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Is Your Resume Not Working? Six Tips To Avoid A Resume Disaster
Nimish Thakkar, MS, MBA, CCMC, CPRW, SaiCareers.com, New York

Much has been said about writing the perfect resume, and deservedly so. A resume, after all, is your first contact with potential employers. Even though there is an abundance of well-intentioned advice, not much has changed in terms of quality. The following tips, though not encyclopedic, warn you against common mistakes most job seekers make.

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Proofread carefully
Despite the importance attached to a
resume, most job seekers don’t spend enough time proofreading their work. In my practice as a career coach, I often come across resumes that read along the following lines: “responsible for losing $14-million deal.” Wow! Just what an employer wants: an employee who would “lose” deals instead of “closing” them. Spellcheckers are not designed to catch errors like these. The omission of a simple “c” from “closing” changed the entire meaning of the sentence. To make things worse, the resume said “detail-focused” in bold letters.

Proofread carefully
t is always difficult to catch our own mistakes (we all tend to read what we originally intended to write); have your work reviewed by a few trusted friends or colleagues. Don’t rely on spellcheckers alone.

Stay focused
Today’s budget-conscious, ever-changing corporate culture encourages employees to embrace cross-functional roles and acquire diverse skills, often not related to their core competencies. The result of prevailing corporate dynamics is often a workforce that is easily marketable to a wide range of positions. A common mistake such candidates make, however, is to create one
resume for several unrelated positions.

You wouldn’t wear casuals to a formal business meeting and surely not a tuxedo (or dress) to the beach -- well, at least I wouldn’t. It is pure common sense that the occasion or event would dictate the dress code. In a similar fashion, your resume must be dressed to suit the occasion (translation: geared toward the job target). There is nothing wrong in applying for multiple job targets (if you qualify); the problem arises, however, when a single resume is used to do all the work. If your employment goals are related (for example, writing and editing or market research and market analysis), it is okay to have one resume cover them. If, however, you qualify for both finance and marketing, a separate resume for each objective would be a wiser strategy. Stay focused as far as possible.

Don’t simply list duties
Most candidates create
resumes that appear more like a company’s job description. What impresses employers is concrete accomplishments, not a mere recital of daily duties. Responsibilities must be listed, but the focus should be on accomplishments. How did you do your job differently? What did you achieve? How were your results better than those of your peers? How did you benefit your previous employer? How could you benefit a potential employer? The following example (of a sales professional) clarifies this concept:

Example 1: Responsible for selling company’s products to customers.
Example 2:
Personally visi
ted customers and leveraged selling and presentation skills to generate $14-million increase in sales; performed at 18% above average and added $5 million to the company’s bottom line.

The first statement just described the sales representative’s duties; it did not do much to showcase the employee’s accomplishments. The second approach, on the other hand, covers a much wider base. It speaks of a different approach (visited customers personally as opposed to calling them), describes the writer’s skills (selling and presentation skills), lists accomplishments (increased revenues by $14 million), explains how the results were better than peers (18% above average), and also how he impacted the company’s profits -- clearly a stronger approach.

Most candidates complain about not having enough accomplishments. The assertion is simply incorrect. If you think hard enough and ask yourself the right questions, you will surely be able to remember several career achievements that remain locked in your subconscious. (Our article on career accomplishments and on remembering accomplishments can be helpful in the process as well.)

Minimize overused adjectives
“Motivated, dynamic, hard working, enthusiastic team player who is detail oriented and well-organized.” What was that? To me, the preceding statement used a lot of space and yet told nothing about the writer. Remember, you have very limited space. Use it wisely.

Lack of job-specific keywords and an overuse of jargons. Another common mistake found in most resumes is a lack of keywords. A lot of employers utilize automated resume storage and retrieval systems. Unless you use the right keywords, your resume will almost never be found. A caveat: don’t confuse keywords with jargons. Don’t assume that the reader knows everything about your field. Resume screeners often don’t understand the nuances of specific professions. It is important to maintain a balance between keywords and jargons, without making your resume sound like Einstein’s theory.

Don’t make it personal
Some resume objectives make statements like “single male looking for IT positions.” What? Are you responding to a personal ad? Unless use of personal information is a norm in your country, avoid disclosing personal information.

Your resume is a very useful marketing tool; every inch of the document must scream “hire me!” Done right, it could land you that much wanted job or promotion; carelessness, on the other hand, would only help your resume reach the destination where most do: the garbage can.



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