There are quite a few resume issues that we regularly see in the career services industry. Potential pitfalls can include poor verbiage choices, overly complicated formatting, lack of or too much content, and inappropriate messaging. This will be a brief guide with insight from the expert resume writers at Employment BOOST on frequent resume issues and how to solve them.
One of the most common and easily fixable issues on resumes is the inclusion of images. These can range from photographs of the writer to tables of sales numbers to fancy borders around the page or separating sections. These images make the resume files extremely large, which can in turn lead to applicant tracking systems (ATS) filing them as spam. Worse, the images could make the rest of the content unreadable to an ATS system, resulting in an instant rejection. Additionally, adding photos of yourself can lead to subjective bias if the resume does reach the eyes of a hiring manager, and bias should be mitigated as much as possible.
Incorrect Grammar and Spelling Errors
Nothing is more of a turn-off to recruiters or hiring managers than seeing spelling and grammatical errors littering a resume. Not only can such mistakes make the resume confusing to read and obscure the intent of the content, but it can give the impression that you simply don’t care enough about the resume to comb it for simple errors. That’s the last impression that you want to give to potential employers, so double-check the resume before sending it off. A small error (like confusing “effect” and “affect” for example) might not be a red flag, but even still, there’s no reason to not have a 100% grammatically correct resume.
Being Too Broad
Resumes should ideally be targeted for a specific position or role that you’re looking for. The more specific your resume is to a job, the more relevant keywords it is likely to contain, and the better your chances are of passing through that ATS system. Therefore, if you’ve spent part of your career in sales, and part of your career in software development, but want to pursue sales, it’s probably not a good idea to have a great portion of the resume devoted to your achievements in software development.
A frequent resume issue is not targeting any one job or specific position at all, and just having a very general resume with broad content. Doing this might theoretically keep the door open for numerous roles, but a resume that doesn’t carry any relevant experience for the position in question will almost certainly not make it into consideration. Be specific and be relevant in the information that you include on the resume.
Including Too Much Content
A related resume issue is just putting too many words on the page. Hiring managers are busy people and they don’t want to read a four-page resume or have to pour through 650 words on a page. If you have less than five years of experience, you should generally have a one-page resume. For more seasoned professionals and executives, a two-page resume is almost always sufficient to cover your experience. The resume is meant to be an overview of your accomplishments and achievements, not a detailed account of your entire work history.
To that end, if your experience extends into the 1990s or earlier, consider curtailing that experience on the resume or eliminating it entirely. Very few people will care about accomplishments from over 20 years ago unless it was earth-shattering, and so much has changed since then that the experience probably isn’t relevant anyway.
By keeping the resume to two pages and reducing the number of words on each page, you can present a document that is easily readable and won’t prevent a hiring manager from looking further.
Focusing on Job Responsibilities
While you want your resume to align with the keywords in the positions that you’re looking for, merely including job descriptions of your own work is not sufficient on a resume. A resume is about distinguishing yourself and showing what you specifically have achieved in the workplace. Therefore, try to focus on tangible wins: projects completed, process improvements, and any quantifiable numbers regarding your performance in the workplace. Having these accomplishments in place of standard job duties, which anyone could do, will make your resume stand out.
There are many other resume issues that occur frequently, but these are some of the most common and most significant that we see on a regular basis. Fortunately, there are simple solutions to all of these problems, and hopefully with this quick guide you will be able to make your resume a much stronger document.