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August 13, 2012

Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid In Your Resume


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Mistakes To Avoid In Your Resume

By Lisa Bonner, Assistant Vice President of Contemporary Work Practices at The Hartford

Your resume introduces you to your prospective employers long before they meet you in person. They then decide whether to meet you entirely on how much your resume appeals to them.

Here are five things you must avoid in a resume to ensure it makes the cut.

1. Don't make it long and rambling:

More information in less words is always appreciated, whether it is a speech, a report or even a book. A huge pile of pages is often kept aside for some time later, and very often that time never comes. The same applies to your resume. You exceed two sheets and the first reaction is a groan. The interest will begin to fade from that very moment and will also reflect during the interview.

So how do you keep your resume short? Stick to the point. Don't add information that has no relevance to the job you are applying for. Your employer doesn't want to know your accomplishments in high school and college, the first prize you got in the science project and the quiz contest you won.

Certain accomplishments which highlight traits in your personality that would be required in the job are welcome, such as organizing an event all by yourself, leading a team that won, etc. So work on your resume thoroughly and add only relevant information.

2. Don't list irrelevant work experience:

Many of us list out the details of all the jobs we have had over our lifetime, which could be across different fields requiring different sets of skills. A weak resume will take pride in highlighting everything. A smart resume will deftly leave these things out.

Therefore, if over your 15-year work experience only 12 years are relevant to the current job, then knock out the remaining three years. You will be doing yourself and the recruiter a favor. The recruiter only wants to know the skills and accomplishments that will help his company, and nothing else. However, if you do want to make sure there are no gaps in between experiences, a single sentence about the other experiences will suffice.

3. Don't ignore the objective:

Do you want to grow professionally in a challenging environment? Or, do you want to contribute to taking the company to newer heights? Sadly, everyone wants to do so. And sadly, everyone writes this out in as many words. Being vague and boring with something that sits right at the top of your resume is criminal. The recruiter has probably seen thousands of resumes with the same objectives.

The objective should refer to the job you are currently applying for, and not your larger goals in life. Look at it this way. Suppose you get two emails with the same content, one addressed directly to you with your name on it, and the other with a 'Dear Sir/Madam'. Clearly, you will first look at the one with your name on it. The same applies to the recruiter. Use the name of the company in the objective to establish that connection and write out what you intend to achieve with the job on offer.

4. Don't be vague about your achievements:

Write out your achievements correctly and also how they have helped the company. Spell out the role you have played and the direct result of your achievement. So don't say you helped the company get a new contract. Explain what exactly you did, the challenges you faced and how you overcame those. And ultimately, how much did the new contract add to the company's balance sheet.

Of course, you should keep it short, maximum 30 words or so. Writing down the specifics will portray you as someone who likes to stick to the facts. It is also important to balance your individual and team achievements. Highlight how your contribution helped your team achieve its targets, and what your individual role in the team was.

5. Don't forget the basics:

Keep your sentences short. Shorter sentences are easier to understand and are convenient from the grammar perspective. And don't rely on the spell-check to catch your mistakes. Read your sentences word by word. Don't ignore the formatting. Choose a simple format and a legible font type and size. Avoid using color; use bold and italics to highlight points.

And please don't write listening to music and swimming as hobbies. These hobbies are of no interest to the employer. If you are applying for a web developer's job, playing with code of popular websites is still acceptable, but don't go beyond that. Never write salary expectations on the resume either. That should come from the person offering you the job.

Lisa Bonner is the Assistant Vice President of Contemporary Work Practices at The Hartford. She is the proud mother of very active 14 year-old twin boys and resides in Suffield, Connecticut. Connect with her on LinkedIn or on Twitter @lisacbonner.

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