With resumes outrunning job postings by literally several hundred to one, employers don't have to be very forgiving of resume mistakes, and they're not. These days, it's one strike and you're out.
The first time I hired someone for an entry-level editing position, in 2004, I received about 80 resumes over three weeks. Last year, trying to fill the same position, I received some 400 resumes in two weeks. I could honestly have hired at least 100 of the applicants. Most were recent graduates with full-time internship experience, excellent GPAs and good writing samples.
In fact, when you're sifting through hundreds of excellent prospects you sometimes have to look for minuscule resume`
mistakes to winnow down the pool to a list of candidates that's manageable.
Here are some the mistakes that can land your resume in the no pile, even if you're a great fit for the job.
- Forgetting to include a personalized cover letter. The cover letter is your opportunity to tell the hiring manager why you are applying for the job and highlight your pertinent experience and education. Not bothering to take this opportunity to make a case for yourself in your own words just makes you seem lazy.
- Failing to be an investigator. Many hiring managers withhold their name from a job listing, but do include their email address. It only takes a few seconds of Googling that email to find the person's name and job title. The manager should be impressed that you did the extra legwork to personalize your cover letter or email message. While you're doing some digging anyway, it's a good idea to research the company and your potential department. Dropping information about a company in your cover letter shows that you have initiative and research skills.
- Skipping the spell-check. It seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised by how many resumes I received where my name is misspelled or simple words spelled incorrectly. Once I received an application that was nearly perfect. The young woman had great clips, considerable experience and a fascinating cover letter. Unfortunately, she misspelled the word "experience" on her resume. Instead of throwing her resume away, I called her to tell her about the typo. In addition to checking your spelling give your resumes to a friend or two to look over. A second pair of eyes can catch the run-on sentences, improper subject-verb agreements, sentence fragments or incorrect word usage that you missed.
- Using an unprofessional email address. I've received a lot of outrageous and inappropriate email addresses from job applicants. From beginning to end, your job application tells a lot about yourself. If you apply for a job using an email address such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, the hiring manager will wonder about your judgment and your ability to present a professional image. To avoid all of that, set up a professional email address that's simple-preferably your first and last name and nothing else.
- Including inappropriate references. When an employer asks to include references in your application, they want professional ones; not your roommate from college or your smoking buddy at your previous employer. A few years ago, I was set to hire a young woman, but things fell apart when I contact her references. The first person I called was a friend at her current job. They didn't work in the same department so her friend couldn't provide any insight on her skills and experience. The second reference was a guy who hung up on me when I told him why I was calling. He sounded sleepy so I guess he was angry that I woke him up before noon. I didn't hire her. When listing references,include your supervisors, people who managed you and coworkers who actually worked with you daily.
- Lying. Inflating the number of people you manage or adding a few points to your GPA might seem harmless, but it's deceitful and employers will eventually find out. If you are lacking in certain skills that would make you more marketable, take a few classes or seminars so that you can be all you claim to be on your resume.
Avoid these don'ts and even in a job market like this one, your resume has a much better chance of landing in the call-for-an-interview pile, which is gratifying when that's exactly where it belongs.