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My candid thoughts about teams and leadership. 

Your Resume Won’t Get You Hired

Your resume won’t get you hired. But, it could be keeping you from getting your foot in the door.

I recently began working with grad students as an affiliate professor. The students are energetic, ambitious, talented, passionate people with tons of potential. And, because they’re just a few credit hours from graduation, they’re all beginning the process of looking for jobs and launching their careers. The course I’m teaching covers the topics of human resources and financial management. So, as a way of teaching them how to survive as an interviewer, I’m spending a lot of time coaching them on how to thrive as interviewees. As a service to them, I offered to review their resumes.

I did not anticipate how much extra work I was creating for myself. I don’t want these students to miss opportunities because they’re making a few simple—entirely preventable—mistakes on their resumes.

In a recent conversation with a hiring manager, she told me that she gets at least several dozen applications for each open position. In order to handle the volume, she has to be highly selective, ruthlessly efficient, in reviewing resumes. So, at most, each resume gets 30 seconds of her time. If she sees any error, it goes in the waste bin. It is highly likely that imminently qualified candidates—people like my students—are being overlooked because of minor errors.

Is your resume helping you or hurting you? Ask yourself these five questions to make sure your resume isn’t hindering your job search.

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Are there errors?

This question is listed first because it’s the most common problem. If your resume contains misspellings, grammar errors, punctuation mistakes, or typos, you’ve just made the hiring manager’s job easy. Your resume is going into the trash.

Don’t rely on spellcheck. Don’t rely on yourself to proofread. Find someone who has excellent writing skills, hand them your resume and a red pen, and have them edit every word, letter, punctuation mark, and space.

Is it well-formatted?

This question is listed second because it’s another factor that makes it easy for a hiring manager to put your resume in the bin. Your resume should be consistently formatted from top to bottom.

Use of vibrant colors, fancy fonts, pictures, and avant-garde formatting are no substitute for mastering several formatting basics. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking pizzaz will catch a hiring manager’s eye. Clarity and consistency are primary. Are the margins consistent? Are headings, bulleted lists, dates, and titles aligned? Is any information missing or redundant? Do you use clean and professional looking fonts and are they big enough to read? Is there adequate white space to allow the reader’s eyes to rest?

Ask yourself these questions. Print your resume and look it over closely. Don’t send it out until you’re satisfied that it is well-formatted.

Is it concise?

Remember, lack of time is a major factor for hiring managers. If you had 75 resumes on your desk, would you be more likely to study the one- or two-pagers or the three- or four-pagers?

For the vast majority of people, one or two pages should suffice. If you can’t summarize your career on two pages (without committing any of the formatting sins listed above) you can be more concise. Remember, you’re not giving a play-by-play of every aspect of your career. You’re providing a snapshot of yourself in the best light possible.

Sell yourself on your resume. But, do it efficiently.

Do I include keywords?

Your resume should be written in the language of the hiring manager. No, I don’t mean English. Your resume should include words that are relevant to the industry, market, company, or team with which you’re interviewing. Not only should your resume contain appropriate and varied action verbs to detail your experience, but it should also contain words that demonstrate a deep knowledge of the industry and should indicate that you are the person who can meet and exceed the employer’s expectations.

So, where do you find this kind of information? The best place to find it is in the actual job description. If you need more inspiration, look at the corporate website. Jump on LinkedIn and follow a few people from the organization. Talk to people who are employed there. Read a few reviews on Glassdoor. Gather the keywords and phrases and deploy them judiciously in your resume.

Is the info appropriate?

Finally, this list wouldn’t be complete without one final check to make sure that the information provided on your resume is appropriate. So, what is appropriate and inappropriate?

It’s always appropriate to list results and to display data that shows what you’re capable of delivering. It’s appropriate to include relevant community involvement and recognition and rewards you’ve received. Also, include your LinkedIn address, email address, and phone number. Finally, please make yourself jump off the page by including a strong statement of the value you add, a succinct summary of your objective, and a list of your strongest qualifications.

What is inappropriate? You don’t need to include a picture of yourself. Please don’t include a photo of your family or your dog. (I wouldn’t include it if I hadn’t seen it.) You don’t need to include your street address. Don’t provide a link to your out-of-date blog.

One more word on appropriate and inappropriate information. While it’s entirely appropriate to paint yourself in the most flattering light, please remember that it’s always inappropriate to lie or to misrepresent yourself.

Is your resume helping or hurting you?

If you aren’t sure, you need some help. Get in touch with us. We’d be happy to talk with you about our career management services. Your resume won’t get you hired. But, don’t let it hinder you.

Susan Rozzi is the president of Rozzi and Associates, a leadership and organizational development company helping good leaders become great! Our programs start with the premise that great leadership skills are a product of time, practice and focused development. Our leadership development, emotional intelligence insight, and career management programs can be customized to meet your desired outcomes and needs. Contact Susan at susan@rozziandassociates.com.

Chris Rozzi