People often approach us almost apologetically about the state of their resumes. “Please excuse the current version…” they say…or “I know it’s in a terrible state…”
We get it! Oftentimes, your resume hasn’t been updated for years; it may be brief or have spelling and grammar mistakes.
These mistakes are really common, and we’re more than happy to help bring your resume up to a contemporary, professional standard. We love it, in fact.
Chances are, your resume is of a similar standard to those that we see on a daily basis, so no need to apologise.
In fact, we’ve probably seen worse. A lot worse.
Here are the very *worst* resume errors we’ve seen:
Sometimes people seem to want to explain their personal history within their resume. First, let’s be clear that explaining gaps when people have taken career breaks (such as maternity leave or travel experiences) can oftentimes be quite appropriate, and – if done well – even helpful to a person’s job market competitiveness (travel breaks can be crafted to include personal development, for instance).
Sometimes, people take it too far. The worst ever example of this I saw was when a person provided details on their relationship breakdown within their resume, with lengthy details of what went wrong and how it resulted in them being terminated from their employment. This is a big no-no, and simply not what an employer wants to see when looking for a candidate.
DO: Explain career gaps positively.
DON’T: Discuss relationship breakdowns in your resume (ever).
We often get questions around who people should use as their referees. This can sometimes pose a problem, if, for instance, someone has been self-employed for a long time (tip: use business contacts such as accountants or suppliers) or they are leaving their current employer on less-than-positive terms (tip: use previous employers as referees instead).
New-starters within the workforce often also have trouble identifying suitable referees. One memorable jobseeker listed in his resume one referee, simply referring to her as ‘Grandma’. Don’t do this.
DO: Use employment-related referees where possible.
DON’T: If you only have friends or family members to list, ensure you use their full name and job title. Alternatively, you can leave your referees as ‘available upon request’.
Resumes That Go On…and On….and On….
In general, today’s resumes should be 2-3 pages in length. Think about it – when an employer has hundreds of resumes to review, they don’t want to be reviewing pages and pages of skills and achievements for each applicant – a concise, professional summary is best. If they’re interested, the job interview is your chance to expand further.
The worst example I saw of this was a resume that was – wait for it – 24 pages in length. Fortunately, the applicant knew this was problematic and had contacted us to condense it down into a more manageable format.
DO: Keep your resume 2-3 pages in length.
DON’T: Let the employer fall asleep midway through page 16.
Bad Email Addresses. Very bad.
It seems sometimes people forget that a resume is a professional document. No matter what industry you’re in, your resume should be written using professional language. People coming to us for assistance get this and are prepared to have an expert write their resume to ensure it is up to scratch. We’ve seen countless examples though, where people seem to forget about their email address, and how this may impact on their job search. Email addresses starting with “sxy1974” and “2gd4u” are bad. Very bad.
DO: Use a professional email address.
DON’T: Even think about using your email address if it starts with “hotstuff69”.
Applying for the Wrong Jobs
People often come to us for assistance when they’re looking to make a career change. Part of our job is to look for transferrable skills from previous roles to emphasise to highlight your relevance for the job you are applying for.
While we like to think we’re pretty good at this, there are some limits to what we can do. Particularly in highly competitive roles, without the relevant experience, you’re unlikely to get a look-in. Examples of this include people with administrative experience applying for senior government administrative roles. If you’re not sure, ask us to review the role and your current resume or experience, we’ll give you our honest opinion.
If we don’t think your current experience is a match, it’s not a lost cause. There are a few things you can do to increase your likelihood of success when you’re looking for a career change, such as voluntary work in your preferred field, or an entry-level position.
DO: Think outside the box to get experience in your preferred field.
DON’T: overshoot, particularly in competitive roles.
Since often people have not updated their resumes for many years, it’s common for us to see outdated achievements listed on resumes. In general, we don’t recommend listing achievements (or even much history) on resumes if it happened more than a year ago.
The worst example of this we saw was a 55-year old man who listed his high school sporting achievements on his resume.
DO: include relevant, recent achievements
DON’T: include achievements more than 10 years old (unless it was really, really amazing).
We’ve written on how to write a resume in 2018 before. Often, it’s not so much what you should include in a resume, but what you should leave out. If you are making any of these mistakes, do yourself a favour and fix them immediately.
That means you, hotstuff.