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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.

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Recipe for a CV or Resume – how to cook yours

Recently, I fed 3 questions to the Google search beast. Here they are including the stunning numbers of hits I found:

How to write a resume (115,000,000 hits)

How to write a curriculum vitae (10,900,000 hits)

How to write a CV (22,000,000 hits).

Wow! I know it is December and I know that many of us have some time to spare to do some reading during the Holiday Season. But, seriously, if you want to catch up reading only 1% of these hits, you’re looking at a minimum staggering number of 109,000 hits. How much time would that take? Well, I don’t want to know. I’ve got a better idea instead. Around Christmas, many people spent time in the kitchen to produce delicious Christmas Dinners. Other people spend some time to polish their resumes or curricula vitae because, for example, they are contemplating a next career move early next year. So, let me then give you a recipe for –without the use of a stove or oven – cooking your curriculum vitae or your resume. Of course, the people busy in the kitchen can join later.  I will describe the ingredients you need to use and provide a couple of preparation tips. The rest is up to you.

So, what goes into a good curriculum vitae or resume? The main ingredients are personal information, a summary, work experience, education, languages and skills. In the personal information section you include your full name, a telephone number (not your business phone number), your personal email address, the URL to your LinkedIn profile and, if you like, your home address. Your summary highlights what you have to offer (your unique selling points) to an employer in 3-5 lines – rather than an objective that specifies what you want because that is not what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for. Your work experience is written preferably in reverse chronological order. Be sure to include brief descriptions about the companies you worked for including some numbers like total number of employees and total sales as this gives an idea about the size of the company and the industries you have worked in. A brief description of your responsibilities and a list of your top 2-5 results or achievements (a bulleted list) should be added. Make sure you use keywords that are appropriate. Show some numbers there as well that, for instance, illustrate savings in money and or time, sales increase, increase in production etc.etc. In your descriptions, use short, crisp sentences instead of elaborate descriptions or blocks of text. Your education should also be listed in reverse chronological order. The language section lists the languages you speak, read and write including a “level” such as fair, average, fluent, native speaker etc. The skills section describes particular skills you may have such as computer skills or other skills that could be relevant for the job you are applying for. Is that it? Yes, that’s it. Content is still the most important flavor you want to focus on.

Ah, but what about adding some extra spices, you ask? Hmm, don’t spoil your dish. So in any case leave out “references provided upon request” (you can provide them when asked for, not sooner), leave out your hobbies (unless there is relevance for the position you are applying for), leave out images or pictures and tables (they are not relevant and an applicant tracking system that parses your CV or resume can choke on it), leave out colors and non-standard fonts (black and white is what you want, and use generally accepted fonts like Arial, Tahoma or Calibri for instance).

So, how many people should your CV or resume dish feed? Well, a 1 page resume is fine as long as you don’t cram everything on that single page so that the reader has to pull out a magnifying glass to read the small font you used. Two pages is equally fine! As for a curriculum vitae, 2-3 pages is ok. Using white space helps the reader of your resume or CV to quickly scan and focus on the sections of interest. To finish it, meticulously check for spelling and grammar errors and correct them. Happy cooking!

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.

How is your job interview behaviour?

Do you ace your job interviews? Do you know what to do and what not to do during job interviews? A survey conducted by Harris Interactive in November/December 2013 among more than 2,000 hiring managers and HR professionals reveals common mistakes applicants make during job interviews and hilarious mistakes as well. So, keeping in mind that nearly 50% of employers will make their final decisions about you within 5 minutes after the interview started, here are a few lists and stats for you:

According to employers, the most common mistakes candidates make in interviews are:

  • Appearing disinterested (55%)
  • Dressing inappropriately (53%)
  • Appearing arrogant (53%)
  • Talking negatively about current or previous employers (50%)
  • Answering a cellphone or texting during the interview (49%)
  • Appearing uninformed about the company or role (39%)
  • Not providing specific examples (33&)
  • Not asking good questions (32%)
  • Providing too much personal information (20%)
  • Asking the hiring manager personal questions (17%)

Do not underestimate the importance of body language during job interviews. Communication is more than words, here is what annoys employers:

  • Failure to make eye contact (70%)
  • Failure to smile (44%)
  • Bad posture (35%)
  • Fidgeting too much in one’s seat (35%)
  • Playing with something on the table (29%)
  • Handshake that is too weak (27%)
  • Crossing one’s arms over one’s chest (24%)
  • Playing with one’s hair or touching one’s face (24%)
  • Using too many hand gestures (10%)
  • Handshake that is too strong (5%)

Now, to put a smile on your face, here are some sure ways to goof up your job interview. Remember, these are real life examples that were provided by employers during the Harris survey:

  • Applicant answered a phone call for an interview with a competitor
  • Applicant showed up in a jogging suit because he was going running after the interview
  • Applicant asked for a hug
  • Applicant informed interviewer that she “took too much valium” and didn’t think the interview was indicative of her personality
  • Applicant checked Facebook during the interview
  • Applicant popped out his teeths when discussing dental benefits
  • Applicant kept her iPod headphones on during the interview
  • Applicant said that he questioned his daugther’s paternity
  • Applicant asked for name and phone number of the receptionist because he really liked her


Do you think your resume or CV will be read by humans…….

…or by robots? Huh? Did you say robots? Yes, I did. Let me explain: Recruitment agencies and companies use software often called ATS or Applicant Tracking Software. Programs like Taleo, Kenexa, PeopleSoft and others. To support recruiters and staffing people, this software performs a lot of tasks for them. One of them is that a modern ATS has a built-in functionality to parse (or read) your CV or resume. I would say that about half of all organizations (and a majority of large organizations) use ATS’s to pre-qualify or screen applicants making the lives of recruiters easier. So, it is important for you to be prepared and optimize your resume or CV to get past the ATS. Here are some do’s and dont’s to think about when you prepare your resume for an ATS:


  • use creative formatting to make your resume look nice, an ATS can choke on it
  • use pictures, logos or other graphics, an ATS has no eyes
  • send your resume as a PDF, not all ATS’s can handle that
  • use non-standard fonts
  • insert information in tables in your resume


  • use standard fonts like Tahoma, Verdana, Arial
  • make sure that your resume is rich in keywords to match the job description
  • use bulleted lists of your qualifications and skills
  • spell check your resume and use appropriate punctuation
  • include your contact information near the top of the page

Make sure your resume or CV is organized in neat sections with proper headings. It is best not to use header and/or footer in an ATS version of your resume or CV. Also, check for abbreviations, to be safe it is best not to use them but to spell out words, ATS’s can be a little limited in vocabulary and may not understand abbreviations that you use. When you need to do cutting & pasting, have an ASCII version of your resume ready to prevent nasty things happening to your formatting. If you can, upload your resume or CV. Bear in mind that an ATS analyzed keywords, titles etc. to assess your experience. These systems are capable of rejecting the majority of candidates that do not meet the requirements. 


Is this good or is it bad? Well, both. It is good because it helps the staffing folks speed up the processing of applications. It is good because you as an applicant, can include more information in preparing an ATS-friendly resume to help you stand out from the competition because an ATS doesn’t care about the lenght of your resume. It is bad because ATS’s can’t think the way humans can, it’s a bit like performing surgery on patients using garden tools. It is bad because hiring managers and recruiters will miss out on well qualified candidates because the robots have decided they didn’t make the cut.

Good luck battling the robots in landing your next job!

Is your resume packed with hollow phrases?

Many job postings (still) list personal qualifications to such extent that it is hard to believe that there are actually people out there that are a 100% match. To qualify for even the simplest entry-level jobs, we need to be detail-oriented, goal-oriented, ambitious, competent, determined, well-organized and creative. Right? So, it is understandable that many resumes and CV’s advertise many of these wonderful attributes. Nowadays, that is pretty much old school because many employers no longer pay attention to these subjective criteria and hollow phrases. So, if you are an “Engaging and goal-oriented personality with high drive” and you possess a “can-do mentality” and you are a “strong, people-oriented relationship builder”…you run the risk of having your resume rejected. There is nothing wrong with including your strongest skills in your resume but rather than “bluntly” stating them, provide examples from your professional experience that illustrate and prove them. That way you can convince hiring managers because you are showing your skills.