Career Doctor: Common Resume Mistakes That Can Sink You

Most resume mistakes can be easily fixed. By taking the time to identify and resolve common problems, you give employers a clearer view of your skills and experience.

By Dave Willmer


Question:

"My resume hasn’t received much of a response from employers, but I feel my skills should at least put me in the running for the network security positions I’ve been applying for. I’d like to think it’s just the economy, but I’m starting to wonder if I might be doing something wrong. Any advice about mistakes to avoid?"

Dave Willmer responds:

In today’s IT job market, even a minor misstep can sabotage your candidacy for an open position. Most hiring managers have a shortage of time and a surplus of applications to review. If your resume gives them a reason to move on to the next candidate, they’ll usually take it. Below are 10 common resume mistakes IT professionals make. Avoiding them will boost your chances of being invited for an interview.

1. Being vague. Always tailor your resume to each opening, focusing on the skills and experience most relevant to the job. If a past position aligns closely with the opportunity at hand, be sure to emphasize your accomplishments in that role. Keep in mind that employers want to know what you can do for them, not what you’ve done in general.

2. Omitting a mission statement. Be sure to provide a brief summary of your skills and experience at the top of the document. If an employer can’t quickly grasp what you have to offer, your resume may be passed over.

3. Stretching the truth. Let’s say you’re close to earning the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification. Even if you expect to have it by the time you’re hired, resist the temptation to make the claim. Even small lies can be easily uncovered during a background check, eliminating you from contention and damaging your professional reputation.

4. Making spelling mistakes. Attention to detail is an essential attribute for nearly every IT position. A single misspelled word can make your resume appear unprofessional. Don’t rely solely on your word processor¿s spell-checker, which may not catch every error. Take the time to proofread your resume carefully, and ask a friend or colleague to double-check it for good measure.

5. Getting personal. Your resume should focus on the skills and qualifications relevant to the job. Leave off unnecessary information such as marital or family status and hobbies. Include a link to a personal website, blog or social networking profile only if it’s devoted exclusively to your career.

6. Hamming it up. Hiring managers review resumes for information about prospective hires, not for comic relief. Make your document stand out by clearly tying your skills and experience to the open position, not by cracking jokes. The same emphasis on a straightforward presentation goes for the look of your document. Use a standard format to avoid distracting the reader or tripping up resume evaluation software.

7. Writing an epic. Hiring managers want a description of your applicable skills and work history, not an exhaustive record of your career. For non-executive positions, resumes that go beyond two pages may quickly be overlooked. Keep the document concise and focus on your most recent and relevant work.

8. Leaving out the details. Be specific when describing your past duties and accomplishments. Noting that you "managed the company network" doesn’t provide a clear sense of what you actually did. Did you troubleshoot problems? Make key business decisions related to the network? Supervise employees? Don’t rely on a busy hiring manager to fill in the blanks.

9. Forgetting keywords. Most large employers use filtering software to search resumes for key terms. Optimize your resume by including words emphasized in the job ad, such as desired attributes and key technical skills and terms.

10. Flying solo. Finally, be sure to get input from a colleague or friend before distributing your resume. You may be so familiar with it that you’re overlooking problems that a fresh set of eyes will quickly spot.

The good news about most resume mistakes is that they often can be easily fixed. By taking the time to identify and resolve these common problems, you give employers a clearer view of your skills and experience, and give yourself a better chance of finding the right position.

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.rht.com.

Comments

5 Responses to “Career Doctor: Common Resume Mistakes That Can Sink You”

November 18, 2009 at 4:11 am, Cherrlynn Murray said:

Do you have a service that I can upload my cover letter and resume’ for critiquing?

Reply

November 19, 2009 at 2:05 am, dan said:

Dave,

You missed two killer mistakes: (a) Wasting space at the 1/3 top of the first page, and (b) not answering the “what can you do for me” question succinctly and decisively.

Reply

November 19, 2009 at 7:35 am, Mark Feffer said:

Cherrlynn, you can post your resume to our Dice Discussions board for other users to comment on at:

http://seeker.dice.com/olc/forum.jspa?forumID=2

Reply

December 02, 2009 at 7:19 am, Eric Allen said:

I think this was a very tasteful posting with great info.

THANKS!

Reply

January 05, 2010 at 5:32 am, Lee said:

HELP! out of a job, like so many people, however, four different people edited my resume and they all say “theirs” is the best way to write it. Is there someone that can help me with my resume?
thank you
Lee
leeeeeeo@aol.com

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