Look, there are lots of reasons that you may not be getting interviews or call-backs. It may be a combination of everything on this list, but it may also be that your resume just plain-old sucks. Within every resume, there are a few things that can go dramatically wrong. Here are a few common resume problems you may have and some simple solutions to help you sort things out.
The Outdated Resume If you haven’t looked at your resume since Bush was in office, chances are it’s out of date. And, you know what? Everyone can tell. Submitting outdated resumes shows prospective employers two things about you and your application. First, it shows them you’re too lazy to take the time to properly update your resume. Being deemed lazy is not an excellent start to the job search. Second, an outdated resume also tells employers that you are not too serious about finding a new job. If you can’t even take the time to update a resume before sending it out for a new position, how badly can you want it?
Update your resume. Make it current and use new language and relevant tools. No one cares that you are an expert at FoxPro or Windows XP. Seriously. No one. Don’t do that. Remove the old and outdated crap and add the new shiny stuff you’ve been working on for the past 5 years. This new stuff is the content people reading your resume will most likely be interested in. They are really not excited that, in 1998, you worked with Excel 98. It’s a non-factor. Make sure the relevant and current information is front and center.
A current, updated resume is a must-have.
The Poorly Formatted Resume Like the outdated resume, the poorly formatted resume is problematic and will stop you from getting the calls and opportunities you deserve. Why? Because the reader, either an HR rep or the hiring manager, never finds the content that makes them know you are suitable for the job. All of your greatness gets lost in ill-suited tables, missing headings, and long blocks of text.
An important fact to realize is that, in most cases, when resumes are initially being read, they are not read for detail. They are quickly skimmed, essential or highly-sought-after skills are highlighted, and the resumes are divided into two groups. This first group is where the poorly formatted resume ends up; this is the ‘not moving forward’ group. Typically these resumes are filed in the garbage can. This is not the group you want to be in. The second group is the ‘maybe’ group that includes resumes that possibly have what they are looking for. This latter group is where you want your resume to end up. If your resume ends up in this group, you are getting another more detailed read through. You get another opportunity to be remarkable.
How do you fix this?
Start by keeping it simple. With a few exceptions (marketing, graphic design, artistic positions), the reader will not care if you have lots of colors, graphics, or fancy formatting. You’ll get attention, but it may not be the attention you want. Use typical resume headings: personal summary, education, employment history, skills, awards, and - if there is room - volunteer experience. Keeping it clean and straightforward will fix 98% of the poorly formatted resume problems.
Don’t allow your resume to end up in the trash can. Use neat, concise, and simple formatting to get you the attention you need to get ahead.
The Error Prone Resume I’m going to keep this section pretty short because it is so simple and obvious. If you have errors in your resume, you are not going to get a second look. The implication here is that if you cannot spell correctly or have accurate dates in your resume, what are the chances that you will bring a high level of accuracy and detail to your work? Slim. Who wants to hire someone unable to craft an error-free resume? No one.
The good news is that fixing this is simple. Pay attention and correct your errors. Make sure you have zero spelling errors, grammatical issues, or date inconsistencies in your resume. This is not optional, and there are no excuses for continued problems in this category. It’s just that simple. Fix the issues, move on. If you cannot do this yourself, hire someone to help you sort it out. You won’t get hired, ever, if you don’t fix this stuff.
If you are unemployed, you cannot afford to have any type of error in your resume. Don’t be an example of what not to do.
The Highlighting the Wrong Stuff Resume OK, I get it; you’re proud of the 10 years you spent as a cub scout den leader. And yes, I know it shows that you have leadership and can corral a group of 10 boys. However, unless you are applying for a job as an elementary school teacher, it’s probably not relevant to your job application. It should not be front and center. Don’t take this the wrong way. There is a place for volunteer experience; it’s just not at the start of your resume.
Here is the critical thing to understand, most companies use advanced computerized resume screening to initially find appropriate applications. These software applications make judgments about your suitability for the job by looking for keywords within your resume. These keywords need to match the job description. If you don’t include the proper keywords or have them lower in your resume, you will not get ranked as high as others. Your application may end up in the electronic trash bin. You might have far better skills and may have the best resume in the stack, but you will never get a second look if you do not highlight the right skills and accomplishments.
Don’t let this happen. Highlight the right things in your resume and use keywords that get attention.
The Holy Crap it’s 8 Pages Long Resume After page two, no one is paying attention. I totally understand that the job you had in 1978 is still relevant and essential to your current job search. I also understand that to get to that job from 1978, you need to get through the 1980s, 90s, 2000s, and the 2010s. However, no one cares. This is the truth. What you did 20 years ago is not relevant to what you will be doing today in most cases. Focus on your current skillset and most recent employment. That’s what employers want to see anyhow because, most likely, that is what you will be doing for them. This is as true for skills as it is for previous employment. Trim down that skill list to relevant, current, and applicable skills. Tailor your resume to the job market.
Bottom-line, more is not better. More is just more. In many cases, it’ll never get read and, in the cases where it is read, it could be used to eliminate you as a candidate. Give yourself two solid pages to work with and make every single word count. Make your resume so content-heavy in so little space that employers are dying to talk to you just to see if you are real. Don’t bury all of your useful, applicable, and relevant skills in useless fluff that just fills pages.
Important Note: A resume and a Curriculum Vitae (CV) are two different things, and they need different approaches. Length is not an issue for a CV like it is for a resume. If you are applying for an academic position, different rules apply.
Final Word on Resumes Your resume is the first view of you that a prospective employer gets. If it’s not done correctly, it might be the only view they ever get. Take the time to craft a solid resume. If this is not in your wheelhouse, or if you just don’t know if your resume is working for you, hire someone to help.