July 22, 2018

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4 Resume Mistakes That Can Knock You Out

How would a busy recruiter react to your resume? Would it make the "A" pile, or get tossed into the "round file" (i.e., the trash)?

To find out, I interviewed Victoria Potter, an experienced recruiter from Edina, Minn.-based Princeton Search Group (

She reads nearly 300 resumes every week and has plenty to say about the good, the bad and the really bad.

Get a towel -- her views may hit you like a dash of cold water in the face. Especially if your resume makes one of the following common mistakes...

Mistake #1: A Sputtering Start

The average Internet job posting online produces an average response of 200-300 resumes, according to Potter.

So if you want to get from the bottom of that pile to the top, your resume had better open with a bang. Unfortunately, most donít.

"Only about 5-10 of the 300 resumes I read each week really grab me. The rest are bunk," says Potter.

Potter likes a clear objective at top of each resume, so she can quickly figure out if itís worth her time to read further. "The words must strike me. This is not a dress rehearsal Ė you get only one chance to get into the head of the hiring authority," she says.

Solution: Remember that the purpose of the first line of your resume compel readers to go to the second line. And so on, and so on.

Your whole resume, but especially the first few lines, should answer this question: Why should I call you for an interview?

Mistake #2: Lack Of Focus

"I hate reading an entire two-page resume and having no idea what the candidate does or what kind of job they seek," says Potter.

This can happen when your resume tries to be all things to all people. If you list 10-20 areas of expertise, for example, youíre making it hard for readers to figure out what you truly excel at, because itís impossible to do 20 things well. So donít list them all on your resume.

"An unclear resume means I canít get that candidate in the door Ė itís as simple as that," says Potter.

Solution: Give your resume to a neighbor or friend outside of work and ask them to read it. Then ask them two questions: 1) "What have I done before?" and 2) "What kind of job do I want next?" If they can answer clearly, fine. If not, revise the wording until your resume is focused.

Mistake #3: Not Enough Information

"Youíve got to back up what you say in your resume with your work history and with evidence Ė specific facts and figures," says Potter.

If you donít prove your case, wary employers and recruiters often move on to other candidates Ė even if you are qualified for the job.

Want an example?

"I got a resume from a candidate who used one paragraph to describe 16 years at one company. Thatís not enough. There must be more stories and achievements there," advises Potter.

Solution: Never assume the reader knows what you do on the job. If youíre a project manager, for example, describe your most important initiative. How long did id take? Did you make deadline? What were the specific results?

Mistake #4: Too Much Information

You can also hurt your chances by submitting a resume that rambles on for more than two pages or is stuffed with irrelevant information.

"If youíre applying for a position as a sales manger, for example, the bartending position or the summer job at Dairy Queen should come out of your resume," says Potter.

Solution: Know what to omit from your resume. Every word, every sentence, should build a case for employers to call you over all other candidates. When in doubt, revise or leave out. The aim of your resume is to make the phone ring, not to tell your life story.

Best of luck to you!

-Kevin Donlin
Kevin Donlin owns and operates Guaranteed Resumes. Since 1996, he and his writers have provided resumes, cover letters and online job-search assistance to clients in 50 states and 6 continents. Kevin's articles have appeared in the National Business Employment Weekly, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Twin Cities Employment Weekly and others. Reach him at the Guaranteed Resumes Web site -

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