Your resumé probably sucks

Common mistakes (and how to fix them)

When creating a resumé, mistakes undermine your chances for an interview.

In many cases, this document is the first impression an employer has of you and your skills. You want this impression to be as favourable as possible.

There are some errors I see again and again when reviewing resumés. Many times, these issues appear on the applications of people confident their resumés are not the source of their job search woes.

The reality is all of us have room for improvement.

Here are the common mistakes you might be making on your resumé and how to remedy them.


Using the same one every time

Many jobseekers have the initial misconception they need to write just one beautiful resumé, which can then be used to apply for every job.

This is tempting. Writing a resumé is exhausting.

Unfortunately, by only writing one resumé, you miss the opportunity to describe in detail the ways in which you have built the skills specific to each job you want.

An amazing resumé for one position completely misses the mark for another job if the employer is seeking different qualifications.

Tailoring your resumé takes effort, but this is the most critical step when writing your application.

By writing a targeted document which demonstrates precisely the skills the advertised job asks for, you make it easy for the hiring manager to recognize your suitability as a candidate.

Untailored resumés require your reader to mentally deconstruct your experience in order to connect it to the job.

With so many resumés to read, they probably do not have time for this additional effort.

If it is unclear that you are qualified, your resumé will be set aside in most competitions.

As the government of Manitoba puts it in each of their job postings, “Your cover letter, resumé and/or application must clearly indicate how you meet the qualifications.”

This is great advice for all jobseekers: heed it.


Underselling yourself

Writing a resumé and cover letter can be awkward. It might feel as though you are basically just writing over and over again in different ways about how awesome and qualified and hardworking you are.

If you are not a narcissist, you probably do not speak like this in your daily life. This can make marketing yourself in a resumé feel unnatural.

Often, the first draft of my clients’ resumés read more like job descriptions, giving a literal representation of the day-to-day expectations of their jobs.

Take your resumé a step further by showcasing your achievements. Include accomplishments which align with the skills outlined in the required qualifications for the job.

If you increased the efficiency of a process at your former job, make sure to note you have demonstrable cost-saving problem solving as a qualification.

Of course, you do not want to hit the other end of this spectrum, stepping into painful exaggeration.

If you describe your frontline fast-food experience as the space where you developed unparalleled business acumen and a tireless entrepreneurial spirit, you will look silly.

Be honest and genuine, while still positioning yourself in the best possible light.

If your experiences are unrelated to the job you are applying for, focus on the transferable skills required for every job, like teamwork, communication and leadership.

Still feel uncomfortable? Consider what you might encourage your best friend to put on their resumé if they were applying to this job with your experience.

If you write about yourself with a bit of distance, you might be more comfortable writing the resumé you deserve.


Inexperience in the field

Occasionally, the most glaring issue with your resumé is that it reveals reality: you lack the experience required to be a competitive candidate for the position.

Even the best resumé in the world cannot disguise absent experience or training.

While you should still put together an amazing resumé and hope for the best, it also makes sense to broaden your job search to include positions which require less experience.

These jobs can help you build the skills and meet the people who can help you move gradually closer to your goals.


Trying to do it by yourself

Writing a resumé is hard, even for the most practised jobseeker. A second opinion can provide you with advice and support to greatly improve your final product.

Ask for feedback from someone you trust, like a career consultant or friend.

By employing your support network, you set yourself up to write the best resumé possible.