Resume blemishes are all too common with today’s jobseekers.
Let’s face it. Even resumes can show career defects and “age spots.”
This is why so many professionals can have such a hard time writing the best resume.
So, let’s talk about some of the worst issues you need to watch out for — and how to avoid those mistakes at all costs.
Some of these you might know about; but, it’s far more likely most of these are already present in your resume.
Resume Blemish #1: Excessive / Unnecessary Resume Detail
Teenage girls talk too much. Okay, maybe not all of them.
Much like teenage girls, resumes can “talk too much” too.
The hardest reality for most professionals to realize is that a resume can’t include EVERYTHING.
I’ve written before about some of the best steps to take for decluttering a resume.
One of the best places to start is by eliminating excess content.
Take this sentence as an example:
“Development of long-term successful business strategies.”
This sentence (fragment) was on a resume we recently reviewed.
What does this sentence say exactly?
Not one damn thing!
Bits of detail like these actually present more questions than answers.
- What were the exact business strategies?
- What was the exact success?
- How long term are we talking? 1 year? 5 years?
- What was involved in the development phase; e.g. due diligence, financial forecasting, cost realignments?
You have two options with a sentence fragment like this.
Delete it …
… or, expand upon it.
If you expand upon it, be sure to stick to what adds value. Don’t simply add more to the sentence that just introduces more “says nothing” content.
You always want to give the readers of your resume a nice bite of resume “meat” to chew.
Example of How to Write Better Resume Sentences
Let’s revisit the above example and take a deep-dive look at how it can be improved upon:
YUK: “Development of long-term successful business strategies.”
BETTER: “Developed new policies and procedures that improved business planning and reporting strategies for sales and inventory teams.”
BEST: “Developed new policies and procedures that reduced costs $1.2M (expect another reduction of $700,000 in the next 3 years) after improving business planning and reporting strategies for sales and inventory teams.”
Do you see the difference?
There are numbers and percentages within the BEST example. There are details of WHAT business strategies are being referred to.
Click here to learn more about adding achievements to your resume and writing a value-based resume.
Sure, the above sounds easy when your seasoned career professional.
But, let’s say you don’t have a lot of achievements and skills to talk about.
Maybe you’re in more of a support level.
Then, you simply need to do a play on words.
For example, instead of saying:
“Developed new policies and procedures that reduced costs $1.2M (expect another reduction of $700,000 in the next 3 years) after improving business planning and reporting strategies for sales and inventory teams.”
You can say this:
“Supported the Executive Team during a major policy and procedure realignment that reduced costs by $1.2M. Conducted the due diligence and reporting that was used to improve business planning and reporting strategies for sales and inventory teams.”
Pretty cool, right?
Here are a few more DIY Resume Tips, if you’re interested.
The above strategy works when writing cover letter content too.
Resume Blemish #2: The Fudge Factor
When we think of resume lies, most of us probably think about education.
But, truth be told, there might be skills outlined in your resume that aren’t represented “quite right” either.
Verify Your Exact Job Involvement
There are many ways for verifying and improving a management resume.
Actions verbs are a great place to start when verifying the accuracy of your resume content.
For example, take the following sentence:
“Managed personnel and staffing agendas for operations run by hourly, salary, union and/or non-union employees.”
The trick is to focus on the action verbs in this sentence.
In this case, it’s “managed.”
Did you manage or supervise?
Were the staff direct or indirect reports?
You MUST always verify that you’re using the CORRECT action verb because if you make enough embellishes in your resume, hiring managers will find out.
Hiring companies are investing millions in training and onboarding new hires. When a new employer finds out you haven’t represented your work history correctly, this can end badly for you.
Here are a few additional action verbs by profession:
How to Best Show an Incomplete College Degree
Maybe you’re a college student and need to write a strong resume, or maybe you’re no longer a student and sitting on an incomplete degree.
Either way, you need to know how best to represent that incomplete college degree.
Thankfully, this is an easy fix.
To address an unfinished degree, simply opt for something like the following:
B.S., Liberal Arts (98 Credit Hours Completed)
This tells the hiring manager that you were pursuing a bachelor’s degree but haven’t yet completed the curricular requirements.
Or, if you’re still in school:
B.S., Liberal Arts (98 Credit Hours; Expected to Complete Fall 20__)
Use Conservative Guesstimates When The Need Arises
A big faux pas for some professionals is to use numbers and percentages that aren’t quite right.
“Nurture the complete relationship lifecycle with new and established client accounts, resulting in per-client sales growth by 23% in the first 6 months of the year.”
The best approach here is to verify the 23%. Is that percentage accurate?
If you’re unsure, opt for a conservative guesstimate.
This means that if you’re not confident about the 23%, opt for a smaller number. For example, you may say “~20% in the first 6 months…”
Taking this approach helps cover your fanny should that number ever require verification. And, if it does, you can always act pleasantly surprised when the ACTUAL percentage is higher than what’s stated in your resume. 🙂
Resume Blemish #3: 12 Jobs in Four Years
Having multiple jobs does bring any staying power you might have into question with prospective new employers.
A CRAZY number of jobs in 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.
Using a Different Resume Format to Help Downsize Multiple Jobs in Only a Few Years
There are some strategies you can take when you have held a multitude of jobs within only a few short years.
One solution could be shifting your resume to a combination resume layout versus the traditional chronological format.
What does this mean exactly?
This means that your resume has less content under the Professional Career category of your resume and more content under the top section (resume summary and secondary category).
You might be wondering how this fixes things.
Well, for starters, not having heavy descriptions for each of your many job roles can make a resume excessively long.
A combination resume format helps avoid that.
This resume format also provides you with a nice content-heavy resume summary and secondary category that you can reshape to whatever job focus you’re eying.
Chances are not all the many jobs you’ve held were on-point to your current job focus.
So, a combination resume format enables you to pick and choose what skills to highlight and which to hide.
Another strategy is to lump “like” job roles, whenever appropriate.
When an identical job title was held by 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
For those roles where you may not have held the job title, you can do something like this:
Office Manager, SallyJims Manufacturing, 2016 – 2018
Executive Secretary, Validated, Inc., 2015 – 2016
You could do something like this:
Administrative Roles, SallyJims Mfg / Validated, Inc., 2015 – 2018
This isn’t perfect.
Though, it does give you an option for hiding those resume blemishes that could be costing you job interviews.
Taking steps similar to the above can also help alleviate any resume page length problems you might be experiencing. Ideally, most resumes shouldn’t be longer than 2 pages.
And, if you find yourself struggling with too much detail, doing some position/job description consolidation can help with that.
Resume Blemish #4: Holes in Your Work History
Steady, uninterrupted work history … it’s the “unicorn” of the employment world.
However, there are times when gaps in work history are unexpected.
We’re seeing more employment gaps in today’s resumes as businesses (and certain industries) can be unstable.
Plus, personalities clash and people quit their jobs.
In a perfect world, employers are looking for nice, steady career advancement in candidates.
So how do you explain the fact that you left your last job?
Or that two-year stint you took off from work to hike through the Andes?
Holes in a resume can stand out.
Yet, they can become less obvious by using a different resume format.
Chances are you are currently using a chronological resume format.
Most people do.
Shifting your resume to a combination resume format can give your resume a heavier top with more content and categories, therefore pushing the date gap further down resume.
Sure, not a perfect strategy. But, it helps surface your career assets that are relevant to hiring managers and pushes that career blemish slightly down and therefore less noticeable.
Resume Blemish #5: The Resume Statute of Limitations
There are times when you will want to “Edward Scissorhands” your resume.
Typically, the average resume should include 10 years of work history.
Like everything else, there are exceptions.
For example, executives with extensive work histories can find this limitation a bit painful. On the flip side, most college graduates don’t have 5 years of work history let alone 10.
The oldest positions in your career should always be considered for a bit of “nip/tuck.”
Increased technology can make a position held just 10 years ago look like ancient history.
So, if you have a few old, irrelevant job roles at the beginning of your work career, exclude those from your resume.
If you had a few “misfires” early in your career, leave those off too.
Resume Blemish #6: Finally, the Cherry
True, you’ll need to grab the attention of applicant tracking systems (AKA ATS software).
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.
In fact, I recommend spending some time considering how recruiters and hiring managers use boolean search strings to look for those with your skill set.
Once you do that, think about the visual and content appeal of your resume too.
Your resume not only needs to grab the attention of computers, but it also needs to attract human eyeballs too.
To learn more about working with recruiters/headhunters, check out this in-depth guide.
Do You Have a Resume Blemish That You Need Help With?
If you don’t have a clue how to structure your work history and downplay your job-jumping binge, speak with a professional resume writer.