3 Pitfalls to avoid when creating resume

This post is a follow-up to my earlier post Creating Resumes that Work where I shared some tactics for creating purposeful resume.

I review a large number of resumes every week – they come through ‘Get Resume Review’ section of our website (now closed), from Sunstone students, and from family and friends. I share my perspectives on resume creation with all of them and review a number of iterations of their drafts. However, it seems that telling ‘what to do’ is not enough. This post is an attempt to capture some of the important ‘what not to do’ when creating resume. There are 3 ways people lose focus on right things and end up with mediocre resumes.

The ‘Why’ Pitfall: Focusing on showcasing your talent, and not on getting an interview call

It is very common to find resumes full of great accomplishments, awards, experiences, buzzwords, which don’t create a compelling story for the reader. This happens because these people create resume to showcase themselves. However, this is not why a resume needs to be created. Single-most important purpose of a resume is to get you an interview call. In an interview, you will get more opportunities to showcase yourself. Eulogizing yourself is rarely the most effective means to awe the resume reader and make them curious enough to call you for an interview. Connecting to reader’s needs and wishes and connecting to their belief and values is the best way to make the reader curious.

The ‘What’ Pitfall: Focusing on activities, and not on results

This is most common pitfall people fall into, and many templates and samples you will find on the web perpetrate this. Frankly, no one cares about what all things you did in your prior roles. What they care about is what you accomplished for the company (or client or someone else), and how big and hard was the accomplishment. This is because activities tend to be domain-specific (what you do in a semiconductor industry to achieve growth is very different than what you need to do in an internet company for example), while results (when written like specific and measurable business outcomes) tend to be domain-agnostic (20% growth or customer sat of 4/5 mean the same in different industries). So the resume is better understood if it is written focusing on outcomes or results, than when focusing on activities.

The ‘Who’ Pitfall: Focusing on what is important to you, and not what is important for reader

Many resumes tend to focus on activities and accomplishments they hold dear to their heart. However, it is important to understand who you are making the resume for, and what is important to them. Many people find it hard to do, for 2 reasons:

  1. They may not know what is important for the reader, because they haven’t thought much about the reader
  2. Focusing on reader may mean dropping a few details that you hold dear, which many people find hard to accept.

For example, if the reader is likely to look for ‘creative problem solving’ as a key skill, burying it deep inside the details and instead highlighting your team management skills doesn’t help your reader, and diminishes your chances of achieving your objective. It is important to research your reader (read job description, company profile, talk to someone in the company, etc.), and then re-prioritize your resume content by putting yourself in reader’s shoes.

To avoid these pitfalls, it is critical to keep a keen eye on 3 areas:

  1. Purpose
  2. Results
  3. Reader

In subsequent posts, I will present a few suggestions on how to take a resume that suffers from one or more of these pitfalls and fix them. I am also interested in hearing about what pitfalls you have come across.

Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

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