Grammatical errors and typos are always high on the list of fatal resume flaws. But there’s actually a worse one, the most fatal of the fatal: Rambling and incoherent writing.
In fact, while reviewers are often willing to overlook an occasional spelling error, outdated technology references or even a brief, unexplained employment gap. But a resume that fails to succinctly convey who you are and what you do is going to be deleted, no matter how qualified you are. And it’s not because reviewers are placing more importance on the document than your technical qualifications. It’s because they couldn’t find your qualifications in the first place.
“The candidate may have the greatest technical skills in the world, but you can’t tell by reading their resume,” says Jai Shukla, senior IT recruiter for ICONMA, a Troy, Michigan-based staffing and consulting firm. “You know it’s bad when you read it several times and it still doesn’t make sense.”
Set the Stage
Rudderless resumes share some common characteristics. For starters, they fail to set the stage for the reviewer by providing a clear headline, objective statement or opening summary that highlights your specialty along with the position you’re seeking. Don’t lead-off with a generic statement that reads something like, “Experienced IT Professional Seeking Opportunities in a Challenging, Growth-Oriented Environment.”
You can further muddy the waters by failing to describe the scope of the projects in your work history, as well as your roles and responsibilities. Reviewers use these to evaluate the relevance of your experience and competencies. The worst-case scenario is when your experience bullets reference unrelated tools and exclude the skills and software programs you’ve included in your technical skills summary.
Stay on Track
Taralee Brady, talent acquisition manager for the Technical Team at Phoenix-based GoDaddy.com has read lots of pointless resumes. One of the more inexplicable was submitted by an experienced Linux admin who listed more than 20 programs and tools in his technical summary, yet for some inexplicable reason dwelled on his experience with Java development, .NET and MySQL in his work history.
Brady conjectures that candidates get off track when they try to load their resume with every possible skill and keyword.
That begs the question: How can you survive automated resume screening if you don’t include a bevy of keywords? The answer, says Brady, is to make sure those keywords, along with any skills that fall outside of your basic position, are described in context. For example, that Linux admin should have explained that he wanted to work with databases or application development, and categorized his skills as primary and secondary. That would have helped reviewers understand his qualifications and supported his goals.
As long as you’re clear about where your talents and interests lie, you don’t need experience with every skill or tool in the job description. When you try to compensate for a lack of skills, camouflage a poor track record or create a single document to send in for a variety of positions, you’ll end up creating a disjointed resume.
Keep it Clear
Nicole Foster, a branch manager and executive recruiter in Northern California for At-Tech Consulting, recently reviewed an eight-page behemoth that raised more questions about the candidate’s goals and background than it answered.
“You’re shooting yourself in the foot if your resume doesn’t read well or deliver a coherent message,” she says. “For goodness’ sake, ask someone else to read your resume before you send it, because if it doesn’t make sense, the reviewer will have no choice but to cast it aside and consider other candidates.”