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How To Fix The Worst Resume Problems

There are certain items that will get a resume pitched in the trashcan immediately, but every one of them is fixable. You have a lot of latitude in writing your resume today. It’s a branding document. It isn’t a legal or government document, and there’s no reason for your resume to sound like one.
Here are the ten worst resume problems and how to fix them.

Too Many Words
In the 1980’s the idea was to stuff a million formal-sounding business terms in your resume to create what looked like a horde of crazed ants running around on a sheet of white paper until there was almost no paper showing. Today, fewer words in your resume will let your story shine through.
If you’ve had to narrow the margins on your resume document because you filled the page with words, get rid of half the words in your resume. No one is going to read them anyway. Tell your story succinctly and powerfully.

Too Much Jargon
When I wrote my first resume in 1982 I was proud to call myself a ‘results-oriented professional.’ That sounded very grown-up and official to me when I was standing in line to see Frankie Goes to Hollywood at the Aragon Ballroom. Times have changed. Overdone business jargon makes your resume unreadable, because hiring managers have seen the same resume sludge so many times.

Get rid of terms like ‘motivated-self-starter,’ ‘multi-skilled Business Professional’ and ‘strategic thinker.’ They add nothing to your resume and only flatten out your sparkling personality!

Another old resume trend was to fill up empty space with meaningless terms that anyone could claim. If you ever answered a phone according to this line of thinking, throw in the term ‘customer service’ just for the heck of it! I still see resumes with long lists of terms like Operations – Sales – Finance – Customer Service – HR although the job-seeker who owns the resume isn’t looking for jobs in all of those areas.

Get rid of the filler in your resume. It can only confuse a manager who doesn’t want someone who dabbles in everything, but someone who is really good at few things instead.

Typos and Spelling Errors
Everyone has a friend who can spell, even if that friend is Bill Gates. If you create your resume on a computer, there’s no reason for it to have spelling errors, typos or grammatical errors. As much as I rail about fussy resume screeners, I must agree that a person who submits a resume with errors in it might not be the world’s most intentional job-seeker.  Clean up the errors in your resume before you share it with anyone other than your friend who can spell.

No Clear Direction
How long does a person look at your resume? Only a few seconds. You have to make it clear what you intend to do for a living. You can’t have a brand that’s all over the map. Use a Summary at the top of your resume to get your career plan across on the page, like this:
I’m a Research Librarian who creates smart and nimble processes for corporate or institutional leaders to get the information they need. I stay up on the latest ideas in data analysis, research methods and user tools to get critical decision-making information into the hands of people who can benefit from it.

There is no mistaking what this job-seeker intends to do with his or her time on the next job. You can declare yourself just as strongly in a short Summary at the top of your resume.

Too Long
Unless you’re writing an academic or scientific resume you are limited to two pages. My resume is one page long and I’ve been working full-time since God was a small child. You don’t need to drone on about every task you performed at every job you ever held. Less is more when it comes to resume-writing.

Too Much Detail
No one cares about the big project you worked on in 1985 unless it’s highly relevant to your career goals today. Three bullets that tell us how you came, saw and conquered in each position are plenty.

We Can’t Understand It
Some resumes written in English are almost impossible to understand. We can read your resume five or six times and still not comprehend what you’re good at and what you love to do. You don’t have to use stiff business language in your resume. You can write the way you talk.

Terms from a Different Industry
If you have any ‘inside’ terms in your resume, like “I was instrumental on the X7-15 release team” get rid of them unless you are absolutely certain that the person reading your resume will know what the term means and understand it. Otherwise, you’re shoving useless and off-putting information in a resume screener’s face.
Military folks returning to civilian life often have resumes studded with military jargon that few civilian managers will be able to make sense of. Get rid of that stuff! We don’t value what we can’t understand — we are annoyed by it, if anything.

Too Broad
The last deadly resume problem is to look on paper like you don’t know who you are. Some resumes scream “I’ll do anything you want — just hire me!” No one is attracted to neediness. Job-hunting is like dating in that respect. Tell us who you are and what you intend to do next and invite us to join you in that journey.

Not everyone will get you and only the people who get you, deserve you. Don’t grovel by sending the message through your resume “Please, your Majesty, consider me for a job!” That is not an appealing brand. Claim what you’ve done and step into your power. Use your own voice in your resume and see what happens!

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