What Not to Do: Countdown of Four Things to Avoid on Your Resume
Number four in our countdown of things not to do on your resume is keyword spam. Modern Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)—the software that “reads” resumes to save humans work—are aware of context. If you are a chemical engineer, the terms “chemical,” “engineer,” “engineering,” and so on should appear naturally in the description of your career. That is a better way of handling keywords than listing them over and over with no regard for context.
Number three is sending your resume to a resume writer who is not qualified. The unqualified people include not only family and friends (no matter how well meaning) but those who advertise themselves as professional resume writers without any of the credentials. By way of contrast, I am a member of the top three professional organizations in the resume writing field, namely Career Directors International (CDI), Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PRWA/CC), and the National Resume Writers Association (NRWA); I speak at many resume writing conferences and webinars; and I have more than 20 years of experience. Those qualifications are the definition of “professional.”
Number two is focusing on skills instead of accomplishments. Take our chemical engineer example. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 32,000 chemical engineers were employed in the U.S. in 2008 alone. A list of skills would be identical for all 32,000. None of them would stand out to a company as the perfect hire. But if they concentrated on accomplishments, on what they did with those skills, then some of them would clearly match the company’s requirements, culture, and expectations more closely than others. Want to stand out from your competition? Concentrate on accomplishments.
Number one on our countdown of things to avoid is lying. Companies will check the facts you give them. They will ask you questions during the interview to confirm what you’ve told them. Inconsistencies, hesitations, and confusion will alert them to problems they don’t want to deal with.
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