If you’ve ever tried to write your own resume and been less than satisfied with the results, you’re not alone. Even those who follow templates often struggle to convey the right impression. The good news is that most bad resumes share some similar failings. More importantly, most of them can be corrected if you know how to identify their weaknesses. To show you what we mean, here is one bad resume example and what we did to fix it.
In our bad resume, you’ll notice that the job-seeker included an objective statement. In times past, the objective section was a traditional option in most resumes. With it, you can succinctly convey your career goals, and let any prospective employer know that you’re serious about the job. On the surface, that seems like an important thing to do, but many experts now agree that the objective has outworn its welcome in the modern era.
So, what should you do instead of using an objective? Use a summary statement to better represent who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and how you can benefit the prospective employer if you’re hired. The difference in presentation can be truly dramatic, since it allows you to focus on your value as an employee rather than on what you want from the company.
Here is the Objective Statement on the resume:
Looking to obtain a position as a software engineer and apply my many years of experience and skills.
Here is an example of a resume summary instead:
10+ years of experience as a detail-oriented Software Engineer with a proven track record for gathering requirements then designing and developing applications. Excels at learning new technologies and applying them to develop clean and well-structured code. Experienced at working in a cross-functional environment at all stages of a Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) using either an Agile or a Waterfall methodology. Excellent collaborative team player and an outstanding communicator.
See the difference?
The summary enables you to provide a quick and concise overview of your employment history. You can use it to highlight your achievements, define special skills, and demonstrate your value. Use the summary to focus on the benefits you can provide for the employer rather than what you hope to gain from the relationship.
You could check out our post on writing a good resume summary here.
If you carefully examine the work experience section of the bad resume example, you may notice that it’s somewhat underwhelming. Yes, it meticulously lists the candidate’s positions and duties – but it seems to be missing something.
It’s missing any real achievements that can catch a hiring manager’s eye. It reads like a dull recitation of facts, and lacks the type of context that today’s hiring managers are seeking. There are few, if any, power verbs used in this laundry list of jobs held, and no metrics by which this candidate’s potential value can be assessed.
Instead of just listing jobs and duties, you should define your achievements.
Don’t say that you:
“Developed sales plan using new and existing resources.”
Instead, add real value to the description using tangible results.
“Created dynamic sales strategy that boosted quarterly sales activity by 17%, increasing division profits by 12.6%.”
That added specificity showcases the types of results that any new employer can expect to enjoy if he or she hires you.
This resume also lacks the proper keywords needed to get past an ATS (Applicant Tracking System). Most companies use an ATS to automatically screen your resume and one of the major things it looks for are keywords that relate to the position/industry. An average of 75% of resumes are automatically rejected by an ATS so you want to ensure you have the right keywords to let the software know that you’re a good match for the position.
We already touched on this a bit, but it’s worth repeating: word choice matters. Your verbs should be active and powerful, and your adjectives should help to reinforce the importance of your prior job roles. Don’t just describe yourself as being “responsible for” some activity; choose words that are more active and productive. For example:
The goal is to insert value wherever possible. You want that hiring manager to read your resume and think, “This guy/gal is a real go-getter. If he/she can provide our company with these kinds of benefits, it would be a mistake to pass on the opportunity!”
You’ll also notice that there are areas within that work experience section where the candidate does promote value. That’s commendable, but even those areas could use some tightening to make them more dynamic. While benefits like increased accuracy and reduced overtime are impressive, those achievements would be even more impressive if they were backed up by statements defining the bottom line benefits they created for the employer.
The example above has a spelling error and even a single error is enough to get you disqualified. Always read your resume over and give it over to someone else to proofread as well.
The aesthetics in the example aren’t really pleasing. Sure, the content is what matters the most but you should also organize and format your resume to be easy on the eye. Hiring managers only spend a few seconds looking at your resume so you want to ensure your resume is neatly organized. Just make sure you don’t include any designs, fancy colors or charts on your resume.
It can be rejected by an ATS as it may be unable to process it and hiring managers are usually annoyed by resumes that look like art projects.
The fact is that you need to tailor your resume to have any real chance against other applicants. That’s the only way to ensure that you are properly addressing a given company’s job requirements. This is also the best way to demonstrate that you’re the right person for the open position. A non-specific resume simply can’t achieve that objective.
Do you need multiple versions of your resume? No – you can easily tailor your resume if it’s formatted properly.
Take a look at this good resume example. Do you see the difference?
As you can see from this bad resume example, many resume weaknesses are often less obvious than they first appear. That’s why it’s vital to have your self-created resume evaluated by others to ensure that it meets your needs. Friends, family, and professional resume companies can be critical resources in that regard. They can help you to identify areas of weakness so that your resume gets the attention that it deserves.