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Avoid the Top 5 Resume Mistakes

Over the years as a recruiter, career coach and resume writer, I’ve seen the consequences of poorly written resumes. Unfortunately, many don’t seek professional career help until they experience the frustration of a long and fruitless job search. For most, their problems began by committing the top five resume mistakes: lack of focus, absence of marketing strategy, no accomplishments, lack of keywords and incorrect format. Avoid those mistakes by following these five simple resume rules.

#1  Start with a clear focus.

The most effective resumes leave no doubt as to the job seeker’s career objective. I learned early in my recruiting days that employers turn down perfectly qualified candidates when the resume’s focus is diluted. A one-size-fits-all resume gives the impression that the job seeker is uncertain of his career goal. An employer once told me that if a candidate is interested in two completely different positions, he must not be very good at either. If you have more than one career objective you need more than one resume.

#2  Think like a marketing professional.

Job seekers rarely see their search for what it is—a sales campaign. The best sales people use powerful marketing materials to help gain access to top decision makers. Think of your resume as marketing material designed to create a powerful first impression leading to a multitude of job interviews. 

To translate your career history into an effective marketing piece, first consider your reader’s buying motives. Every word on the page should demonstrate how you can solve their problems, save them time or money, increase their net profit or improve customer relations. Once you understand your resume as a marketing piece, you are a long way toward fulfilling the third resume rule.

#3 Include accomplishments that demonstrate your selling points.

On any major job board, 95% of all resume lack accomplishments. These all-important statements allow employers to visualize your contribution to their organization. Accomplishments motivate employers to call you before their competition finds you. For top effectiveness, state accomplishments quantifiably as dollars, percents or raw numbers. Quantified statements are more credible, concrete and objective. Time spent developing strong impact statements yields bargaining power at salary negotiation since you have dollarized your worth.

#4  Use appropriate key words.

Resumes are read by both humans as well as computers. A resume lacking in key words runs the risk of being read by neither. Those who write the job description also screen resumes.  In the 15 seconds they give each resume, more attention is paid to resumes using the same words found in the job description. It’s only human nature.

The high volume of resumes that employers receive make candidate tracking software essential. More often than not, a submitted resume is stored electronically and retrieved latter by key words. Even the best candidates miss out on excellent opportunities due to lack of resume key words.

To ensure your resume includes important key words, find 7-10 job descriptions off any major job board that fit your career focus. Don’t consider geographic location, you’re only using these as examples. Next, identify and highlight the recurring key words.  Sprinkle these words liberally throughout your resume wherever appropriate. By including the right words, you’ll catch their attention more often and get interviews quicker.

#5  Use correct resume format.

Basically, there are three resume formats; chronological, functional and hybrid. Once you understand which format best supports your career objective, you’ll know which to use.

The chronological is best known and easiest to write. It allows the reader to quickly identify the “what” “where” and “when” of your work experience. This format works well if your objective is to remain in the same industry or occupation and when your most recent experience demonstrate your best accomplishments. 

The chronological is not the best for showcasing transferable skills.  If you wish to cross industry or occupational lines, a better format is the functional which places transferable skills and relevant accomplishments at the beginning of your resume allowing a stronger first impression. One problem with the functional is that, if not carefully crafted, the resume is confusing; causing the reader to believe the candidate has something to hide.

A solution to the sometimes confusing functional format and the often limiting chronological format is the hybrid format which combines the best of both. It allows the best showcase for skills and accomplishments while maintaining ease of reading. This is no doubt the best format for job seekers of all levels, however, the most difficult to write.

Once your resume is focused with marketing strategy using powerful accomplishments and keyword and showcased in the most effective format, you are well on your way to gaining your career objective quicker and with greater confidence.

Deborah Walker, CCMC
Resume Writer ~ Career Coach
To see resume samples and read more job-search tips visit