by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC
Everyone knows the importance of the resume as the most critical tool in your job search toolbox. Small details can make or break the effectiveness of your resume and cover letter in landing your interview. Review your resume to make sure you don’t fall into these traps and lose that interview.
Trap #1: Use a Generic Salutation
The old approach of using “Dear Hiring Committee” or “To Whom It May Concern” is likely the last part of your resume package the hiring manager will read before tossing it into the good old circular file (garbage can). With information so readily available, taking the time to search for names of specific individuals conveys your initiative and willingness to dig in and get the job done. Don’t let a generic approach label you as a slacker and blow your chances for landing an interview.
Trap #2: Including Partial or Incorrect Personal Contact Information
Many people are concerned about posting personal information on their resume for fear of identity theft or letting their current employer know about a job search that you want to keep on the QT. There are many ways to keep a job search away from the prying eyes of your current employer, such as setting up a personal email account dedicated to your job search. Never use company email or other employer resources as part of your job search if you are concerned about keeping your job search a secret.
On the other hand, omitting your home address, phone number, or email address from the resume will only protect you from being contacted for an interview. Include your contact information on every piece of paper or as a header/footer in your electronic file. And be certain to avoid another common mistake by triple checking the accuracy of your contact information!
Trap #3: Emphasizing Your Responsibilities
Every job has responsibilities and it is important to give a general sense of those in your resume. But your resume will not land you an interview if you don’t also include accomplishments. Review your achievements for each position in your work history from a comprehensive perspective and then pare down the list to emphasize those that most closely relate to the position to which you are applying.
Trap #4: Generalizing Your Skills and Training
Include enough detail in your description of specific skills and specialized training that potential employers are able to see exactly how your unique experience will solve problems for the company. For example, instead of “computer programming,” list the programs with which you are familiar. Have you been certified in OSHA regulations, specific types of audits, or JCAHO accreditation? List the details, but be certain to balance that with the brevity required in an effective resume.
Trap #5: Including Everything
“Say more with less” should be the adage for organizing your resume. Most employers are only interested in the last ten to fifteen years of experience. You will not get an interview by including every position you have ever held. If you feel you must reference older work experience, include a brief note as part of an “additional experience” section. Put most of your emphasis on recent accomplishments.
Trap #6: Using Empty Phrases
You may have great “interpersonal skills” and your “written and verbal communication” may be outstanding, but these phrases are meaningless in a resume. Convey these skills by describing specific instances in which these abilities made a difference for the bottom line. What value did you provide to previous employers as a result of these skills and abilities? Describe your contributions in a way that translates to potential value for the new employer and you will land an interview!
Trap #7: Using General File Names
Don’t name your resume file something general such as “Resume.doc.” Use your name as the file name, such as JohnSmithResume.doc. The name recognition not only helps with your personal brand, but also makes it easier for the hiring manager to locate your resume in their own system.
Trap #8: Using a Functional Resume Format
A functional resume does not provide a sense of your career progression and strengths. Use a chronological format to help the hiring manager see you have been promoted within a company and to demonstrate your professional growth. Not only is a functional format confusing, but it can also convey a sense that you are trying to gloss over employment gaps.
Pay attention to all the details so that your resume doesn’t sabotage your career search. Make your resume the most effective tool in your career search to land that interview!