Top Five Mistakes that Keep Your Resume from Making a Great First Impression


We invited 15 of the top career and job-search experts — our Quintessential Careers Career Masterminds — to share their advice with our readers as part of Quint Careers’s 15th anniversary. We asked them (among six other questions): What are the most common strategic mistakes you see on job-seeker resumes? (See all their responses here.) We’re running a series of responses; here’s one of them: Here are the top five mistakes that hold job-seekers back from making a great first impression and capturing an interview.

1. The resume is crafted as a work history, not a sales tool. Why is that bad? The job of the resume is to spur an interview. If you don’t know what the reader needs, you can’t sell it (and the “it” is YOU). Do your homework!

2. The resume is just that — a resume — not resumes. Why is that bad? Resumes cannot be one-size-fits-all. We learned that in number one above! Every opportunity requires that the resume’s message be reviewed and tweaked for that position. Do your homework!

3. The resume is more than two pages. Why is that bad? Because today’s hiring executives, human resource pros, recruiters, and anyone else who may hold your future in their hands is jammed, swamped, distracted, and overwhelmed. Do YOU want to be the person who wastes their time? “Bottom-line it for me!” is the takeaway here. Determine what they need, prove you’ve done it, add some detail, be sure to include how you helped the company make money, and be done with it. You can tell them the rest when you get there, but you won’t get there if they don’t read it and if they don’t understand that you create value. Do your homework!

4. The resume doesn’t reflect your personal and professional brands. Why is that bad? Because you want to attract the right opportunities, you want to fit the culture of the organization, because you want to succeed, and you want that success to be enjoyable and sustainable. And you can only do that if you have the courage to infuse your personal and professional brand into your resume, LinkedIn profile, and all other career documents. You need to express who you are and how you do what you do. Doing so differentiates you from the other job-seekers looking to land. Companies hire people, not just results. Results are critical, but personality, values, process, and passion make the hire when all else is equal among those on the short list. So get a head start by infusing those things into your resume. Do your homework!

5. The resume lacks a focus on impact. Why is that bad? See “bottom line it for me!” in number three. Ruthlessly edit your job history to reach resume nirvana. That’s when the resume resonates with essential information, some important information, and nothing else! How do you know what essential information to include? Well, other than the requisite chronology and education, essential information is “impact information.” It’s all about what you’ve done that can best express your potential to meet the needs of the company or organization. Typically you prove that through accomplishment statements that tie to value and prove potential to do it again. How do you know those needs? See number one above! Do your homework!

By avoiding these five mistakes, you will get your resume in fighting trim, ready to attract opportunities and answer the employer’s mantra “Make me care, and do it fast!” Most of your competitors will not do the work it takes to make this happen. Will you?
      — Deb Dib