A resume isn’t just a bunch of facts typed up neatly. A resume presents the best picture of you. A good resume shines a spotlight on the depth and broadness of your skills and effectively presents your accomplishments while sweeping your shortfalls and shortcomings under the carpet (or at least putting the best face on these ‘difficult’ resume entries.)
Resume Blemish #1: Flapping At The Lips
“Why did you leave after only 3 months?”
That’s a question you do not want to field during an important job interview, especially if the details are gory.
So, how did the employer find out about that misstep in your career? You told them! Unfortunately, the short-term position was included in your resume … making it a prime topic of conversation for any interview.
Does this mean that every short-term position should be excluded from a resume?
No, not necessarily. But, definitely, each “quickie” position needs to be analyzed to weigh the pros and cons of including (and excluding) such a position from the resume.
Resume Blemish #2: The Fudge Factor
There’s a big difference between emphasizing career highlights, and creating highlights that never took place.
During your last semester of college, you dropped out to tour as a roadie with Aerosmith. Good times. But, you never quite went back to get that degree. You almost got it, but not quite.
You might be tempted to apply the fudge factor here and claim a degree that you haven’t quite earned. Don’t do it.
Your resume must be 110% accurate in every fact. However, what facts are included or excluded and how the remaining facts are positioned are simply aspects of good resume writing.
To address an unfinished degree, simply opt for something like the following:
B.S., Liberal Arts (98 Credit Hours)
Or, if you are still in school:
B.S., Liberal Arts (98 Credit Hours; Expected to Complete Fall 20__)
Resume Blemish #3: 12 Jobs in Four Years
You quit for a better job, got laid off, downsized, moved across the country and picked up an additional certification. Having multiple jobs does bring any staying power you might have into question with prospective new employers.
A CRAZY number of jobs within a short timeframe is the worst resume blemish to deal with, let’s be honest. No matter how you “dress” your resume, there’s little you can do to overcome being perceived as a job hopper.
There are some strategies you can take when you have held a multitude of jobs within only a few short years.
For example, shift your resume to a combination resume layout versus the traditional chronological format. Another strategy is to lump together positions, whenever appropriate. When an identical job title was held with more than one employer, this is a prime example of where lumping jobs together is an ideal strategy.
So, instead of putting this:
Loan Officer, Mortgages R Us, 2012 – 2012
Loan Officer, Yup Mortgages Here, 2011 – 2011
You would put this:
Loan Officer, Mortgages R Us / Yup Mortgages Here, 2011 – 2012
Resume Blemish #4: Holes in Your Work History
Prospective employers like to see a nice, steady work history with nice, steady advancement as you move from company to company: more responsibilities, more varied experience, and greater impact on the company’s bottom line. (It all comes down to the bottom line.) That’s what your next employer is looking for.
So how do you explain the fact that you left your last job in the previous millennium? Or that two-year block of time when you hiked through the Andes?
Holes like this stand out, but they can be addressed by leveraging a combination resume format (essentially your resume is given a heavier top with more content and categories, therefore pushing the date gap further back into the document – not perfect, but does offer value), or the work gap can be addressed in your cover letter.
Again, honesty counts, so be truthful. You’ve been out of the workforce since 1999 raising your family, and now, you’re ready to re-enter the job market (with your completely up-to-date skill set). Or, you wanted to follow your dream to trek the Andes before you got too old. Straight up, tell the truth.
Resume Blemish #5: The Resume Statute of Limitations
Typically, you can leave off anything older than 10 years — more feasible for those with limited work history, yet more challenging or impossible for senior executives. In today’s job market, any work history that’s older than 10 years can be viewed as ancient history. So, if you had a few “misfires” early in your career, leave them off.
Also, if your most relevant experience also happens to be your most recent (usually the case as you work your way up the ladder), you can likely omit that old two-year stint as a bank teller before you got into marketing. Again, the key is to choose selectively the information that best demonstrates your value as the company’s newest employee.
Resume Blemish #6: Finally, the Cherry
When you look at the resume, does it grab your attention?
Does the content have a nice skim factor?
Does the layout look too familiar, limiting your chances to stand out?
One of the biggest obstacles today’s job seekers put IN FRONT OF THEMSELVES is sticking with outdated resume writing strategies — or making the mistake of working with a bargain-basement resume writing firm to write a budget resume. For example, if you didn’t factor “Boolean Search Strings” and applicant tracking systems when writing your resume, you’ve already put yourself at a disadvantage. Spend some time looking into how recruiters and hiring managers use boolean search strings to look for those with your skill set.
Don’t Try This at Home
If you don’t have a clue how to structure your work history and play down your job-jumping binge, hire a professional, executive resume writer like me to help. It’ll cost a few bucks, but it’ll be the best investment you ever make in your future.