Gotta Get the Resume Right
Over the years of building and leading development teams, I have had a hand in hiring hundreds of developers, PMs, BAs and consultants. As such, I have certainly seen my fair share of resumes; both good and bad. Over the years I have come across some weird ones that stood out for all the wrong reasons. There is no shortage of resume no-no's and tips - fixing typos, avoiding vagueness and tailoring your resume, and are all good advice, but in this post I wanted to cover a few more tactical items that I have seen. And in case anyone tells you otherwise - resumes are still important and so are cover letters and thank you notes. Being classy and professional never goes out of style.
Given all of the fluidity in the job market today, keeping your resumes relatively up-to-date is a good thing to do... even if it you have no intention of ever looking for another job. I have found that updating your resume every now and then is a good way to take stock of your career and write down things you have actually accomplished, not just "helped out" on. Besides, as recent reports show the typical U.S. worker spends just under 5 years at any particular job and over a career will have about 10 different jobs, so having a solid resume and demonstrated work experience is as critical as it has ever been. Ok, on with the list of 6 mistakes to watch out for!
6 tactical resume mistakes to avoid
- Don’t copyright your resume – It’s a resume, not a movie script! Ask yourself, if a potential employer passes your resume around or copies and pastes data from it are you going to sue them? What is your recourse? Are you permitting them to "copy" your info into their candidate management system? About to pass the resume to the people that are going to interview you? Before slapping that warning on your resume, please consider your reasons and if it is going to help you with your goals. Here's an example (this is from a real resume):
THIS RESUME IS COPYRIGHT 2015 BY ______ ______ - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED - COPY AND DISTRIBUTION IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED WITHOUT EXPRESSED WRITTEN PERMISSION.
- Don’t password protect it – Come on! Do you want people to know who you are or don't you? If it requires multiple steps just to open your resume and the employer's ATS can't parse it (See point #6) - you are not doing yourself any favors.
- No viruses or macros - This one almost feels too obvious to write, but I have seen this on more than one occasion. Having your resume be the reason a potential employers machine got infected with something is not a recommended good first impression. :) Before sending out your resume, consider using Word's Document Inspector Feature.
- Don’t put silly confidentiality or liability warnings in it – This builds on the points #1 and #2, but if your employment history is so hush-hush, you probably shouldn't be sending your resume around in the first place. Besides, if you are updating your LinkedIn profile, everyone knows you are looking already! If you do need to be covert about looking, sanitize your resume like a professional by saying something simple like "Confidential Candidate", and "Worked for major Fortune 100 financial firm". Or better yet, work through an intermediary like a recruiter! If any employer sees anything like the following, the best course of action is to promptly delete the document. Here are some of real examples I have seen:
- “WARNING, THIS DOCUMENT IS STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL ANY UNAUTHORIZED CIRCULATION WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW”
- "THIS DOCUMENT IS CONFIDENTIAL AND MAY NOT BE DISTRIBUTED WITHOUT MY EXPRESSED WRITTEN CONSENT"
What is a recruiter or hiring manager supposed to do with this?
- Please don’t use a thesaurus – Just say "Employment History", writing "Synopsis of Professional Experiences" isn't fooling anybody. Also, I would recommend against attempting to be too cute. Inspirational quotes from Sun Tzu about leadership are wonderful, but I would much rather read about how you have put those quotes to use and demonstrated leadership and success.
- Finally, make sure your resume is parsible – Yes recruiters and employers use software to review and accept resumes. Yes you want to standout, but it should be for your accomplishments and not an over designed resume. More importantly, you have to get your resume paste the automated gatekeeper which means you need to keep your resume format relatively clean (Hint: if you are using crazy tables, crazy multi-column layouts, embedded 3D pie charts, or background images you are probably on the wrong track). This is true even if applying for a Graphic Design or Creative role - save the good stuff for your portfolio site and use your skills to design something clean and respectful of the media in question (a professional resume).
Often the resume is your first opportunity to make a good impression on a future employer so it's critical that you put your best foot forward. Stand out based on your accomplishments, not because of bad resume mistakes and gimmicks.
This article was written by Aaron Elder who is CEO and Co-founder of Crelate, Inc. Crelate provides professional recruiting teams and agencies, as well as executive search and staffing firms, with modern talent relationship and acquisition management solutions. Aaron has over two decades of experience building consulting businesses and developing products. You can also follow Aaron on Twitter @ProVega.