Recruiters and hiring managers can receive hundreds of resumes when advertising an available position – and among them are usually some doozies of examples of what not to send when trying to put your best foot forward.
Here are five of the top things recruiters wish they could say to applicants whose resumes could really use some polishing.
Don’t ignore gaps in your resume
You may have taken time off work to travel or have a family, but leaving large periods of time unaccounted for can leave recruiters and employers wondering what you were up to.
Andrew Brushfield, Director - Victoria & Western Australia at Robert Half says that employers know you could have been out of work for a number of reasons through no fault of your own – such as a company downsizing or restructuring. However, hiring managers still like you to be fully transparent about how you’ve been keeping busy and, more importantly, what you have done to remain professionally active and engaged.“In addition to listing previous positions in your work history, include non-work-related activities in which you gained professional skills,” advises Brushfield. “Did you freelance, volunteer or take classes? If so, list them along with your previous positions. Include as much relevant information as you can, such as the dates, location and a short description of the work involved.”
“Anticipate questions your potential employer will have about an employment gap. Be proactive and explain them in your cover letter in a clear and concise manner. Try not to sound defensive or apologetic – just address your gap in employment and mention what you did to remain active during the time.”
- No photo required
Unless a job ad specifically requests the inclusion of a recent photograph, don’t add one to your resume. A profile photo does nothing to demonstrate your skills and proficiencies – and a photo that’s too casual or unprofessional can send the wrong message.
- Pay attention to the details
While you want to stand out from a sea of other applicants, a graphic border or rainbow of colours are not going to get you noticed for the right reasons. Stick with plain black and white, or if you’re applying for a role in a creative industry, use one feature colour sparingly. Choose your fonts wisely and ensure they are clear and easy to read.
Brushfield says your resume is your first impression – and an unprofessional one could see you discounted from the shortlist.
“Resumes with an over-the-top layout may seem creative, however, depending on the job you are applying for, hiring managers might see this as unprofessional. Properly structured resumes that outline a clear career path will grab the hiring manager’s attention. Remember, employers reviewing your resume don’t spend hours reading it, so it’s best to make it as clear and succinct as possible.”
“One big unprofessional giveaway is an amateur email address, while firstname.lastname@example.org might have sounded good in university, it does distract and comes across as unprofessional in the business world. Consider a more generic email address such as email@example.com.”
- Keep it short
If there are 100 other people vying for the job you’ve applied for, submitting a concise, two-page resume – rather than a long-winded four-page resume – is going to help you attract the attention of time-poor employers. Be brief and trim the proverbial fat. Load your most recent work experience with the most information, and scale back the rest to the bare bones of dates, roles, positions and one or two key tasks and achievements.
- Avoid buzzwords
If your resume is full of industry jargon and buzzwords that really don’t mean all that much, you’re selling yourself short. You never know who may end up reading over your resume. It could be a PA assigned the task of creating a shortlist or a recruiter unfamiliar with your current industry – and if they can’t decipher the information to get a feel for your skills and what you’ve actually achieved, you’re unlikely to make the cut. Brevity and using plain language is key.
Kristine Tuazon, Principal Consultant at Good People HR advises candidates to customise each resume and cover letter to its specific audience, and present only relevant, clear and consistent information.
“If you are dealing with a professional, traditional or conservative company, tailor your resume to this. If you are about to interview with an innovative start-up, design and present yourself in a way they will relate to and that will be relevant to them.”