Avoiding common mistakes when creating and submitting your résumé is both relatively simple and incredibly important.
But research has shown that the internet encourages job-seekers to send out lazy, generic, ‘cut-and-paste’ résumés that are riddled with errors.
Lighthouse PR, a London-based company working in the technology sector, analysed the 245 applications it received while recruiting in the first three months of 2007 and discovered that three-quarters of them contained basic errors, such as spelling and grammatical mistakes.
The evidence showed candidates make volume email applications which are ‘spammed’ to numerous companies, rather than creating a bespoke, carefully-researched and well-written application targeted to each individual firm.
So if you are applying for a new job or will be looking for one in the near future, here are my top tips to avoid common résumé mistakes and boost your chances of success:
Essentially, as with all writing, you want your audience or reader – in this case, the person doing the hiring – to absorb what you are presenting to them and concentrate on its content, not its mistakes and/or style.
Follow convention generally – now is not the time to show your creativity. Think about it: you want the job. That job may well have been advertised and attracted dozens or hundreds or even thousands of applications. So do not put off the person hiring in any way. Use a template you are happy with (either get one from the internet or follow a friend’s résumé which has already brought success).
Put yourself in their shoes: if you had to go through numerous résumés, perhaps for days on end, you too would want to see the vital information on every one of them easily and at a glance. So help them and they may well help you.
Keep your resume to a maximum of two pages. Too little is not enough and too much becomes a drag to trawl through.
Tailor it – be specific
When you have found a résumé template you are happy with, you need to think about the job itself and the company you want to work for. You would be surprised at the number of people who do not do this. Focus on information about yourself which your potential employer would want to read about. Tell them why you are the most suitable person for the job.
A major warning: be truthful with what you write. By all means, write in a persuasive, confident manner, but just make sure that what you do write is accurate: it will only come back and bite you if it is not.
Do not clutter
So, follow a format, tailor what you write but be sure to leave plenty of white space. Cluttered résumés are among the first to be ignored. It goes back to what I said earlier: you want to make it as easy as possible for your reader to absorb what you have written without thinking that it is hard work. They will think that you too are hard work. Harsh but true.
Do not waffle
The person you are writing to is incredibly busy and won’t be excited by paragraphs or pages full of irrelevant nonsense (as far as he or she is concerned). Get to the point – quickly. As I always say: aim for clarity, brevity and impact. Always.
Write your cover letter/email
Again, you want to be brief and clear with this: just know what you want to say, and say it.
Stick to a formal, personalised greeting followed by something like: “Further to your advertisement for the such-and-such position, please find attached/enclosed* my résumé.”
Then just say that you look forward to hearing from them. Your résumé should do the selling, not your letter. However, you can draw the reader’s attention to certain experience or a specific skill you have, which is written in more detail in your résumé, if it is relevant to the job or company.
* Use whichever is relevant.
Don’t be lazy
When you have written your résumé and letter or email, you must, must, must proofread them.
That means printing rough copies of both and looking for spelling and grammatical mistakes. Do not rely on your spellchecker.
I find it is always worth printing your work as your eyes find it easier to read and spot things on paper compared to on a screen.
Sending a résumé and/or letter full of errors makes a woeful first impression and will probably result in your application going straight into the recycling bin.