As the age-old saying goes, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’, and that is precisely why a clear, informative and professional resume is your number one tool in a job search. Your resume, along with your other application documents, help form the basis on which your first impression is made on the recruiter/hiring manager and can oftentimes be the determining factor in your progression through the recruitment process and making that all important shortlist.
Working in recruitment, we see thousands of resumes every year – we study your resume looking for soft skills, hard skills, transferable skills, perceived levels of loyalty and stability, and attention to detail. We do this to make assessments of the candidate’s ability to perform and fit the workplace culture, based on the presentation and contents of their cover letter and the resume.
It takes a keen eye and a great understanding of people to make an assessment of a candidate’s potential for a role based on a resume alone. This is why we conduct an initial phone interview before solidifying our thoughts based solely on the cover letter and resume. Phone interviews help us, as recruiters/hiring managers, to confirm our initial assessments and gain further information on the candidate’s skills, experience, personality, motivations and candour.
I have put together the top 5 resume faux pas we see daily – you can use this as a check-in with yourself and your resume for the next application you submit.
1. Not providing enough contextual and specific information
Remember that the recruiter/hiring manager does not know the ins and outs of the positions you have held or the type or scale of the companies you have worked for. Providing contextual information and quantifiable data or information can really help the recruiter/hiring manager to understand the scope of your experience and highlight your skill set.
Example – You may list one of your duties as ‘processing invoices’ – our advice is to expand on that. You could instead say, ‘responsible for data entry and processing of up to 25 invoices daily through MYOB’. Now the recruiter/hiring manager knows the task, the volume and the software you have used.
2. Not providing dates
It is important for the recruiter/hiring manager to have a clear understanding of the timeline of your employment history. You should provide the month and the year when listing the dates of your employment so the recruiter/hiring manager can understand the length of your employment accurately, helping to understand the scope of the role you were able to achieve over that time period and the perceived level of commitment you have or had to your role.
Example – Position Title | Company
Nov 2022 – Jan 2024
3. Trying to disguise career breaks or timelines
Your reasons for, or the circumstances around, leaving a role can sometimes be messy or uncomfortable to talk about with a recruiter/hiring manager – you may think it is better to gloss over ‘career breaks’ or gaps in your employment. We would recommend being honest and upfront from the get-go. If you are not currently working – declare it, if you only spent 2 months in one position – declare it, if you chose to take some time off and focus on family or other pursuits – declare it. Recruiters/hiring managers are people too, we understand that not everything is ideal, is cut and dry, or easy to explain – and we also know when there are holes in timelines or we are being misled. It’s simple, just declare it!
4. Lack of consistency and authenticity
It is important that your resume is an accurate and consistent representation of you. Write how you would speak and project your personality through the design.
While the resume templates on Microsoft Word for example are great and user-friendly, everyone uses them – that means that you will have the same resume as thousands of other people, it is not unique to you or representative of your personality. You could try simply changing the colour scheme of the template or changing some of the elements of the design, the font or formatting to put your personal stamp on it. There are also some great templates you can use and edit on Canva. I personally find Canva gives you more ability to be creative while still being able to create a really polished and impressive resume.
Ensure that the content of your resume is in your vocabulary – if you do not ordinarily use technical or corporate jargon in your everyday life, we recommend refraining from using it on your resume. Using buzzwords and jargon can sometimes confuse or distract from your skills, experience and achievements. Consistency between the you on paper and the you in person is important. When it comes to a phone screen or interview you want to make sure the you on paper aligns with the you sitting in front of the recruiter/hiring manager.
On a more technical note, it is important to ensure the formatting of the document is consistent, helping to project professionalism and a polished look. Ensure the fonts and headings you use are uniform, the colours and overall design is consistent across the pages, headers and footers – if used – are correct and don’t distract from the content, and if you are using bullet points that they are correctly aligned.
This consistency can also be extended to the rest of your application – using the same design and vocabulary in your cover letter and key selection criteria documents will give your application not only a polished look but also the impression that your application has been well considered and you have dedicated the time and care to the recruitment process.
5. Simple mistakes
We all make errors from time to time – it is human nature after all and it happens to the best of us! It is however important to proof read and triple-check your resume and application for simple mistakes before submission. Look out for typos, incorrect punctuation, inconsistent capitalisation and consistent use of point of view (first or third person, we recommend first person) and make sure your use of verb tense is consistent – if you describe a past job, use the past tense, and for current roles, use the present tense.
Making simple spelling or grammatical errors and inconsistency can reflect badly on your attention to detail and overall first impression so it is important to use all the tools at your disposal. Grammarly is a good one, to not only correct spelling and grammar but to help give you more polished phrases. Asking friends or family to proof read and provide you with feedback is also highly recommended.
In the great words of Hannah Montana, ‘Everybody has those days, everybody makes mistakes’. Let this be your reminder to make sure your application represents you accurately and makes a good first impression. Use these simple 5 faux pas to guide your approach to the next application you submit or resume you write.