Avoid These Dangerous Resume Mistakes

You can design your resume to appear modern and appropriate for today's job search, but it is equally important to include relevant content to appeal to the hiring manager. Most companies today are using a computerized system (known as an applicant tracking system, or ATS) to evaluate your materials; this means a human is not likely to see your resume unless you pass the initial, computerized scan. If you do not identify key words and phrases from the job description, or forget to incorporate the most important content in your resume, you may lose your chance for an interview – and it may have nothing to do with your age or experience.

Keep these tips in mind so your resume will make the cut:

1. Use keywords.
Study job descriptions to identify what the employer wants and include key words in your document. For example, job titles are keywords – use your targeted job title in your resume's headline. Incorporate nouns and noun phrases describing the skills the employer is seeking. For example, "cross-functional teams and internal and external customer service." Include degrees, certifications, and memberships – all may be keywords for the job.

More: 9 Well-Paying Jobs That Don't Require A Degree

2. Use up-to-date language to reflect modern skills.
Avoid old-fashioned references and language that makes the reader think you are stuck in the past or lacking useful skills. For example, while some offices still use fax machine, don't highlight your ability to fax a document as if it's your most important accomplishment. If you work with computer programs, be sure to reference the most up-to-date software versions.

3. Highlight relevant skills.
If you work in customer service, demonstrate your ability to use social media in your resume to help distinguish you from other applicants. If your skills are lacking, sign up for some classes or look for online opportunities to learn new information. Then, include the course work or just list the new skills in your resume. Don't underestimate informal ways to learn new things; you may be surprised by how much you can pick up by watching YouTube videos.

4. Demonstrate flexibility and adaptability.
One stereotype some employers may have about experienced workers is that they may have a hard time learning new things. How can you show you're ready, willing, and able to learn? Emphasize how you've used up-to-date tools, and showcase accomplishments related to those tools. For example, even if you're unemployed, consider creating a YouTube channel for a non-profit organization where you volunteer. If the non-profit reaches more people via the channel and increases their donations, you will have a great story for your resume that also makes it clear you aren't stuck in 1995.

More: Best Jobs If You're Over 55

5. Highlight results.
Avoid language such as, "responsible for" or "assisted in;" these are dated ways to describe what you offer. If the description asks for a detailed, customer-service oriented candidate, don't say, "Responsible for providing strong customer service and answering phones." Instead, include specifics, and highlight skills and results:

"Use strong attention to detail to provide customer service support to patients, guests, and staff. Answer telephones, transcribe messages, and route calls, resulting in winning customer service awards (2011 and 2012)."

When you create bullet points that draw direct connections between what you did and what the employer wants you to do, it will be easier for the reader to envision you in the job.

6. Don't cling to the past.
A mistake many job seekers make is they insist on including an in-depth work history, even if it does not interest the employer. Make every word count: Review your resume and compare it to job descriptions. Highlight the parts of your resume that relate specifically to your target job. If the majority of your resume is not highlighted, it is time for a major overhaul.

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One thing I've learned is that advice about resumes is pretty much worthless. Every "expert" will look at a resume and tell you NOT to do what another "expert" WOULD tell you to do.

October 26 2012 at 8:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marcia Robinson

You can't say enough about highlighting outcomes and results on resumes. Fact is many times people don't know how to actually show outcomes in a resume or in a lot of cases really have not kept track of outcomes or results. I usually advise folks on how to keep a Kudos Folder. Great source of results for resumes and interviews. Good article as usual.

Marcia Robinson @HBCUCareerCntr

August 12 2012 at 5:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really liked this article, especially the advice not to cling to the past. There is so much more to know, though, and the Web tends to offer short, bulleted articles. That's just how we read in this busy world. I noticed that a comment above suggested "What Foreigners Need to Know About America From A to Z" and thought I'd jump in. As an ESL (English as Second Language) tutor, I read this book and recommend it to my students. I was especially impressed with the thoroughness of the chapters on getting a job and opening a business in the US. The book is slanted--obviously--to emigrants, foreign students, business people who work with American in the US and abroad, but I think it will help a much broader audience, too. It even covers the way to dress for interviews.

August 12 2012 at 4:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For foreigners not familiar with the job seeking process in the U.S. that most likely differs from their home country, this book will help them: "What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to understand crazy American culture, people, government, business, language and more". Even Americans will learn about the ins and outs of getting a great job.

August 12 2012 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you were clever enough to cheat your way through college, you're hired!

August 12 2012 at 8:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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