Written by Andrea Gerson, a New York City-based resume writer, career counselor and founder of ResumeScripter.com.
Working as a professional resume writer, I’ve been in the unique position of witnessing some embarrassing errors that people make on their resumes and employment applications. Below are some more memorable mishaps from my clients in their original resumes and applications.
A resume and cover letter are the only way for a potential employer to base their first impression of you. In this competitive era, it’s even more crucial to think of your job search in these harsh terms: with so many qualified candidates to choose from, employers are looking for reasons to lessen their load and weed out candidates quickly! Employers actually consider the amount of effort you \ put into the application process to be a direct indicator of how much effort you’ll put into your future job. It’s critical to use the application process to sell your strengths, qualifications and work ethic every chance you get.
1. Your Name is Not a Number
When a person’s name shows up as “730” in my inbox, I’m less likely to respond to their request for a resume revamp. Imagine what potential employers must think! When a person doesn’t bother to format their name in outgoing emails, or capitalize it, they’re inadvertently conveying either lack of computer proficiency, poor grammar or laziness, none of which are characteristics that are going to make a positive first impression!
2. Proper Grammar
I frequently ask clients to send me examples of everything they use when applying for jobs, including resumes, cover letters, online applications and email exchanges; if someone isn’t receiving callbacks, it’s likely because they’re getting screened out at Step One. It’s important to pay attention to the details of your communication with a potential employer to make sure they have a positive impression of who you are and how you work! This includes checking spelling, grammar, punctuation and using complete sentences in each and every exchange.
3. Exclude Your Dreams and Aspirations
Of course an employer wants you to have a personality, hobbies and personal goals! On the resume, your task is to convey how these parts of you relate to your professional performance. While it’s great to include a Volunteer section on a resume to showcase your interests, affiliations, or your commitment to social justice, information about unrelated hobbies, dreams and aspirations fit better in an interview or cover letter. Once you get hired, you will hopefully have years to express your individuality to the employer. For the resume though, keep it professional! (This also means refraining from using emoticons!)
4. Know your Audience!
I often see resumes and cover letters that are either too general or geared toward a different type of position than what applicant is applying to. For example, they may put an emphasis on projects they worked on as an Administrative Assistant, but the job they’re applying for is for an Office Manager. Where the applicant could have provided examples of their relevant strengths as an Office Manager (maintaining inventory or implementing new procedures), they played up the project-related aspects of their past roles. Ideally, a resume should be crafted toward a certain type of position, while each cover letter should be tailored specifically to the job that you’re applying for. A cover letter should answer the question why me? How am I a perfect fit for the role? The resume can then serve to back up your claims with substantive and quantitative information about skills, experience and accomplishments.
The job search isn’t easy, but with a strong resume and cover letters that highlight your skills, strengths and accomplishments, the process should feel much smoother. You don’t have to do it alone! Visit resumescripter.com to learn how I can help.
Andrea Gerson is a Career Counselor based in New York City. Originally from Montreal, she worked in the non-profit sector for several years as a grant writer and counselor for adults with mental illnesses. She, herself, has explored several different career paths: she drove an ice cream truck, opened her own restaurant and earned a vocational degree in cabinetmaking. Andrea returned to school in 2008 and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Columbia University. While attending Columbia, Andrea began working as a Career Counselor for a non-profit organization, creating resumes for students enrolled in GED and ESL classes. Uncovering her successes as a career counselor, she founded Resume Scripter in 2011, a career counseling and resume and cover letter crafting service designed for every professional level. Since then, she has created and edited resumes and cover letters for hundreds of clients across a broad range of sectors, including recent graduates, senior executives, small business owners, investment bankers, educators and foreign diplomats. In addition to running her own company, Andrea is also attending New York University and working toward her Master’s degree in Social Work.