By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC GetInterviews.com
Analyst, New York, NY
Marketing Director, Mid Atlantic States
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Junior Analyst, West Conshohocken, PA
Think your resume has what it takes to land that dream job? Even if it did 10 years, five years, or even two years ago, think again. As fast as the applicant pool has grown in this fierce job market, the rules of the job hunting game have been transformed.
With many more applicants out there than there are jobs, you not only need to be on par with the competition, you need to stand out in the pack. Setting yourself apart from other qualified applicants is only part of the answer. It’s important that you stand out in a good way.
One of the most valuable ways you can accomplish this is to make sure your resume is fresh and modern. After all, a job hunter’s worst fear is looking like a proverbial dinosaur to prospective employers and recruiters. Since your resume is a representation of you to a recruiter or prospective employer, you certainly don’t want to make a first impression that resonates old-fashioned and outdated.
There are dozens of strategies today’s job seeker must know in order to build a winning resume from scratch, but here are five of the biggest red flags that will instantly make your resume appear antiquated:
1. Obeying a One-Page “Rule”
Many job applicants spend countless hours trying to squeeze a decade or two of valuable experience onto a single sheet of paper. (Sure, you can squeeze more text onto the page by shrinking the font. Would you really want to strain the eyes of the person who holds your resume – and your fate – in his or her hands?)
The trade-off for avoiding the so-called second-page stigma is sacrificing content regarding valuable experience, compromising the overall quality of the resume.
The good news is that the one-page resume no longer rules, as today’s hiring manager is more likely to be scrolling down on a screen than flipping to the next page.
In fact, for experienced professionals a two-page resume is the most common format. There are obvious exceptions, such as recent graduates and entry-level applicants who can easily fit all of their experience on one page without sacrifice. For seasoned pros, however, even three- and four-page resumes are not uncommon and are acceptable today.
Enjoy the flexibility, but still proceed with caution. Keeping content concise is still extremely important and making the right choices about what facts to include and which to leave out still needs to be a key part of your overall strategy.
2. Overstating Your Objective
“Objective: To obtain a position utilizing my skills and background in [fill in your field here]…”
If your resume starts out like this, it’s definitely time for a change! Today’s resumes are much more savvy. Rather than preparing a few mundane lines to express your goal, your objective can be clearly stated in a word or two. All you need to state is the title you are seeking, and let it stand on its own. This not only enhances your presentation, but it makes it easier for recruiters and HR managers to quickly see what position you are targeting.
As a bonus, the space you save can now be applied towards a hard-hitting summary about you to generate a more powerful impact and to showcase what makes you unique. The summary has evolved into a crucial component of the modern resume, so be sure not to neglect this integral section.
3. Skipping the Keyword Section
Keywords are not just recommended; they can make or break your resume, which is why a keyword section (aka the core competency section) is an absolute must. Typically found on the top half of the first page, employers have come to expect to see a list of your areas of expertise.
This not only conveys your skills at a glance to an employer reading it, but it also serves another important function. In today’s technology age, it’s often impossible for prospective employers and human resources personnel to read through hundreds (if not thousands) of resumes in order to weed out the ones they don’t want. Many rely on technology to do it for them, and this is where datamining comes into play.
An increasing number of companies are using computer programs to scan through resumes for preset keywords in order to narrow down the applicant pool. Even if you are qualified for a position, if those all-important keywords are not contained in your resume, you are going to land in the “no” pile before a human being ever lays eyes on it.
Including a keyword section helps optimize your resume for such searches, but that’s only half the battle. Knowing what buzzwords relate to your profession and industry requires research, so be sure to do your homework.
4. Unnecessarily Stating Computer Skills
There are several instances where listing computer skills is absolutely vital. If you are an IT professional, by all means go ahead and include them. If you are applying for a position that involves heavy data entry or specialized computer skills, please list them.
If not, however, there is such a thing as too much information, particularly when it comes to computer skills. Many applicants are under the false notion that listing universal software programs such as Microsoft Office or Internet Explorer is a crucial part of their backgrounds. However, this simply isn’t the case. In fact, Microsoft applications are so universal, listing them is more often than not a waste of space.
For upper-level applicants, it is already inferred that you possess the entry-level technical skills that were needed to successfully rise through the ranks. Listing them would unnecessarily lend your overall presentation a lower-level feel, which you would obviously want to avoid.
5. Referencing References
Just as fairytales conclude with “the end,” resumes at one time had their own last words. You guessed it: “References available upon request.”
Common sense regarding references has prevailed. After all, shouldn’t it go without saying that you are going to provide references if a prospective employer you want to hire you requests them?
Just for the record, references themselves should always be prepared as a separate document. They do not – and never did – belong on the resume itself. Remember, the primary function of a resume is to land an interview, so references are typically not even needed until a later stage in the interviewing process.
Don’t Forget Some of the Classics
Modernizing your resume will show an employer you are a cutting-edge professional as long as you don’t forget two important basics. Top-notch writing and a polished, professional format will forever remain timeless.
About the Author:
Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!