Forgetting to focus on accomplishments
Impact and accomplishments -- not activities -- are what count on a resume. This tip is also pretty basic, but file it under the category of "must have."
We all know what it is like to have to sit down and write our resumes. Who hasn't spent countless hours trying to find new phrases or words that describe your managing or responsibility of various tasks? But the kicker is that we are likely spending too much time thinking through our clever wording rather than just simply writing down our actual accomplishments at a job. We get so caught up trying to sound smart that we might be missing a chance to clearly and simply articulate actual outcomes. Yes, the interview process will allow you to tell a prospective employer how you did it. But get in the door with a "wow" accomplishment on the resume.
My network is firmly behind this tip. Here are a few of their quotes:
"Do not list your activities, instead focus on the business impact (sales and operational) you have made," said Paul Santello. "For example, instead of only focusing on a killer campaign that you created or a thought-leadership event or program, complete the thought to talk about the impact you made (use numbers or percentages where possible) through your input. For example: 'Successfully launched new campaign using social media, resulting in % ad cost savings and $XX pipeline increase.'"
This was echoed repeatedly when I asked about common resume mistakes:
- Gerard Francis Corbett: "Biggest mistake: not listing accomplishments. Resumes are not about what you did or do but what you achieved."
- Don Marquess: "Lack of specifics in regard to metrics, accomplishments, and responsibilities is the biggest mistake."
- David Alexander: "No. 1: job descriptions versus showing results. No. 2: information from too far back in time -- you have been working for 30 years, do people really care if you were president of your fraternity? No. 3: AOL.com email address." (OK, so the final point is a bit controversial and clearly subjective, but his first two points are keepers.)
Also, be sure to be specific. Today, especially if you are in technology, marketing, or even business development, it is fashionable to write about your mastery of social media. But few people are really that knowledgeable about how to maximize these tools for companies. Differentiate yourself by writing not just that you used them but how you used them and how it generated business and revenue. Spice in your resume comes not from your statement of the tools you use, but rather the proof of how you made their use work for your company.
Being both interesting and professional is the balance that we must strive to achieve. Adrian Smith mentioned this in responding to my social network outreach on this topic. He said that the biggest mistake he commonly sees on resumes is blandness. "While resumes need to be formatted so that they can be scanned by a computer for all the usual dope, once it falls into the hands of a human, it needs some spark and kick," he said. "Otherwise, you're just another average hopeful. Give it some jazz. That's the first thing I look for. I have three folders for resumes I receive: possibilities, rejects, and snoozers."
Don't be a snoozer.
For more on this topic, check out Mashable's infographic, "How to Spruce Up Your Resume."