There are few things as stressful as applying for jobs. That's why it's so important to know what resume mistakes you might be making, so you have the best possible chance of fixing errors before they knock you out of the interview pile. As frustrating as it may feel, when organizations are hiring new people, they often don't have a ton of time to spend on each individual application — so a resume and cover letter that stand out in a good way could make all the difference. But how do you know if what you thought was an awesome application might actually contain a professional faux pas or two? Worry not; there are many experts out there who are willing to share their tips on how to make an awesome resume.
As Vivian Giang explains at Business Insider, great resumes tend to have a few things in common, even if they're from radically different fields or career levels. According to Giang, it's always important to have a good online presence to quantify your experience, as well as to have your information presented legibly and in chronological order. Basically, you want whoever is reading your resume not to have to skip around and "figure out" what work you've done or when you were last employed. You want it to be right there, making it easy for the recruiter or hiring manager to see whether or not you have the qualifications for the job.
So what are common resume mistakes that people may not know they're making? Even if you follow the "rules" of a good resume, are there ways you can mess up in other areas? According to hiring experts, yes, there are a lot of common resume mistakes people tend to make — but they're easy to fix once you know how to spot them.
1. You Included Irrelevant Or Inappropriate Information
As Suzanne Lucas, who runs the website Evil HR Lady, explains at Business.com, including inappropriate information in your resume or cover letter is always a bad move. Of course, what "inappropriate information" actually means always varies a bit depending on the role you're applying for and the organization at hand; if you're a PETA member, for example, and you're applying for a position with PETA, you'll likely want to include that membership on your resume. But, as Lucas explains, if you're applying for a totally unrelated position, including that membership on your resume may be too polarizing and personal. "Your resume is about your work skills, not anything else," says Lucas — including your personal preferences, political interests, and so on.
2. Your Resume Is Way Too Long
As Alexis Grant explains at US News, it can be challenging to know if a one-page resume is the best format for your resume. After all, if you have loads of relevant experience, it's entirely possible you'll see yourself creeping onto a second page, and in many cases, that's fine. But Jerry Hauser, who assists in the hiring process for non-profit organizations and is the CEO of The Management Center, strongly favors the one-page resume rule, arguing, "Partly what I want to know is that you can convey information concisely. I don't need to know every last detail about each job. Often, the more detail there is, the less real information, because you're not pulling out the most important things you accomplished, which is what I'm really interested in."
As Grant explains, a good rule of thumb is that if you are a recent college graduate or still an entry-level worker, one page full of relevant, good information is likely enough. As your jobs become more targeted and each role becomes more important, you can consider moving beyond the one-page rule — but try not to go beyond two. Three pages are rarely, if ever, necessary.
3. Your Resume Is In The Wrong Format
According to Suzanne Lucas, if your resume isn't formatted correctly, you can basically count on the recruiter saying, "Forget it." Lucas gives the example of sending your resume as a Word document, when the application instructions specified a PDF. It may seem like a small error or oversight, but it sends the message that you don't follow directions well. Even worse, it can send the message that you weren't paying attention and are typically careless when it comes to small tasks — which, well, doesn't speak well for you as a future employee.
4. You Don't Address Why You're Over-Qualified For The Position
As Alison Green of Ask A Manager explains at U.S. News & World Report, if you're applying for a position in which you are clearly over-qualified, your accompanying cover letter should explain it. Green says that you don't necessarily need to skip over a job simply because you're over-qualified, and you shouldn't let it discourage you from applying; however, hiring managers will want to know why you are interested in their opening, especially if it's an obvious step down from your current or previous positions.
So how do you explain it? Green has a few suggestions: "You might explain that you've realized through experience that front-line accounting work is what you really love, not managing the people doing the accounting work," she writes, "or that you're deliberately seeking something with less responsibility than you've had in the past in order to obtain a better work-life balance."
5. You Don't Explain Your Specific Role At Each Job
We all know that it can feel overwhelming to explain what, exactly, we do at work each day. But as Green explains, it's actually super important to know what to list on your resume and what to leave off. You don't need an exhaustive list of each and every task you do, but you do need to include enough meat that recruiters can see the biggest and most relevant aspects of your work experience in comparison to the role they're trying to fill. The goal should be to focus on what you've accomplished at each job. Striking the balance of providing enough information for the hiring manager to go on, but not too much, is key.