Your resume is a communication tool that tells people why they should refer, recommend or hire you. It is not a cruel ritual meant to torment you, and neither should you torment your readers.

In the countless resumes that I have reviewed over the years, and in those I have rewritten for clients, there are a few major flaws that stand out so often they merit their own post. These common resume mistakes aren’t limited to the folks who are unsuccessful in their careers. In fact, they are so ubiquitous among those who “should know better” that it prompts me to ask: why do smart people write dumb resumes?

Keep your city clean!

Beyond poor writing and lazy proofreading, here are three of the most common culprits in bad resume land:

The “Sherman Tank” Resume

Otherwise known as “let me put all of my accomplishments down on a page so I don’t miss anything someone might want.” An alternate description of this type of resume could be ClutterFest. The Sherman Tank or ClutterFest writer thinks he or she is sharing a diverse celebration of achievements, while the reader feels like it’s an exercise in sorting prized antiques in someone else’s dusty attic.

The Sherman Tank resume – durable and bulletproof but too bulky to zip around curves – doesn’t put a candidate in the best light. In fact, it doesn’t cast any light in any direction at all, so no depth or differentiation can be seen, only too many words on a page (and often in too tiny a font). 

Put yourself in the shoes of the reader. How much work would you want to put into deciphering if a candidate was a good fit for your open role (especially if it seems that he or she hasn’t bothered to do it either)? How hard would you squint to read past the first few words?

In my most extreme example to date, I turned a client’s five page resume into two pages.

Truth be told, she was an awesome candidate for her target job. She just couldn’t figure out how to edit her own experience or what to emphasize, so a reader couldn’t “get there” to see it. She had never given thought to what an employer might be looking for, focused only on the trees in her own forest. In addition, because of her inability to edit her own experience, she had included some very detracting information alongside the helpful points, which further diluted the effectiveness of her message.

The “Barely There” Resume

The opposite of the Sherman Tank is the Barely There resume. When I have worked with clients who have this type of resume, I spend a lot of time asking the same question: “And what else did you do?” They have great experience, but somehow they can’t seem to get it down on the page. They leave out key details, such as skill sets they possess – and can demonstrate – that are important for their target job.

Like the Sherman Tank writers, who are focused on their own experience, the Barely There writers have not put themselves in the position of an employer and asked what they can offer that would be valuable for the target position. In one recent case with a client, for example, we pulled out four different skill sets that she would need for a job transition and were not on her resume, without stretching beyond her legitimate experience.

In that case, the client hadn’t presented herself as a well-rounded generalist with a specialization, which was required for her target positions, because her current firm had pushed her in a single direction without valuing all she could offer. Although this push and the associated stress were the major reasons the candidate was seeking a change, she had internalized the pigeonholing by her current firm and was unable to see beyond it when it came planning (and drafting) her great escape.

The “Showed Up and Did My Job” Resume

A corollary to the Barely There is the resume that simply lists what a person did at a job, with no thought to prioritization or differentiation from other candidates in similar roles. Unlike the Barely There, which lacks enough detail, the Showed Up and Did My Job resume might be an appropriate length, and even look “right” at first glance, but ultimately the narrative is not compelling enough to prompt the next step: a job interview.

In many cases, my clients who have a Showed Up and Did My Job resume list tasks that were simply “part of the job” but indicate nothing that showcases particular sets of skills. As we talk through their major projects and accomplishments on the job, or how they pushed the envelope in the position, they realize that the resume is missing critical points because they had not put enough thought into the value they actually bring, as opposed to the tasks that a job entails. Often these clients are looking for a new job because the current one feels like they are on autopilot. But having a Showed Up and Did My Job resume is like putting your centerpiece job-search marketing document on autopilot navigation as well, with a few missed stop signs and on-ramps along the way.

If you are reading this post closely, you see a theme emerging:

Smart people write dumb resumes because they too heavily rely on their intelligence and natural instincts in the writing process (which serve them so well in other contexts), hoping that the reader will fill in the gaps when needed.

Then they waste weeks and months wondering why the phone doesn’t ring, putting their energies into thinking about their own situations and insecurities instead of the greater perspective of how to best present themselves to achieve their goals.

Instead, the smart resume writer steps back to reframe his or her experience so that the reader (recruiter, potential interviewer, friend of a friend, etc.) is enticed and excited about the potential fit between the individual as a candidate and the new role.

As I consistently say to clients, your resume is not an obituary, it’s a marketing document. I make this point with the full knowledge that these words may take some time to resonate:

Smart people can write smart resumes by thinking of them in terms of what the resume vehicle is meant to do – transport them from Point A to Point B – rather than getting caught up in their own discomfort with self-marketing or treating the resume as a retrospective or roadmap of their careers to date.

In short, writing is only the final iteration of creating an effective resume. Find your target, take aim, gather your arrows (of experience) and then write.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse as “Why Do Smart People Write Dumb Resumes?” Photo credit: Adobe Images.

Essential Job Search Tool:
The Interview Debrief Form

Your interview went great – or at least it’s over! Now what?

If you have ever worked with a recruiter, you will notice that recruiters invariably request a debriefing shortly after your interview. When I was job searching, I always valued these calls rather highly, because it was helpful to hear the recruiter’s perspective and also have a chance to “hear myself talk” about the opportunity. At the same time, I knew that I needed to have room to think in my own quiet space, without any external influences.

If your first step after your interview is talking to a recruiter (or anyone else, such as a spouse, friend or parent), also make notes for yourself while the meetings are fresh in your mind. Sometimes we lose our train of thought once new information enters the picture, such as questions from others or re-entry into the mix of a current job situation.

Interviewing

If you do not have time to make written notes within the first few hours after the interview but do have the opportunity to record yourself (e.g., in a recording app on your phone), I highly suggest you do the latter and transcribe your notes, or at least email the recording to yourself for safekeeping. You will want to have these notes in front of you when you return for additional interviews and while evaluating (if applicable) multiple offers, and you may even want to keep them for future job searches.

While we all want our job search to be quick and painless, sometimes we get called back months after the initial interview.

Are you sure you will remember what you said and to whom? 

Points to include in your debrief are:

  1. Your Overall Impressions
  2. Thoughts About the Interviewer and Company
  3. Points About You to Emphasize in Future Interviews
  4. Points About the Employer or Role to Emphasize in Future Interviews
  5. Any “Bottom Line” or Potential Stocking Points on Compensation, etc.
  6. Further Questions to Have Answered
  7. Further People to Meet
  8. Pros and Cons vs. Other Potential Roles
  9. Areas of Improvement for Future Interviews
  10. Additional Thoughts or Concerns

Interviewing2

Click here for a sample interview debrief form that you can use for informational interviewing and job interviews. You may wish to compile all of your forms in a single place, whether it is electronically or in a physical binder, so that you can compare and contrast opportunities, have them as a refresher if your “dream job” does not call back for six months and reinvigorate your job search if you have a break and restart (or find a job and then head out into the market again at a later date). We all think we will remember everything from our interview, and invariably we do not. Having these notes available will add depth and continuity to your personal knowledge bank, thereby enhancing your position as a candidate and accelerating your search.

Anne Marie Segal is an executive coach, author, resume strategist and member of Forbes Coaches Council. She is the author of Master the Interview: A Guide for Working Professionals (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and through local booksellers) and Know Yourself, Grow Your Career: The Personal Value Proposition Workbook.

The above article is an excerpt from Master the Interview.

Images: Adobe Stock.

 

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Is your childhood fascination keeping you from your dream job today?

Are You Judged By Your Email Address?
A Resounding Yes!

If you have an email address that starts like any of the ones below, or something similar, and you have wondered why you have had a hard time getting any traction in your job search, this is a post you need to read.

superboy7

batmanrocks2014

777goldrush

pushmybuttons29

bestrunner550

krisandstevesmith

kevinandamysdad

tommmons7

I’ve called this post “Immature Email Addresses Need Not Apply” because I can tell you from countless conversations with recruiters and hiring managers that they LOVE to see goofy, inappropriate, overly personal or hard-to-read email addresses. It makes their job easier. Resume, meet trash can. (Well, they actually cringe to see them with otherwise highly qualified candidates, because it puts everything else about the candidate’s application into doubt.)

Recruiters and hiring managers LOVE to see goofy, inappropriate or hard-to-place email addresses. It makes their job easier. Resume, meet trash can.

One of the important vetting points for a job candidate is to determine whether he or she has good judgment. Whether you’ll be a law firm associate, marketing manager or receptionist, if you don’t have good judgment, you are missing one of the essential elements that makes a good employee. So demonstrating your bad judgment in the very document that is meant to market you is clearly counterproductive to, if not fatal for, your chances as a job candidate.

You would be surprised how often I need to say this to clients, and it is not only junior people who have never held a job before. I have had this same conversation with executive candidates who have been in the workforce for 20 years or more.  I would guess that everyone knows someone who has the “wrong” type of email address to grace a professional job application, but few of us know how to tell our friends that they need to change it.

Don’t use an email address that includes your street address, is awkward to type, alludes to your hobbies or religious beliefs, or is anything other than an easy derivation of your name. Outside of a professional context (a world that is admittedly getting smaller and smaller with social media, if not disappearing for most of us), you can email from butterfly2000@gmail.com, soccerhead4769@hotmail.com or whatever you like, but not in the job search or on work-related matters thereafter, if you want to be taken seriously.

Keep your resume out of the trash can.

Judgment. It’s that important. Review every aspect of your resume and other career documents to see if there is any hint (or shout) of bad judgment, from an immature, unprofessional, irrelevant or hard-to-spell email address or otherwise.

Email addresses are not the time and place to get creative.
Not when you are in job search mode.

People often want offbeat email addresses to express their individuality. That’s great, go crazy, but create a new one for your job search. In a very small number of highly creative fields, a call-attention-to-your-uniqueness style of email address can work (although none of the above addresses are actually creative, just off the mark). In almost all cases, however, the tried and true combination of firstname.lastname@emailserver.com is the best bet. In addition, some career experts recommend that Gmail and Hotmail are the best servers to show that you are a tech-savvy candidate. If the firstnamelastname combination is not available, lastnamefirstname, firstnamelastname10, firstnamemiddleinitiallastname and other combinations of one’s name and initials make your email (and, by extension, your job application) easier to find and retrieve among a pool of hundreds or thousands of candidates, so you can get the call for the interview and job offer.

On a similar note, if you use your married name professionally, don’t use your maiden name in your email. If you use your middle name as a first name, don’t start your email with your “real” first initial (unless it is also on your resume), so if someone wants to start typing your name, they know which letter comes first (which often populates the “To” field in their email message).  If you have a difficult to pronounce or spell last name that is 29 letters, consider shortening it to 5 or 8 letters in the email, cutting it off at a natural breaking point. In all cases, what you are trying to do is make it easier on the person recommending, interviewing (and, hopefully, hiring) you.

Keep your eye on the prize. The purpose of a job search is to get the job. 

Anne Marie Segal is a career coach and résumé writer for attorneys, executives and entrepreneurs. She is currently completing her first book, on job interviews, which will be available in early 2017. To join her monthly mailing list and receive a preview of the chapter on value propositions, please click here and write “Book Preview” in the comments section.

 

[Note: Any reference to actual email addresses in the above is unintentional. These addresses are cited for illustration purposes only.]

© 2016 Anne Marie Segal. All rights reserved.
Photograph above from Adobe Images.