I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently sifting through résumés while preparing to get my latest venture RedLotus, off the ground. We’ve been blessed to have gotten over 5,000 resumes even before launch.
It’s a starting point for getting to know someone and figure out if he or she will be a good fit. It’s a way to form an initial assessment of whether or not they have the right kind of talent and attitude to join me on my journey and make RedLotus even more successful than my previous companies.
I’ve been humbled and delighted by the response I’ve received and the quality and enthusiasm of individuals stepping forward who wish to join me on this adventure. Personally, at the end of the day, I make final hiring decisions based not only on an individual’s credentials, but also my gut feel of that person. Does he have passion and drive? Is he a rock star who can perform again and again? Will he be loyal? And a host of other characteristics.
During my current hiring process I’ve seen outstanding résumés that have an immediate impact and make me grab the phone and speak with someone. Unfortunately, there are many other résumés that bear elementary mistakes—mistakes that should not occur on a document that can chart the course of the applicants’ lives for years to come.
The first hurdle any job applicant has to leap is getting in the door for an interview. And that means a résumé that’s going to sing to me and make me want to meet that person. It means a résumé that makes it perfectly clear why that individual is best suited for the job.
So what are some of the fundamental mistakes that I see when people put their résumé together? What are the things you shouldn’t say and what’s on your résumé right now that you should delete?
Don’t Be Longwinded
First of all, as you probably know, the very meaning of the word résumé is brief account. I don’t need to know your entire life story, the date of every conference you’ve ever attended, or that you prefer dogs to cats. Résumés should be no longer than one to two pages. Enough said.
What have you accomplished? I want to know much more than the fact that you managed a particular division in a Fortune 500 company. What were the results? Did you increase productivity by 20 percent; save the company $100,000; secure the biggest account in the company’s history? What did you specifically do to get results? Dollars, percentages and hard numbers are meaningful.
Don’t make stuff up. At some point any wild exaggerations will become apparent so it’s just a waste of everyone’s time to puff up either your education or work experience credentials. Company decision makers routinely check the background of applicants and during the interview you can easily be tripped up by a few carefully chosen questions.
Don’t Make Mistakes
Your résumé is you. It’s the first thing that a hiring manager will know about you. It’s vital, therefore, that it’s error-free. If there is just one typo it sends the wrong signal. If there is one document in your life that you need to read and re-read and have proofed by several others—this is it. Make sure there are no grammar and factual mistakes. If you make mistakes on your résumé, what does that say about you?
Tailor the résumé to fit the specific position for which you’re applying. You may well have all kinds of skills but focus on presenting those that are relevant. The fact that you’re proficient in Microsoft Word might not be all that interesting and impressive to me. If you make your résumé targeted for the specific job, you’re likely to stand out and I’ll be impressed by the extra effort.
Your résumé should be easy-to-read; easy on the eye. Use bullet points. Don’t be afraid to use white space. Don’t use lots of different fonts and type sizes. Don’t over-use bold, italics and capital letters. Clarity is all-important.
Learning More about You
Perhaps your resume is a stand-out. Maybe I’d immediately like to know more. You can help a prospective employer by including a link to an online portfolio highlighting your skills and accomplishments. Or add a QR code linking to your customized web pages. These are tech-savvy approaches for today’s world.
Avoid the Negatives
The purpose of the resume is to promote yourself; to tell your prospective employer all of the good stuff. Most people have some kind of dark cloud from their past. That’s something you can explain in an interview, not raise in your opening shot.
Don’t Get Personal
It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a descendent of someone who came over on the Mayflower or if, like me, you’re part of more recent immigration to this great country. It’s not relevant if you are married or single; have 10 brothers and sisters and have lived in the same house since birth. I need to know what contribution you can make to the company and if you can work effectively with the rest of my rock star team.
Don’t Give Your Age Away
Stating your age upfront is not always a good idea. It can color the hiring manager’s attitude. Maybe you’re too old or too young? What’s important is what you can bring to the table, not how many years you’ve existed on this planet.
For the same reason you should avoid listing professional experience that is more than 15 years old or stating an exact number of years in the workforce or every job you’ve ever held. The part-time position in a supermarket that you had straight out of school is almost certainly not relevant.
A Few More Don’ts
Don’t provide a history of your salary history unless it’s required.
Don’t give references. They can be supplied in a separate document.
Don’t include your Social Security number.
Don’t use clichés like “excellent people skills,” or “team player.”
Don’t add a picture to your resume.
So, bear these tips in mind if you want your résumé to lead to a call for an interview and not dismissed with a split-second click of the delete button. The résumé is a precious document that showcases your abilities and talents. Make sure that it presents you in the best possible light, because it’s unlikely you’ll get a second chance to shine.
Especially, when you have 5,000 resumes for only 50 positions open.
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