In my role in Human Resources at Schneider Downs, I look at thousands of resumes a year. While reviewing resumes of entry-level candidates, I am trying to assess whether the candidate is able and motivated to do the job. Following are some of the most common mistakes:
1) Avoyd typos – It’s hard to convince someone that you have a strong “attention to detail” when your resume has blatant typos and grammatical errors. Of all the things to get right on your resume, this should be the EASIEST! Your goal here should be perfection. Proofread your resume several times and when you think you’re done, proofread it again. Then, have someone else proofread it!
2) Campus involvement – “Active participant” in an activity does not disclose much information. In fact, I interpret “active participant” to actually be “I sat through the meetings.” So, be specific of your contributions.
3) What’s your objective? – I often review resumes that give the appearance that they’re part of a mass-produced mailing. If you choose to include an “Objective” on your resume, be sure it’s specific enough to catch the attention of the hiring manager and that it’s relevant to position for which you’re aiming.
4) Resumes without GPAs – Your GPA is one way for someone to quickly measure your intellectual capacity. Hiring managers assume that a resume without a GPA indicates low grades and will quickly eliminate it from the selection process. If you have a good GPA, show it! If you don’t, consider another way to demonstrate intellectual capacity – for example (“Major GPA of 3.3” or “GPA of 3.4 after freshman year”).
5) Listing the courses in your major – Listing the courses you took in your major leaves the impression that you’re trying to fill space on the resume. That is, you can’t think of any other relevant attribute to demonstrate your qualifications, so you catalog your classes. Generally, the only instances where I’d encourage you to list courses, is if the hiring manager would not expect you to have taken those courses and/or it furthers your qualifications for a position.
6) Multi-page resumes – Most entry-level candidates can establish their qualifications on a one-page resume. Depending on the position for which you’re applying, the hiring manager may spend 30 seconds (or less!) on your resume. So, try a one-page resume with an easy-to-read format.
7) Job responsibility descriptions – Avoid listing job responsibilities at all. Hiring managers are more interested in your accomplishments. Avoid words such as “helped” and “assisted.” Your prospective employers want to know what YOU did, that is, your personal impact.
8) Put it in order – After your personal contact information and objective (if you choose to include one), you should next list your academic background (i.e., colleges/universities, the degree you earned or expect to earn, GPA, etc.). As you progress in your career, your academic background will slide down the resume. For example, I would not expect the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney, to first highlight the fact that he earned an accounting degree.
9) High school is over – Employers are more interested in your activities and accomplishments during your college years than those from your high school years. While being named captain of the baseball team for two years during high school is commendable, I would not give it much weight when evaluating a candidate for a position in public accounting. Focus on your experiences that further your candidacy for your desired position.
10) Tell the truth - This one should be pretty obvious, but do you really want to explain away an exaggeration or, worse yet, a complete misrepresentation on your resume? I think not. As Sgt. Joe Friday might say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”
In the end, your resume should tell your story in an easy-to-read format. Past successes and desire to achieve should radiate off the page, so that the hiring manager has no choice but to want to get to know you a little better.
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