You can have all the experience in the world, but if your résumé doesn’t stand out — or if it does, but for all the wrong reasons — nobody will take the time to look at it closely enough to see all that great experience, says Amanda Augustine, a career consultant and career management expert for TheLadders.
“Many mid-level professionals simply tack on experience to their existing résumé, rather than editing the entire document,” she says. “While it can be tempting — easier and less stressful — to just keep adding information, it’s not going to help your job search.”
As your career progresses, the emphasis of your résumé should change, Augustine says. “Employers are no longer focusing on your education, relevant internships, and extracurricular activities. Now they’re more interested in the skill sets you’ve developed and the accomplishments you’ve achieved in your professional career. Your résumé needs to tell your story.”
To get a clearer picture of what makes a résumé stand out for all the wrong reasons, we asked Augustine to create a sample of a terrible one for a mid-level professional.
What makes this a bad résumé for a mid-level professional? Augustine outlines the following reasons:
1. He included his address.
“While including your full address isn’t going to tank your chances of getting an interview, I recommend leaving the street address off to avoid unnecessary risk of identity theft,” Augustine says. “Chances are you’ll end up uploading your résumé to a number of job boards and circulating it throughout your network. Play it safe and leave the street address off.” There’s no reason to include it.
2. LinkedIn profile is missing.
“These days, there’s no excuse for a recent college grad to not have a LinkedIn profile, let alone a professional who is further along in his career,” she says. Include the URL to your profile — but only after you edit the profile to support your current job goals and tell the same story as your newly edited résumé.
3. Professional title and summary are missing.
According to an eye-tracking study by TheLadders, the average recruiter scans a résumé for six seconds before deciding whether it’s worth the recruiter’s time. “It’s imperative that you use the top third of your résumé to clearly explain what role you’re targeting and why you’re qualified for such a position,” she says. “That’s where the professional title and summary come in.”
Before you dive into your professional experience, give the reader a summary of your qualifications. Include a professional title, such as “Public Relations Professional” or “Public Relations Manager” and then provide a short paragraph (three to five sentences) that summarises your qualifications.
4. He doesn’t mention his areas of expertise.
At this point in your career, you should be able to list numerous core competencies or specialties you’ve gained through your experience. “This list serves two purposes,” Augustine says. “First, it will help the reader quickly scan your résumé and get a sense of your skill set and interests. Second, this content will help your résumé rise to the top of the pile when you have to submit it for an electronic application.” Think of it as search engine optimization (SEO) for your résumé.
If you’re unsure what to include, review a number of job listings you’re interested in and qualified for and identify the key terms and requirements that routinely pop up. “If you have these skills, include them in your core-competencies section or look for ways to weave them into your professional experience,” she suggests.
5. Companies have no descriptions.
If you worked only for big companies that have great brand recognition, you can skip the company descriptions. If you haven’t, make sure you include a short blurb — one line only — that describes the company. Choose what information you include based on your job goals. For instance, if you’re planning to switch industries, you may focus on the location or size of the company.
“This description will also help the reader put your title into perspective,” Augustine says. “For instance, if you’re currently a director at a small company, including this description will help the reader understand why you may be targeting a manager-level role at a much larger organisation.”
She continues: “I also recommend moving the job title onto its own line so it’s easier for the reader to pick out the titles and company names.”
6. Everything is bulleted.
Augustine recommends breaking descriptions of your experience into two sections: a small paragraph (two to three sentences) that summarises your role and responsibilities; and a list of two to five bullets that highlights your accomplishments and major contributions. “Bullet points should be considered bragging points,” she says. “Save them for the information you want to draw the reader’s eye to most.”
Whenever possible, quantify your experience and achievements. Include the number of team members you managed, the size of the budgets you worked with, and the number of clients you served. Think about how you illustrate the impact you made on the team.
7. Page two is missing a header.
While you don’t have to repeat all the information you included at the top of page one, you should include your name, phone number, and email address. This will help the reader remember whose experience they’re reading about and provide them with key contact information, should the recruiter want to speak with you right away, Augustine says.
8. He includes internships.
You’re no longer new to the workforce; recruiters are interested in the work you’ve been doing most recently, not the internships you held back when you were still in college. It’s time to remove these from the résumé and focus on more recent and relevant work.
9. Computer skills are light.
“Maybe this job seeker really only knows how to use Microsoft Suite, but I have a feeling that’s not the case,” Augustine says. “At this point, employers assume you can use MS Word and Excel. Consider what other skills you’ve gained since graduation. Are there certain databases or software programs you had to learn for one of your jobs? Include that information as well.”
10. He lists his GPA.
When you first graduated from school, your stellar GPA was a great selling point, especially if your internship experience was slim. “However, now that you’ve been in the ‘real world’ for a number of years, employers couldn’t care less about your college grades,” Augustine says. “They’re much more interested in your performance on the job.”
11. He offers references.
There’s no reason to mention references or include a list of them on your résumé. Employers know you’ll provide this information if you want the job. “Save your precious résumé real estate for other information; leave your list of references off,” Augustine says.
12. He uses Times New Roman font.
“While I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with this font, I usually recommend against it because it’s so common on résumés,” Augustine says. “Why not using something slightly different so you’re more likely to stand out?”
Also consider your audience. “If you’re working in PR, I’d recommend using a cleaner-looking font, such as Arial, Calibri, or Helvetica,” she says. “I usually reserve Times New Roman or Garamond for professionals in finance or law.”
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