You just spent the past hour re-writing each bullet point on your resume five times, you triple-checked for typos, cleaned up the format and spacing, and hit the save button.
Now you take a step back to admire the fruits of your labor. But despite all the work you put into your resume, it just seems, well, bland.
You shouldn’t get frustrated. “Writing a resume is hard…It’s an unnatural way of talking about ourselves,” said Ivy Exec Career Advisor, Nii Ato Bentsi-Enchill. It’s difficult to write about ourselves objectively, especially when we are so close to our own work. People often miss the details of their career that make them stand out to employers, which in turn undersells them.
In a recent online class, Bentsi-Enchill shared some of the most common mistakes people make on their resume that ultimately undersells them to readers. Below, we’ve summed up some of the key takeaways from the online class.
DO demonstrate value – DON’T write your responsibilities.
Let’s kick things off with what is arguably the biggest (and most common) resume mistake. Do you have a bullet point that reads: “Review, negotiate, and close contracts and opportunities?” By writing responsibilities, “you’re rendering yourself indistinguishable to anyone else with the same function or role” said Bentsi-Enchill. Instead, you need to show what you to differently, and the value you can bring to the table. To accomplish this, rewrite those responsibilities with the results of your work, and the unique way in which you did it.
DO be specific – DON’T use vague descriptors.
When it comes to underselling ourselves, vague descriptors such as: “several, large, multiple, in record time,” leave much to be desired. “These words are inaccessible to the reader” shares Bentsi-Enchill. Quantify when possible so that the reader can understand the context of your achievements. Does “large” mean a team of 5 direct reports, or 30? Does “in record time” refer to days, weeks, or months? By providing hard numbers instead of generalizations, the reader can create a vivid picture of your career story and envision how you could be successful at their company.
DO show results – DON’T be a drone.
Words or phrases such as: ‘responsible for, supported, participated in, or according to company procedure’ present you as a drone who merely executes on work that is given to them. Remember, a resume is supposed to create a story that employers can use to see how you would perform as an employee at their organization. Do you want to be viewed as someone who just receives and acts on work? Or do you want to be perceived as someone who brings real value? Even if you are in a role that requires a lot of execution and busy work, that can all be translated into ways in which you helped the organization. As an alternative, use verbs such as: “championed, pioneered, originated.” These verbs can be tied to quantifiable achievements that show your results.
DO provide context – DON’T leave out details for the sake of brevity.
For those with a longer career history, fitting everything on their resume can be a challenge. Many people will leave out important details to condense their career into one page. But this is a big mistake! By leaving out context, the reader will be unable to recognize the full scope of your achievements. Provide a before and after story so you can demonstrate the scale, or use the formula: “Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z].” A resume that exceeds one page is not the end of the world. If you are trying to condense information on the resume, Bentsi-Enchill recommends removing what is irrelevant. It’s unlikely that everything you’ve done in the course of your career relates to the job you are applying for. If the employer doesn’t need to know it – don’t include it!
Also read: Turn A Long Career Into a Short Resume
DO use universally understood terms – DON’T use jargon.
By using highly–technical terms, business buzzwords, or industry jargon, you risk alienating the reader. These terms can cause problems, especially if you are making a career transition. Simplify these phrases when possible. Have a friend outside of your department, company or industry read it to see if they can understand everything.