Think about what a résumé really is and its purpose. It is a marketing document with the sole purpose of helping you get an interview. That is its only purpose. Without question, the best way to get an interview is to know an influential person in the organization. The second best way is to know someone who knows that influential person in the organization. However, the method that most candidates are relegated to is the most common, which is to send the organization a résumé and a cover letter and hope for the best. With competition so tight, it is imperative that if this is your way of introducing yourself to the organization, your résumé has to be very, very good.
As a recruiter, I have seen many thousands of bad résumés, but only a few hundred really good ones. I have seen many more that would have been good, possibly very good, if they did not have one of these very common errors that make a recruiter or a hiring manager immediately discard it and go to the next one. What are the big offenders?
1. The wrong form of a word, such as "to, too, two", or "there, their, they're", "capital, capitol". Probably the most common error I see is with "its/it's." "It's" is the abbreviation for "it is." "Its" is possessive, but you would be surprised at how many people do not understand the difference.
2. The wrong word altogether. The most common offenders? "Loose" (adjective) when the verb "lose" is appropriate "quiet" rather than "quite", "lite" instead of "light", "write" instead of "right", "insure" rather than "ensure."
3. Any spelling error. This is the quickest way to have your résumé discarded.
4. Run-on sentences, even if they are grammatically correct, tend to become confusing the longer they go. This is especially true to a reader who is looking at dozens or perhaps hundreds of resumes to select a few candidates for interviews.
5. Redundant or unneeded modifiers (where the first word is unnecessary or has the same meaning as the second), such as "completely finish (it's either finished or it isn't, "past experience" (is there any other kind?), "one and only" (no such thing as "two and only"), "honest truth" (is there another form of truth?), "free gift" (if it's not free, it's not a gift). The one I see more than any other is when someone is describing the "end result" of one of their accomplishments.
Early in my recruiting business I submitted a resume to a client company for a candidate that I had personally interviewed and had every confidence that this candidate would be an outstanding hire. The hiring manager sent the résumé back to me with a spelling error highlighted and a comment that made it very clear to me that if this person could not take the time to proofread and spell-check the résumé before sending it out, there was every chance that he would be just as careless in communications with customers, which was unacceptable. What was not said, but was certainly implied, was that I should have caught that error before I sent it to my client, and my client was right. Since that time I have triple checked every résumé that I send to clients.
The job market is very much a buyer's market now and it appears that conditions will not change anytime soon. You have only one chance to make a good first impression, so take the time to ensure that none of these errors are in your document.
Ken Murdock is the owner of Murdock & Associates Recruiters and New Wave Résumés.
He recruits for the manufacturing sector, oil & gas, construction,
and the packaging industry. New Wave Résumés offers professional résumés
and interview coaching for executives, mid-level professionals, recent
graduates, and anyone seeking to take their skills and talents into a