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February 10, 2012

The resume is a strategic document. There is a reason behind the way that it is structured and what is included so you can effectively convey your value to prospective employers. However, there are several things that can absolutely torpedo your résumé if you aren’t aware of them. Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

1) Accidentally revealing your age.

You need to neutralize your resume so you don’t tip your hand on how old you are… both new entrants to the workplace and more mature workers struggle with this issue, and plenty of employers out there have misconceptions about what each generation of workers are capable of doing/not doing. Your goal is to make your career document as neutral as possible. Get into this mindset: If it isn’t on there, it can’ be discriminated against.

2) Producing an error-filled résumé.

You’d be surprised at how many people, including top C+ level executives, are marching around with résumés riddled with errors. Check everything including consistency of use, spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting. Remember, this is supposed to be your best foot forward, and if you can’t even get that right, that tells a prospective employer that you won’t be doing a better job if you were to become their employee.

3) Lack of focus/one-size-fits-all approach.

The truth of the matter is that résumés have to be highly targeted, laser-precise documents now, given that many employers are using applicant tracking software to scan for relevant keywords. Even if a company isn’t using this filter, you still need to immediately capture their attention and prove your relevancy towards the position opening.

So it is even more critical that you create ‘thematic’ résumés that play up your career strengths. Anyone who has spent time in the workforce likely has several different cards to play out of their deck when it comes to the types of jobs they are targeting. Each one of those fields would be highlighted in a different résumé, and unless my experience directly relates to the document theme, I leave it off. Think relevancy. That brings clarity to the document, and helps you decide the correct keyword cloud to associate with that particular theme. That alone can improve your keyword hits or really hit home to someone reading your résumé that you are a match to their position opening.

4) Lack of a cover letter.

Believe it or not, human resource managers will say that cover letters, while maybe not immediately grabbing their attention, are important components of the résumé. It’s like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – you need to have both to make the magic combination; they simply go together! The résumé are the facts, and the cover letter is the compelling reason of how you are going to help the target company, and why they should hire you. These documents cannot stand alone independent of each other.

5) Leaving yourself open to bias in the résumé review stage.

It’s an uncomfortable fact that in that back room, where the human resource person is sifting through résumés, that personal bias comes into play. It’s difficult to prove, and employers deny it, but the reality is that it DOES happen. Use some critical thought about what you are putting down under your affiliations and involvement section of your résumé. The reasons that someone might toss your résumé out are truly mind-boggling. No matter how innocuous your experience might be, someone else on the other end might misconstrue it.

Did you find this post helpful? Please let us know in the comments section.

Until next time…