resume writingJob seekers are usually at a significant informational disadvantage when it comes to knowing why hiring managers are not calling them. You’ve sent out hundreds of resumes and posted on dozens of job boards, yet the phone isn’t ringing and your email inbox is empty. Very often, job seekers mistakenly look outward first for the reasons. They blame the economy, their industry, and even the competency level of the hiring managers themselves for the lack of interest. But more often than not, the reason is staring up at them: their very own resume and cover letter. Most people assume that as long as their “duties and education is listed on paper, that should suffice”. But when your document is competing with dozens, or sometimes hundreds of other resumes, every strategic advantage should be sought and every misstep avoided. Below are the top 5 resume writing mistakes that can easily find your resume in the trash can.

Resume Writing Mistake #1: Venturing Past a 2nd Page

Your career may span 20 years with 6 positions, consisting of a wealth of duties, highlights, accomplishments and special projects. But in most cases, taking three or four pages to tell your reader about this results in your resume being thrown away. Many hiring managers and recruiters have openly admitted that when they receive resumes of 3 pages or more, they don’t even read the name. They simply toss them. Recruiters are overburdened, sometimes receiving hundreds of resumes daily.  And most people asked to be involved in the hiring process have other projects and responsibilities on their plate. In short, their time is limited and you need to respect that. What cannot be said within two pages does not need to be said. The job of a good resume is to get you into the door where you can provide the additional detail if needed. The job of good resume writing is to provide your reader with a condensed, yet high-relevance job history and background. Some information will be more valuable than others on the resume. Determine what this is and stick to it. There are some exceptions to this three-page rule, but they are rare.

Resume Writing Mistake #2: Vague and Nonspecific Job Descriptions

In reviewing resumes, we often see job descriptions littered with low priority concepts that actually do not say much about the core of the position. When you have limited room in which to communicate, you want to be sure you are hitting the target with every single character. Be sure that the information under your job description relate not only to the position under which it is listed, but to the future job target. This is not only to keep the interest of your human reader, but we have the databases and applicant tracking systems to consider here. For example, if you are a software quality assurance engineer, it is more important for you to communicate your background in user acceptance testing and code debugging than “adhering to policies and procedures”. When pressed for space, a good rule of thumb is if the concept is common across most types of positions and industries, you don’t need to say it. Effective resume writing focuses on core concepts at all times.

Resume Writing Mistake #3: Leading With Weakness

This resume writing error is usually a sure sign of someone who has learned of only one way of resume writing. Since we all bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table, we should all adjust our strategies to compensate for this. When you have a document that is reviewed for an average of only 10 seconds, you must ensure that the strongest information is seen first. When your resume leads with weaker information, that review time is being wasted. This adjustment should be made not only with the order of your resume sections, but with the information underneath each one. Additionally, you should always seek opportunities to disguise weaknesses. We all have them, but we don’t need our resumes and cover letters trumpeting them, now do we? Figure out the most important information to your reader and implement every strategy that brings their eyeballs to that information first.

Resume Writing Mistake #4: Using Templates

The template may seem like a great idea to you, but you have to remember that your reader sees dozens of resumes per day and they all tend to look the same. Well, if you are using a template, this all the guarantees your resume does not set you apart. A good and consistently effective resume will never use templated formats or language. First of all, the “one size fits all” approach means you are missing out on opportunities to focus the reader one of the areas that will score you the most points (see Mistake #3 above). Next, producing a resume that looks like that of most of your competition does the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve: to stand out! Besides, how much respect will the hiring manager or recruiter have for your application when you can’t even take the time to produce an original document? These professionals are reviewing resumes and job descriptions all day, every day. Don’t dare to think that they don’t know template it content when they see it. Always seek originality in your resume and cover letter. When you are trying to be the last applicant standing at the end of the process, blending in is the last thing you should do.

Resume Writing Mistake #5: Not Proofing The Resume

Before submitting that resume, you need to go over it at least twice to ensure that it is letter perfect. Nothing kills a resume in the job search process more than glaring mistakes in spelling, grammar and alignment. A resume that is littered with errors is quite simply an aggravation for your reader. Not only do they feel the process is not being respected, it slows them down and does not respect their time. Why? Because errors can be quite distracting. So now, instead of focusing on your core strength and your ability to do the job, that focus has been shifted away to the lack of attention you brought to the document’s development. When this happens, you have already lost the battle. When you proof your resume and cover letter, you should go over it twice. In the first review, focus upon sentence structure and fluency of the concepts. In the second review, you should be looking at the document differently by focusing on spelling and grammatical issues.