Alison Green has seen a lot of resumes. Before starting the Ask a Manager blog, she worked as a hiring manager, and today, as she helps clients make hiring decisions, she’s constantly sifting through CVs that do candidates few favors. Keen on sharing her knowledge and helping folks craft documents that actually increase their chances of getting hired, Green has penned a great U.S. News & World Report piece titled “These 5 Résumé Mistakes Are Hurting Your Job Search.”
First on her list: “Writing a résumé that reads like a series of job descriptions.” The goal shouldn’t be to list off your duties at each job you’ve held. That gets boring and repetitive, and it doesn’t really give potential employers a sense of what you accomplished. Instead, Green writes, focus on achievements — “what the outcomes of your work were and what made you shine in the role.”
Your success at past jobs is the key thing to highlight, Green says, and her next three tips have to do with getting straight to the good stuff that hiring managers want to read. Common mistake No. 2: “Leading with your education, even though it’s been years since you graduated from college.” According to Green, work history is way more important than where and what you studied, and even if you’ve just graduated and don’t have a ton of work experience, you should try to lead with something other than education.
You also don’t want to open with “a long list of ‘core competencies'” that hiring managers are bound to ignore. Things like “strong communication skills” are self-assessments, not hard skills, Green writes, and while it’s fine to have a section outlining your abilities, it’s better to stick with, say, software programs you’re adept at using. Better yet, demonstrate these skills in the work history that follows.
Speaking of which, work history shouldn’t follow too far behind. Mistake No. 4: “Including so much info before your work experience that it doesn’t start until the bottom of the page.” Again, Green says, what employers really want to read about is what you’ve done at your previous gigs. “You want it to be the first thing they see,” Green advises, “so don’t bury it deep into the document.”
While detailing work experience is important, Green warns in her final tip of listing “every job you’ve ever had, no matter how long ago or irrelevant to what you do now.” Essentially, she says, a resume is a “marketing document,” and the best way to sell the product — i.e. you — is to highlight only the most relevant jobs you’ve done over the last 10 or 15 years. Your resume doesn’t need to be a full accounting of every position you’ve held since you were 18, and by being that thorough, you’ll run the risk of becoming another one of Green’s cautionary tales.