5 Resume Mistakes Holding You Back—and How to Fix Them was originally published on Firsthand.
You have the right skills, experience, and background, but no matter how many times you submit your resume for a role that looks to be a good fit, you’re not getting any interviews. If this sounds familiar, know you’re not alone. Also know that hiring managers read hundreds of resumes for each open role. This means your resume needs to stand out. And if you’re not getting any callbacks, your resume is simply not standing out—it’s not your skills, experience, and background preventing you from moving along in the application process but how you’re getting those things across that’s likely the issue.
So, below, are simple ways to fix the most common resume mistakes holding you back from making the next step in your career.
1. Don’t send the same resume to every open posting—customize your resume according to each job description.
You don’t have to build a brand-new resume each time you submit an application, but you do have to make sure your resume fits each specific job. So, pay close attention to the details in the job description. If the job post gives more importance to experience over education, then your work experience and certifications should appear before your educational background and other personal details. Also, some jobs require specific degrees. If you have that degree, make sure it’s highlighted on your resume. Finally, take advantage of the professional summary section that’s typically at the top your resume. Customize this portion so that it specifically mentions many of the significant job requirements.
2. Don’t forget to include keywords—make sure to use words and phrases employers are looking for.
Most resumes are submitted digitally these days, and many employers use ATS systems. This means your resume could be vetted by a machine first, a human second. But even if hiring managers aren’t using an ATS, they might be scanning resumes for keywords. So, you’ll need to include specific words and phrases from job descriptions to get beyond the machines and the humans. In other words, to make sure your resume stands out and doesn’t get overlooked, include prominent words and phrases that were included in the job posting. Keywords and key phrases include the required skills (communication, teamwork, management), degrees (MBA, MS), and technical experience (Python, Java, Excel).
3. Don’t go longer than one page if you can—make your resume as straightforward as possible.
There’s no exact rule as to how short or long a resume should be. If you’ve been working for a long time and have plenty of experience, certifications, and relevant skills, it’s okay to submit a resume that’s longer than one page. However, it’s still ideal to try to fit your resume to one page first. And, at the very least, it’s important to include all the important details on the first page of your resume. This is possible when you make your resume straightforward and only include experiences and skills that are relevant to the job—you don’t need your entire work history if part of that history isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for. But if you must have two pages, the first page should have the most significant and relevant details according to each specific job description.
4. Don’t use a free-form structure—use a proven template to create a clean and clear document.
Using a proven resume template will not only make your resume aesthetically pleasing and organized, but it will also ensure that you’re not missing any vital details. Using a resume template makes it quicker and easier for you to customize each resume for each new application—you can simply change the content order according to the job description. This can be helpful anyone from students to experienced professionals. Templates serve as guides so your resumes always look professional, clear, and clean, and are easy to read.
5. Don’t forget to attach a cover letter—sending one shows your genuine interest.
It’s a huge mistake not to exert the extra effort to write and send a cover letter along with your resume. No matter if you’re seeking an entry-level or senior-level position, a cover letter makes a world of difference. It sends the message that you’re specifically and genuinely interested in the job. It also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills and a chance to introduce yourself on a deeper level. So, never forget to prepare a well-crafted cover letter, which, of course, should be customized to each job post.