in the market and get you to the top of the must-interview list?

A professional resume writer can ask the right questions, bring out essential information, and create a powerful, compelling document that really zeroes in on your unique skills and achievements. A professional resume writer can develop a resume that positions you for the job you want - which is not necessarily the job you currently have. You're smart enough to hire a qualified specialist when you need a new roof or a tune-up on your car. Make sure your resume gets the same expert attention!

2) A Longer Resume is More Impressive. I don’t' know why this myth continues to perpetuate, but somehow it does. We are an instant-gratification society and nobody is going to wade through more than a page or two of information. So edit, edit again, and then edit some more.

In fact, in today's Blackberry, I-Phone, Twitter world, potential employers just might be looking at your resume on a screen no larger than a credit card. You may want to create a quick-to-read, introductory version of your resume that is no longer than a paragraph or two - yes, a Personal Branding Statement. Develop an "elevator pitch" of just a sentence or two that hits the highlights of your skill set and experience, as well as a key achievement or two. If your profile statement takes more than 30 seconds to read, it's probably too long. Have your longer, more detailed resume ready to send as a follow-up.

3) Include Every Job You've Ever Had. Once you've been out in the workforce for more than a year, you can safely eliminate high-school babysitting jobs and part-time summer stints at the local fast-food joint. Employers want to focus on your most recent jobs and accomplishments, so it's generally best to condense experience older than 10 or 15 years into just a line or two. As an added advantange, you'll create space in the document to strengthen the impact of your resume by expanding on your most recent experience.

4) I Don't Need a Resume - I'll Network to Get My Next Job. There's no question that networking is a key part of any successful job search strategy. In fact, up to 80% of jobs are never advertised, and most people leverage their network connections to get introduced to decision makers inside companies where they want to work. But then what? Sending an up-to-date resume is normally the next step in the process. If nothing else, having a great resume will help you clarify and crystallize your professional story in your own mind, and that translates into confident responses when a potential employer asks about your background.

Obviously, your resume won't get you a job. You're the one who has to sell yourself in an interview. The trick is actually getting the interview. Give yourself every advantage in the job search process. A professionally developed, concise, targeted resume is one of the most crucial tools in your search arsenal. A great resume can get the interview so you can get the job you deserve!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Six Big Resume Mistakes

Your Resume - it's a thing of beauty and a sight to behold. You've worked countless hours perfecting your resume. You've researched all the keywords that must be included. You've made sure your achievements are quantified, all the relevant details are there, and your resume is perfect. You've carefully proofread the resume, you've asked everyone you know to proofread it, and you've proofed it again. Your resume is perfect.

Or is it?

Every hiring manager is looking for reasons to EXCLUDE you from that gigantic file of resumes in their database. They're looking for the cream-of-the-crop, top-tier, best-of-the-best candidates to bring in for the interview. Knowing what NOT to include in your resume can be just as important as knowing what skills, talents and achievements to highlight.

Here are just a few things that should NEVER be included in your resume.

1) An Objective. It's lame and it serves no purpose. Employers aren't interested in what you want from them. Potential employers want to know what professional strengths and skills you bring to the table. They want to know how you can contribute to their success. Employers want to know who you are, what you can do, and they want you to prove it. An objective just takes up valuable real estate on a resume and hiring managers don’t' read them.

2) Jokes. Your resume is not the place to kid around. I recently got a resume that said "I only fell off the truck one time." The candidate said he was trying to be funny, and while it did catch my eye, levity is not a requirement for most jobs. Unless you're applying for a job with Saturday Night Live, leave the sarcasm and comedy off your resume.

3) Negative statements. Don't tell your potential employer the things you can't do, hate to do, or simply won't do. Your resume is your first impression - make sure you bring out the positive attributes you bring to the job. Back it up with achievements and contributions from past positions. Emphasize your skills and accomplishments. Sell yourself - don't sell yourself short.

4) References Available Upon Request. Really? Believe me; potential employers know that if they request references, you'll probably provide them. And if you can't, well …

5) Religious/Political Affiliations or Sexual Orientation. If your work on a political campaign, church committee, or for the GLBT Alliance is relevant to the job you're seeking, then include the details of the experience in general terms without specifics regarding your particular beliefs or sexual orientation.

6) Goofy E-mail Address. Open a hotmail, gmail or yahoo email account for free and use it just for your job search. Create a professional-sounding email identity ( The advantages are that a) you won't accidentally miss email responses from potential employers and b) you can keep between you and your closest friends.

Getting your resume right is tough, but if you do, you just might get the interview. Get it wrong, and you'll never get in the door.