Job talk: 5 major resume fails

Everyone has a resume. When an opening comes along, they pile up in recruiters’ inboxes like prayer cards on a holy day, carrying wishes for that dream job, a vertical move or (let’s be honest) just the promise of steady employment. In situations like these, you want to stand out to the powers-that-be, but there are certain things that are sure to leave your prayers unanswered.

Digiday spoke with two professional recruiters: Dana Siomkos of You & Them and Kelly Moeller of Aquent. They discussed the most common missteps they’ve encountered while sifting through thousands of resumes.

Going long.
The idea here is simple: The glut of digital media we’re now exposed to on a moment-by-moment basis has made us lazy. We’re no longer willing to read through even a full page of text, especially when a few dozen similar ones are fighting for our attention. “Everyone over time is becoming more accustomed to digestible pieces of information,” said Siomkos, “so I like to tell my candidates to think of every line of their resume as a tweet and to think of their overall communication strategy as a billboard. You have to think like a car is zooming past your resume at 60 miles per hour. What is the one thing you want to make sure that they’ve learned about you?” Having said that…

Typos.
This one is obvious, but it still happens all the time. Typos are infamous for sinking careers before they’ve even begun. “One of the biggest typos that I tend to see is also the largest word on the page,” said Moeller, “and it’s usually ‘experience.’ It’s usually in a larger font and bolded. ‘Manager’ is also another heavily misspelled word. We get a lot of ‘mangers.’ And sometimes spell-check won’t pick up on those things. People should show their resume to at least three other folks.”

Vagaries.
It’s not enough to say you were “involved” in something. Recruiters (and hiring managers) want to know what you actually accomplished. These weak descriptors (“participated” is another example) can be code for “pass.” Instead, Moeller recommends using what she calls “impactful terminology,” powerful words that show how vital you were to a project. “When candidates are able to use more impactful verbiage (‘created,’ ‘developed’), those are words that really grab attention from hiring managers, because that’s what they need. They’re looking at how they can alleviate their pain point or their business challenge. So if they need someone to create or develop something and they see that in writing, it automatically gives that person a leg up.”

Being too cute.
There’s a time and a place for creativity, but your resume should be clean and simple. “I really don’t think your resume is the place to play with Photoshop and Illustrator,” said Siomkos. “It can be distracting and polarizing. You don’t want someone to dismiss you because your resume is covered in pink and the reader hates pink.” So where do you inject some of your own personality? Try crafting engaging and well-ordered supporting bullet points. “You don’t want them to look like your to-do list. You want those five bullet points to be the five reasons you’re different from everybody else, why you’re going to make their company better. Each one needs to be digestible and compelling.”

Your resume doesn’t resonate with your other communication
It doesn’t take a politician or corporate representative to understand the importance of staying on message. “If you’re applying for a job as a project manager, and you talk about how awesome your project managing is in your cover letter or an email to a hiring manager, but then none of that information is actually in your resume, that can be very off-putting,” said Moeller. “That creates a disconnect, and in my opinion, it’s almost an immediate dismissal from a hiring manager. Resumes are one dimensional, and you have one opportunity in one dimension to at least impress them enough to continue that conversation further.”

Now put these tips to use and check out this featured job from the Digiday jobs board:

Edelman Digital has an opening in Washington, D.C. The agency is looking for a vice president of digital for energy clients to help craft and execute online strategy. The ideal candidate will have at least eight years of relevant experience, some of which should involve managing global social media programs.

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