4 Resume Rules You Keep Breaking (for No Good Reason)
I’m assuming you’ve read a lot of the great resume advice that exists out there (especially right here on The Muse!). But, because of my previous experience as a recruiter, I can tell you that a lot of people aren’t reading any of the tips out there. Or, if they are, they’re ignoring it. And not because they are trying to sabotage themselves, but because they believe themselves to be the exception to the rule. All of those tips and tricks are for other people.
Well, let me tell you, you’re not the exception to the rule. So if you’ve been ignoring any of the following, please stop.
Rule #1: You Should Keep Your Resume Simple
OK, so I know this makes me sound like I’m no fun. And sure, there are plenty of times when a little bit of creativity didn’t hurt. But a while back, someone asked me to take a look at her resume and give her feedback. I said, “Sure, I’d be happy to copyedit for you.” And what I got was a really complicated PDF with a handful of colors, “quirky” descriptions of previous jobs, and ultimately a document that made my head hurt. Don’t be this person. Even if you’re in a creative trade, try reeling in your inner artist when drafting a resume. And if you’re applying for a corporate position, keep it even simpler.
What did I learn when I was screening candidates as part of my job? I didn’t have a whole lot of time to give brownie points for unique resumes. I just needed to get down to the bottom of whether or not someone was qualified enough for me to schedule a phone interview. While I do think it’s important to let your personality show, focus more on giving hiring managers reasons to hire you, and less on trying to figure out how to use puppy emojis as your bullet points.
Rule #2: You Should Remove All Jargon
Consider this one ignored across the board. Way too often, people fill their resumes with convoluted language in hopes of sounding like an expert. One problem: Recruiters don’t work in your field. So, using jargon only makes it harder for them to understand why you are (or aren’t) qualified. You never want someone reading your materials to end with, “He does what?”
So, even though you’ve accomplished a lot, you need to dumb it down to get your foot in the door. Save the industry lingo for the interview with your potential boss.
For example, let’s say, you did a lot of analytics around the ideal time every week for people to buy potato chips. If that’s the case, it’s perfectly OK to say, “I determined the best time of the week to buy potato chips,” rather than, “Ran complex macro functions to analyze the frequency with which buyers in the northeast region of Ohio purchased chips of the potato flavor.”
You might think I’m kidding, but there are plenty of resumes floating around that are just as difficult to read.
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Rule #3: You Should Tailor Your Resume to Every Job You Apply For
OK, sure, this is tedious, especially if you’re applying to a lot of positions. And honestly, your cover letter should tell most of the story of why you want to work for a company. But 55% of hiring managers don’t read cover letters. So, your resume should be just as thoughtful as any other document you include with your applications.
You can start by taking a look at the job description and making sure all the required skills and qualifications are included in your application. Hint: That includes matching wording—if it says PR experience, do not write “assisted with public relations,” write PR experience. Yes, this process stinks, but considering you only have six seconds to connect the dots between the role you want and your skillset, it’s essential. Especially if you think you’re dealing with an ATS.
Rule #4: You Should Use Simple, But Powerful Language to Describe Previous Roles
Before I became a recruiter, I used to think everyone understood the importance of using action verbs in every bullet point. You’re trying to convince someone you’re the person for the job, right? It makes perfect sense to do everything you can to make it clear that you get things done. Except I learned that not everyone takes this advice to heart. And odds are that if you’re one of those people, it’s probably costing you some interviews.
Sure, this might require an audit of your entire resume, but think about it this way: You’d be hard-pressed to find a recruiter who prefers the person who wrote “Worked with team to complete a project” over the candidate who included “Designed new process with marketing team to increase sales.” You worked hard at your previous jobs, make it clear.
I know this might be hard to read, especially after all the effort you’ve probably put into making your resume awesome. However, I’d also hate for you to miss out on your dream job because you’re taking shortcuts. So before you send out another application, take another look at the story you’re telling. You might notice that a few simple mistakes could be having a huge impact on your job search.
Photo of man typing courtesy of Shutterstock.
About The Author
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.