Do you remember the first resume you ever made? I’ll pause a moment for the cringe and the the obligatory shudder. Still with me? Then let me tell you that chances are, your first resume looked something like mine.
My first ever resume was a sheet of paper with three bullet points. I was 14, and I wanted to be a dishwasher at my local bar. I wanted to earn some extra spending money for the summer. I had heard from my older friend that resumes got you jobs because you looked professional. So I went to work making my resume. I listed my leadership as president in my school clubs, my volunteer work at the local hospital, and my interests and hobbies. Because I didn’t have enough words to fill up the sheet of paper, I made the font size 14 and double spaced. I proudly printed it out and with a slightly trembling hand, handed it to the pub manager.
She glanced at the sheet with a furrowed brow for a couple seconds. Then with a flick of a wrist, she tossed my life’s work into a corner of the bar.
“Can you help me haul kegs when the bar gets busy?”
“Ok, you can start tomorrow”.
The rest, as they say, is history. Ever since I tasted success with my first resume, I’ve never looked back.
Ok, so maybe my resume didn’t really contribute much to me launching my career in the restaurant industry. But in all seriousness, it taught me more about resumes than I knew at the time.
It’s been a great month coaching my first few members here at Maple Career. I keep hearing from students and recent grads that the biggest immediate value they get from joining is the support in crafting resumes that recruiters actually read. I’ve definitely seen major improvement in every single resume. And now that I have some data points, I’ve compiled a list of common mistakes that I’ve seen in some resumes from my members:
1.Resumes More Than 1 Page
What do recruiters dislike more than bad resumes? Bad resumes that take long to read. I'll cut right to the point and say that your resume should always be one page. Sure, there are exceptions, but make no doubt about it, you are not the exception. It’s surprising how many resumes I see from people that are more than a single page. Often, these are from candidates with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) backgrounds. If anyone is qualified to have a multi-page resume, it would be these people.
Too bad nobody is qualified.
That’s right, your experience isn’t as great as you might think it is. Let’s be honest here. You just graduated, or you haven’t even graduated yet. You don’t know anything about anything. If Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, can keep her resume to one page, so can you.
Recruiters and hiring managers receive hundreds or thousands of resumes for every job posting. They’re human too. They work hard, but with only so many hours in the day, they can’t read every resume carefully. Studies showing eyeball-tracking technology have repeatedly shown that often, only the top half of a resume gets read. That means your second page (or fifth page, in one case I’ve seen!) is not going to be read.
Treat your resume as an exercise in brevity and focus. Hit hard with your best experience first, and hit once. Your resume will be many times more memorable if you leave a strong impression in the few words that hiring managers actually do read.
Oh, and be good to the environment.
2. Spelling/Grammar Mistakes
This one should go without saying, but I still see it so frequently that I have to mention it. Your resume should not have a single grammatical or spelling mistake. This one can be tougher for some international students, because English isn’t your native language. But recruiters won’t know that, and even if they did, they won’t care. There are so many resumes to see that any reason to exclude you will be used. “Your” instead of “You’re”? Not enough attention to detail. “It’s” instead of “Its”? Not professional enough.
You are smart, and talented, and you can bring so much. But to a hiring manager, you are only a sheet of paper at first. So please, please be careful with your grammar and spelling. Don’t give them a chance to judge you poorly.
It makes me angry to see some of the resume editing services that are offered to international students. One major service even posts a series of images on their social media, describing how they are the best at resume editing. The slight problem is that in every one of their posts, they have grammatical errors, like this one:
It's highlighted in case you missed it. Yeah, there is a grammatical error on the very same post where they guarantee no grammar mistakes. When I think about how many students are trusting services like this with their time, effort, money and future, it really makes my blood boil. It's stuff like this that made us want to provide a service at MapleCareer, where we actually care about our members and, well, where members can actually get resumes edited correctly.
But I digress. The two key takeaways for this point are that you should always double check your spelling and grammar, and always get a second, third and fourth opinion on your resume.
3.Forgetting the Results
The members that I work with have amazing experience. It makes me wonder what I was doing in my high school and university years. But sometimes, this experience needs a little polish to shine through. I’ve seen many members write about some great work experience by leading with their duties. They talk about what they did…and nothing else.
The problem is, that the world doesn’t define you by what you do. It defines you by what you do for it. Steve jobs wasn’t just the CEO of Apple. He made a product that revolutionized the way we communicate, work and play. And he changed the way we think about design. Jack Ma doesn’t just run Alibaba. He arguably runs the Chinese transactional economy.
Don’t downplay your experience by just listing your role and responsibilities in your resume. A good format I always suggest to my members is the CAR format – Context, Action, and Result. In other words, what you had to do, what you did, and how you changed things. For every job posting, there are hundreds of people who did something similar before. Only a handful did it well. And those are the people the employer wants to find from the pile of resumes.
4. Faking it until you make it
I have a strong stance against faking it until you make it, but I’ll leave that for another post. In the context of resumes, please don’t think that you can get a job by lying and then trying to figure it out on the job once you get it. Smart people have done it, but for every one of them, there are many more that failed unnecessarily. You shouldn’t have to take the risk.
The reason is that lying is a cognitive strain that you may not anticipate when first writing the resume. It’s easy to fabricate experience or results on paper. And it may get you an interview. And in the interview you will definitely be asked about it. You may be smart, but do you like your chances talking in depth about your experience with an industry expert? Hiring managers have a nose for embellishment or lying. And if a hiring manager thinks that you’re lying, the interview is over.
Don’t fake it until you make it. Make it until you make it.
5, Having the Perfect Resume
The nature of many successful people is that they can’t tolerate imperfection in what they do. I see this in many members who are detail oriented and diligent in perfecting their resumes. And there’s nothing wrong with that, at first. Where this becomes troublesome is when you finally get your resume where you want it, and start sending it out everywhere.
There is no one perfect resume. That’s because no single resume is optimal for all industries, companies and hiring managers. An all-star resume in the banking world would become shredder fuel at an ad agency or marketing firm. And vice versa. Always remember to tailor your resume to the industry, job, and even hiring manager if you’ve met with them and have an idea about their working style. This is where research comes in. It’s a lot of hard work, but it pays off in the long run.
Always remember to understand what a company is looking for in a job post, and tweak your resume to cater to their needs. You’ll see a much better success rate than by using a single resume for all applications.
Well, that’s all I have for now. These are some of the most common mistakes that I see in student resumes. Hopefully at least one of them resonate with you, and you find it useful in improving your own resume. I’ll be sure to keep posting more common mistakes as I encounter them.
In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about making a resume that gets interviews, you should attend an upcoming workshop that I will be leading. It’s a free one hour session where we’ll go over a resume that received over 50 interviews and 20 offers. Point by point, we’ll break down how to improve your own resume. And at the end of the session, I’ll give you a copy to take home yourself.
Interested? Come out by signing up HERE.
Until next time!