How to Avoid Common Resume Mistakes
It's very hard to write your own resume because a resume is a macro view of your life,
but you live your life at the micro level, obsessing about daily details that have no
bearing on your resume. For that reason, a lot of people hire someone to help them. After
all, spending money on a resume writer is one of the few expenditures that will have good
return right away.
But if you're writing your resume on your own, the first thing you'll have to do is make
some mental shifts. You need to rethink the goals of a resume, and rethink the rules of a
resume in order to approach the project like the best of the resume professionals. That means
not making the most common resume mistakes, and not breaking a few key rules.
1. Don't focus on your responsibilities, focus on what you achieved. A resume is not
your life story. No one cares. If your life story were so interesting, you'd have a book
deal. The only things that should be on your resume are achievements. Anyone can do their
job, but only a small percentage of the population can do their job well, wherever they go.
• The best way to show that you did your job well is from
achievements. The best achievement is a promotion because it's an objective way to show
that you impressed the people you work for. The next best way to show objective measures
is to present quantified achievements. Most people do not think in terms of quantified
achievements when they are in the job, but on the resume, that's the only part of the job
that matters. No one can see that you were a "good team player" on your resume unless you
can say "established a team to solve problem x and increased sales x percent" or "joined
under-performing team and helped that team beat production delivery dates by three weeks."
• Steer clear of expressions like "Duties included," "Responsibilities
included," or "Responsible for." That's job-description language, and not what employers
are looking for. Use action verbs instead, but minimize the use of "I" and articles
(the, an, a). Write a self evaluation and for each achievement, ask yourself: "What does
this accomplishment say about me, and what I can do for this employer I want to work for?"
2. Don't make your resume a moral statement; it's a marketing document. The best
marketing documents show the product in the very best light, which means using whatever
most outrageous tactics possible to make you look good. As long as you are not lying, you
will be fine. Here's an example: You join a software company that just launched a product
and the product had so many problems that they had to hire someone to handle the calls.
You start doing the tech support, and you work tons of overtime because the calls are so
backed up. You clean up the phone queue and then you start taking long lunches because
there's not a lot to do, and then you start job hunting because the job is boring.
Here's how you summarize this job on your resume: Assumed management responsibility for
tech support and decreased call volume 20 percent. How do you know 20 percent? Who knows?
It was probably more. But you can't quantify exactly, so err on the safe side. But if you
just say "Did tech support for a software company" no one knows you did a good job.