Pursuing Your Career

Top 5 Reasons Why Your Résumé Is Failing You

Now, let’s get something clear! A résumé doesn’t get jobseekers a job! Why have one then? Because, a résumé is what you use to grab a hiring manager’s attention to the point he or she asks you in for a job interview. In other words, a résumé is your tool for getting a job interview!

So, you’ve sent your résumé (and a cover letter) to 20 companies and have yet to receive even one callback for an interview? Yeah, it sounds like your résumé is lacking something. Putting aside the importance of a strong, individualized cover letter (to be discussed later), what about your résumé is failing you? Here are five typical mistakes jobseekers make on their résumés.

  1. Typos Galore – I’ve served on countless hiring committees, and there is usually at least one or two members of each committee that are hypersensitive to typos in résumés. I’m not just talking instances where résumés have tons of spelling and/or grammatical mistakes. Some hiring committee members disqualify a job candidate for even one or two typos. If you are not getting called back from places you send your résumé to, review it for typos. Better yet, have someone else review it and look for spelling and grammatical mistakes. An outside reader will likely have an easier time spotting errors in your résumé.
  2. Not ATS Compliant – a growing number of companies utilize Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to search through submitted résumé to filter out those best suited to the job opening. From a basic standpoint, ATS could ignore or misinterpret your résumé for using font styles that are not ATS-friendly. A greater concern is if you fail to incorporate keywords or key responsibilities identified in a job add. ATS will often be designed to scan for key words and skills to identify those job applicants who are likely a good match. How do you improve your résumé’s chances of making it past ATS? Incorporate skillsets identified as required or preferred within your résumé and cover letter. Additionally, use ATS-compliant fonts. I like Calibri, personally.
  3. Wrong contact information – Jobseekers often forget to update their résumés after getting a new phone number or email address. You could be the best candidate (on paper) for a job but not get invited in for an interview if you provided an old phone number you no longer have access to. This happens way more that you can imagine.
  4. Horrific format – some résumé designs are just plan awful. Either the font used is hard to read, the résumé is printed on neon green paper, or the content of the résumé fails to identify clearly your skills and past achievements relative to the job applied to. Stick with easy to read, ATS-compliant fonts (i.e. 11pt Calibri) printed on ivory, white or off-white paper ‘résumé weight’ paper. Using a cursive font that a reader needs a magnifying glass to read is a sure way of getting overlooked and not landing a job interview.
  5. Not highlighting relevant skills and/or achievements immediately It’s a mixed bag of estimates regarding how long a hiring manager will spend reviewing your résumé. Estimates of 5 seconds are prevalent, yet from my experience, a hiring manager or committee member will at least give 15 seconds to review a job applicant’s résumé. Within that short time frame, you will lose a reader’s interest if you don’t start your résumé with summaries and/or lists of your skills or achievements that make you a good candidate for the job. How do you accomplish this? Starting with a professional profile or a ‘summary of qualifications’ is a good way to start. On top of that, using a ‘core competencies’ section early on in your résumé is a great way to go. Just remember to include keywords from the job ad in your professional summary and core competencies sections.

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