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Through the Eyes of a Recruiter: Avoiding Common Resume Mistakes

Your resume is your primary opportunity to showcase your skills to a potential employer. But did you know it takes a recruiter just 7 seconds to make up their minds about a candidate’s resume? 

Over my career in human resources, I have reviewed thousands of resumes. A clear, concise, and compelling resume masters the moment every time. Yet, I frequently see avoidable errors that prevent potentially qualified candidates from moving forward.

As you consider updating your resume, remember the saying, “two things remain irretrievable: time and a first impression.” If you are serious about advancing your career, you’ll need to invest the necessary time to make a strong and lasting impression. 

Here are a few common mistakes I see and my tips to fix them.     

1. A visually cluttered template

Although originality is appreciated, too much style can overpower what’s important. We are seeing “personally branded” templates with visuals and photos more frequently. These might be great if you are showcasing your skills for a role in marketing or graphic design, but we don’t recommend them for other roles. Also, including a picture can easily open the door to bias from the hiring manager. 

Your resume should be easy to read and succinctly present your qualifications and experiences. Avoid numerous fonts, lines, colors, and diagrams. Use headers, bolded fonts, and bullets. If a recruiter can’t move past the bells and whistles, a cluttered resume will remove you from the path of opportunity.

2. Not tailored to the organization and position

Short-cuts are great for driving, but not for resumes. You are trying to set yourself apart for this potential employer, and often an “all-in-one” resume just doesn’t work. I’m not saying each resume must be created from scratch; however, we rarely see applicants tailor their skills and experiences to what is outlined in the job description. 

 Employers want to see your passion for their work and understand how your experiences uniquely align with the vacancy. Once you’ve created your basic resume template, make the effort to edit each resume specific to the organization and the role.  Even include keywords from the job posting! Your resume will have a greater probability of receiving a deeper look.

While Good Insight doesn’t use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to screen resumes, many larger organizations are using these tools to help them alleviate bias. These systems rely on keywords and key terms. Be prepared—this is the hiring technology of the future.. 

3. Prioritizing job duties instead of accomplishments

Repeat after me, “I don’t have to list ALL my job duties.”  It’s easy to create a list of everything you do for a job; however, employers already have some idea of what the duties are for most positions. Employers want to hear about how you have been successful – – how your work impacted an organization.

Move past the obvious and provide specific details about your qualitative and quantitative accomplishments. For example, “stewarded major donor,” could become, “led stewardship efforts for 18 major donors. Maintained major gifts throughout the pandemic and added two new $20,000 donors in FY20.” Your goal should be to highlight your actions and results, which show your enthusiasm, how you overcome challenges, and your potential to make a difference in a new position. 

4. Not fixing typos and grammatical mistakes

While this is pretty obvious, it’s the most common issue we see. Hiring managers consider your cover letter and resume as an initial writing sample. Typos and grammatical errors unfortunately lead to conclusions about your communication skills, which are a priority for most positions. It’s important to remember that your resume is the first point of contact with an employer, so you want it to be polished.

It’s easy to overlook simple mistakes when you’ve had your eyes on a resume for too long, or you’re making small edits to tailor it to an opportunity. Take a step away for a moment or have someone else review. Spellcheck and apps, such as Grammarly, can also be helpful in ensuring your punctuation, tense, and sentence structure are correct. 

Your resume helps you stand out in a competitive market

We all can agree that the job market is competitive. So it’s important your resume sets you apart, showcases your expertise and value, and makes the case to move you through to the next stage of an opportunity. Can you make this happen? Absolutely!

Although it’s not rocket science, investing the time developing a standout resume that prioritizes your strongest points will go a long way to demonstrate you are the best candidate for the job. 

For more resume writing tips, check out this article from The Muse. Our next article will be on achieving an impressive interview.

About the Author

Kessa R. Thompson joined Good Insight in the fall of 2020. In the role of Director of Talent, she designs comprehensive recruitment strategies to attract a diverse pool of talented applicants for every executive search client.

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