advanced CV topics

5 Resume Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Let’s talk about resumes. At some point in your life, probably sooner than you think, you’re going to have to write one. And whether you’re applying for a job or an internship, or in some cases even a scholarship, your resume is likely going to be the first thing that the decision maker sees when they’re evaluating you. Which means resumes important. Now, because they are so important, any recruiter or hiring manager is obviously going to give every one they receive the utmost care and attention, right? Wrong. In reality, many resumes are never actually seen by a human recruiter. And of those that actually do make it to a recruiters desk, most are unceremoniously thrown in the trash after just a few seconds. And this is just a numbers game. In fact, Google alone gets over 1 million resumes per year. And that breaks down to over 2,700 a day. Now, those numbers seem daunting and they can be a little bit intimidating, but there is some good news. Because a lot of people make some really common mistakes on their resumes that could put them out of the running.

And if you could learn to avoid those mistakes, you’re going to have a huge leg-up on the competition. So, today I’m going over five of the worst resume mistakes you can make, and we’re going to talk about how you can avoid them so that you get that dream job that you are going for. The first big mistake we’ll review is the tendency for people to write their experience section in a way that lists their job duties rather than their jobs accomplishments.

The thing is, employers do no care about what you were expected to do at your last job. They care about what you can do for them, and they want to see concrete examples from your past experience that point to that. It’s your responsibility to clearly and succinctly show what you accomplished in that little amount of space you have. Here’s an example: During my senior year, I had a job on campus at a research department. And I got hired as a web developer and I did maintain the website, I did make changes to it. But at one point, I also had a small, probably three hour project where I created an automation script that ended up saving the company about 240 hours of work.

And since people there were getting paid nice bucks an hour, you can do the math on how much money that saved. Now even though that project only took me a few hours to do, in the eyes of a hiring manager, it would have been by far the best indication of my creative problem solving abilities and my ability to save their company money in the future, out of anything I did there. Now, you might be thinking to yourself right now, “I don’t have a story like this, “I haven’t saved a company a ton of hours “or thousands of dollars yet.” But what you do have, is the ability to make your achievements as concrete and as specific as possible, and to quantify them. Another example. During my junior year, I was a resident advisor at my university. And I could’ve just said, “Helped to smoothly run a community of students,” but I put 62 students because that gives a more concrete and quantified example of how many students I was managing.

Big mistake number two is, believe it or not, typos and grammatical errors. And you might be thinking, “This is the most obvious boring tip that I read.” But it needs to be said because I, myself, have fallen victim to it. During the summer before my sophomore year, I was getting ready for the career fair and I created what I thought was the perfect resume.

I had a ton of experiences, tons of clubs, tons of part time jobs that I could show off. I was thinking, “I’m gonna go into that career fair, “and I am going to crush all the competition.” But, to check off all the boxes, I decided to get a resume review from my career counselor first. So, I go into her office, I sit down, and I’m thinking this is going to be a five minute meeting. She’s going to give me a gold star and say, “Rob, this was the best resume I’ve ever reviewed!” But instead, she pulls out a red pen and starts marking stuff up. And as she’s marking things, I start to see that she’s marking out typos. Things that I did not catch myself. And I thought my resume was perfect. So, if you can, get your resume reviewed by your career counselor. And if you can’t, at least have somebody that you trust, who isn’t you, run over it before you start handing it out. Or, -this is cool- read your resume backward, it helps to focus on typo’s and grammar mistakes.

The third big mistake is listing all of your experience in purely chronological order instead of it’s relevancy to the position you’re applying to. A lot of people think they’re actually supposed to list their experience in chronological order. But this is something that you shouldn’t do because you really don’t have a whole lot of time to catch the recruiters eye. So you wanna put the most relevant thing first. In fact, according to a study done by theladders.com, recruiters spend an average of just 6-20 seconds looking at a resume before throwing it into the trash and going to to the next one.

So, if you’re a computer science major applying for a job, and last summer you did an internship in software development where you literally built and shipped software, but then after that you just, like, worked at Burger King during the year. You definitely want to put that software development internship at the top because a recruiter at a computer science company is not going to care so much about Burger King. Now you can definitely go to far here, which means that there is a balance that has to be struck.

In fact, I got an email from somebody in their mid 20s recently who asked me if it would be a good idea to put a mission trip they did when they were 11 years old on their resume. And as I was trying to answer that persons question, I imagined myself as the hiring director looking at that persons resume. And all I could think of was that something like that on a resume is gonna look like just grasping at straws.

I’m gonna think, “Why isn’t there anything else you’ve done “in the intervening 15 years, that deserves to kick “that thing off the resume.” Now, maybe this doesn’t apply to people who have already had long and illustrious careers, who have 20 page CVs and tons of awards on their shelf in their office. But if you are just looking for an entry-level position, or you’re just a few years into your career, then recency does matter.

The fourth big mistake that is really common to students especially, is placing too much emphasis on paid work. A lot of students think that if they didn’t get paid for it, it doesn’t really count and it doesn’t belong in that experience section. But here’s the thing, employers don’t actually look at it that way. Maybe you’re like Ron Swanson. You’ve been working in the quarry since you were 12 years old and you have tons of part time jobs that you were paid for that you can put on your resume. But most students don’t have that kind of experience. For the most part, when students are looking for their first entry-level job, they don’t have a whole lot of paid work under their belt.

And when they do, it’s often stuff like working at Subway, or flipping burgers, or working as a cashier. Honorable work to be sure, but it often doesn’t exemplify the traits that recruiters are looking for in more technical positions. But many times those same students have volunteer experiences, extracurriculars, and clubs where they did gain experience in what the recruiters are looking for. And if that’s you, you should definitely put those experiences right at the top of your experience section. Don’t hide them away in a clubs and volunteering section.

And that brings us to our final big mistake on the list, which is using the same resume to apply for every single position you go for. This is a huge mistake. Because again, you’ve got just six seconds to catch your recruiters eye. So make sure you’re tailoring your resume to every single position that you’re applying for. If you’re an active student, then it’s more than likely you have a diverse set of experiences and skills. So when you’re going for a position, ask yourself, what are the exact skills that are gonna look the best to a recruiter hiring for this position? And make sure you tailor your resume to show those things first.

If you have both freelance writing experience and coding experience, then a writing job is gonna take a different resume than a coding job. And the other important thing to note here, to be honest, is that using the same resume to apply for every single job is downright lazy. And it shows, which is bad, because honestly one of the top qualities that recruiters across every single industry is looking for, is a clear indication that this candidate is going to go above and beyond.

Now, when it comes to your resume, the best way you’re going to demonstrate your qualities is by letting your past accomplishments speak for themselves by making sure that experience section shows off accomplishments in a very clear and specific way. But, tailoring your resume to the company and showing that you put effort into the application process goes a long way as well. Now, that being said, when it comes to showing off those more intrinsic qualities, your resume is not the best tool for the job. Honestly, those are probably going to come out most in the interview when you have real face-to-face interaction with that hiring manager.

But before the interview happens, another great tool for showing those qualities is having a website. If you have your own website, then you can build a portfolio that shows off your work in the way that it was meant to be seen. You can show it off in all its details and you can also show the process that you used, which shows your work ethic and your problem solving abilities. It also just gives you a much more customized and vibrant way to present yourself, which is why I think that every ambitious student should have their own website. Now, if you’re in high school or you’re early on in college and you’re not ready to build a website for yourself just yet, I do think that you should, at the very least, go and secure your domain name. And the earlier that you go and get your domain name, the less likely it’s going to be that someone’s going to go take it before you have the chance.

OK, so much for now. If you have questions or want the assistance of a professional resume writer, well, let me know, you can find my contact details right here on the website.

Is your stage dressed to kill?

Is your stage dressed to kill?

Let’s change the word “stage” in the title of this post to “curriculum vitae”. A one size fits all curriculum vitae no longer makes the cut when you apply for a job. Recruiters and other people assessing your curriculum vitae tend to be very busy. Their workload can be such that they don’t have the time to fully read your curriculum vitae. In less than 30 seconds they decide where your CV goes…….You need to prepare for that “treatment”. Time and time again. So, how do you do that?
One way I explain this to my clients is by comparing a curriculum vitae to a stage:

Setting the stage for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is quite different from preparing for the spectacular show KOOZA by Cirque du Soleil. If you want the audience (recruiters, HR people and other staffing folks) to see what’s on stage (your CV), you need proper lighting. While there may be more props (content) present on the stage, you need to balance the stage design and select what the audience will see. You can do this by using spotlights. So, you need to carefully arrange your props (write your content) in such a way that they will fulfill the expectations your audience has (match the requirements for the job you’re applying for). You then use spotlights (keywords) to highlight relevant props (parts of your career history) so that they align with what the audience is expecting. At the same time, you dim the lights on props that have no function in what goes on on stage. You want the audience to recognize the stage design so that the audience is drawn into the performance the minute the curtain opens.
In other words, you expand and summarize sections of your work history as appropriate for the job you are applying for and make sure that relevant keywords are in place to facilitate scanning of your CV so that you will make the cut and get an invitation for a job interview. That way, your stage will be dressed to kill.
If your “general” CV is the theme, you write a variation every time you apply for a job. Theme and variations has worked well in music for hundreds of years, it will work equally well for your curriculum vitae.

5 Tell tale signs why your resume is out of fashion


Many people continue to use one and the same resumé  year after year. A document that was created (very) long ago, updated from time to time by adding a new address or telephone number and a new position. Why? Fact is that about 80% of all people struggle with their resumés. They are not good at selling themselves, they are not skilled in writing resumés  they hate writing resumés and sometimes laziness prevents them from writing a crisp, modern resumé  They ask themselves: Why should I? Why change my resumé  everything that should be there is in there, so why bother? Well, don’t underestimate the importance of having a decent resumé or CV. It can and will make the difference in getting you an invitation for a job interview –or not. In this post I will give you 5 telltale signs to help you figure out if your resumé needs a makeover:

1. Your Resume Contains an Obsolete Objective

“I am looking for a senior management role where I can use my managerial experience and strategic skills to manage marketing and sales operations” Yawn. To put it bluntly: Employers don’t care what you want. The employer wants a solution for his “problem” and he hopes to find that solution in your resumé. “Client-focused senior sales manager”. That’s you! Writing that makes a more powerful impression, that’s something that could catch that employer’s attention.

2. There’s (a lot of) Corporate Speak and/or Complicated Language in Your Resume

Many old-fashioned resumés contain formal language and corporate language that not everybody understands. An example: “ensuring correct and JIT-fulfillment of the order flow so that the logistical performance is optimized according to pre-set KPI’s”. Translation: “making sure that correct processing of orders leads to timely delivery to customers”. Use clear language, write short lines (use bullet points) and don’t copy formal job descriptions. 

3. There Are Listings of Tasks and Responsibilities in Your Resume Instead of Results and Accomplishments

In many resumés one finds endless listings of formal tasks and responsibilities. They read like job descriptions. Try this: use a few lines to summarize your (main) tasks and beef up your resumé by listing your accomplishments or results, including numbers and/or percentages. That will give a far better picture of what you are capable of and beats job descriptions. Your resumé should tell your personal story.

4. The Lay-out of Your Resume is Inadequate

The font Times New Roman is very classic. Your resumé will look better if you use more modern fonts like Arial, Calibri or Tahoma. Also make sure, that the lay-out is consistent, don’t use two different fonts in your resumé and make sure that the variation in font size (headings vs. text) is the same throughout. Make sure that the overall lay-out is such that it is easy to scan and read your resumé, make use of white space. Modest use of color is fine, but be careful with it and ask yourself if that is appropriate in your industry or in your profession.

5. Your Resume Goes Back a Long Time

As we progress through our careers, we add to our employment history. It isn’t always necessary to prominently describe the role you fulfilled back in 1985. No doubt the industry in which you worked then, has changed. You have changed too. What matters for many employers is your recent (say, the last 10 years) employment history. Besides, you can do so much more now than you could do in 1985. So, it is okay to summarize positions you held a long time ago and to briefly describe highlights. Modern resumés put more emphasis on roles and results and de-emphasize early career experiences (or list them in a “minimalistic”  way).

In the end, a good and powerful resumé is the end result of a subtle combination of many elements such as content, style, lay-out and presentation. I hope that you can use these signals to –if you need to, of course- give your resume a facelift.

Rob van Zoelen