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Where the Red Flag Waves: What NOT to Do On Your Resume
Monday, November 28, 2011

Posted by Alison Greenland, Freelance Blogger

We've all been told about what makes a good resume, what to do to polish it up, how to make it speak to the employer, etc. But what about the things that make a bad one?

Rarely are we reminded to take pointers from less advantageously constructed resumes so as to stay away from picking up bad habits.

But these flubs are just as crucial to examine as the admirable ones, so I've realized.

If there's anything I've kept with me it's that people learn best from their mistakes, so what better way to avoid making certain mistakes than by studying those who have already made them?

After countless hours of looking for the perfect resume, the one that says, "Pick me, I'm the one you want!" my search amounted to nothing. At least none that said, "Pick me, Alison, I'm the one you've been waiting for." And as such, my resume failed time and time again to land me the interview I felt so sure of having in the bag.

And no matter how many different ones I tried to emulate: the one with the unique font, the one that was short and sweet, the one that had all the details, it seemed that neither made the right impression.

With that said, if experience is the greatest teacher then let us take in all it has to show. The information is out there, all it takes is doing a little research. And while doing so I stumbled upon some useful advice that helped illustrate some of the no-no's of resume writing. Here are my top three:

1) Make your resume too wordy.
2) Give them a vague or confusing chronology.
3) Focus on responsibilities; neglect achievements.

I'm sure you've heard of the saying "less is more." Well, there's a reason people say that and this is one of those cases. If you make your resume too wordy you start to say things that don't really matter to the recruiters and all that reading can get exhausting, especially if they've been going through a stack of resumes all day, they probably just want to find one that gets to the point so they can just get to an interview already... Phew! Need I say more? Imagine reading page after page of resume material, you'll probably end up skipping the ones that don't just have a name followed by "HIRE ME." Keep it simple: be clear, concise, and consistent.

Some employers, typically the big dogs, will comb through a resume scrutinizing every little piece; that includes the chronology. This means remembering the month and year for every job from start to end. So, bring out your planners and date books and get cracking. If you can't remember and haven't documented the dates, try to give the most accurate recollection you can. If you must, try calling your employer to find out, though it may be a long shot. The point is to at least have something on there that details your time at that position. What all this tells the employer is that you are a concrete, thorough person.

We all want our resumes to say the best about us, to say that we're #1, and it can. Just make sure to go about it the right way. You should always point out your experience and responsibilities but don't stop there. Show how you demonstrated taking on those responsibilities by emphasizing your accomplishments. If you're trying to sell yourself let them see the benefits of having you on board; give potential employers a reason to want to hire you.

Here's an example:
Resume #1: "Exceeded sales objectives"
Resume #2: "Delivered 143% of sales goals, outpacing 101 reps nationwide"

Who would you rather interview? Let your cover letter do the schmoozing and leave the highlights for your resume.

When all else fails, just shoot for having a resume that not only reflects what you're capable of, but who you are as a person--professionally speaking. Anyone can have the same experiences in doing certain jobs, but only you can bring out what's unique about yours.

Good luck!
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