Resume pro: 3 resume mistakes can keep you from scoring a high-paying job


Your resume is typically the first thing a potential employer sees from you as an applicant—and, on average, they'll scan it for less than 10 seconds before deciding to move forward or toss the resume in the trash.

"A well-written resume," says Vicki Salemi, a career expert at job search service Monster, is "the difference between opening the door into an employer to lead to interviews or having a door slammed shut in your face."

While you may know the basics of putting together a resume—listing your experience in reverse-chronological order, for example, and keep it to one or two pages—it's likely that you're still making some key mistakes.

Jennifer Johnson, operations manager at online resume writing service ZipJob, has seen them all, from CVs that dig into every last detail of a person's first summer job to those that barely contain any information at all, and even one particularly memorable CV that was nine pages long.

Here are three resume mistakes that she says can keep you from your next job:

1. You don't use keywords

Your resume and cover letter should include keywords and distinct terms or phrases associated with the job you're applying for, Johnson says. Failing to do so is a problem because many companies use software to scan resumes, automatically flagging those that include specific keywords for review by a human recruiter.

Professional resume writers spend considerable time finding the right terms to help job seekers. "The main thing is keyword optimization, that's our primary focus," says Johnson.

You can do your own research by digging through postings for the job you're applying for, and highlighting those distinct terms; they may include specific programs such as "Ruby," or skill sets like "diesel mechanic." Don't go too broad, though, and use words like "marketing" or "business."

2. You offer too much, or the wrong kind of, detail

Remember that nine-page resume that landed on Johnson's desk? That job seeker wanted to make sure they included all of their experience and skills. But it was too much.

That many details can bore or overwhelm a recruiter. Your resume "needs to have a focus," Johnson says.

The trick is to pinpoint what's relevant to the job you're applying for and how you're trying to present yourself. Don't include experience that's unrelated or from the distant past—say, from over 15 years ago.

3. You use the wrong resume format

When it comes to formatting your resume, Johnson says that "being clean and concise can go a long way." In other words, pare it down and keep the design simple. You don't need to include more than your contact information, a short chronology of your employment history, and your education. Leave out pictures and references.

Be careful using fancy resume templates you find online, she warns. They can trip up the intake systems companies use to scan CVs, and that can mess up your first impression.

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