I’ve seen dozens of resumes in my career and while the rules in writing one aren’t cast in stone, any hiring manager like me will spot a couple or two that won’t advance for an interview opportunity. I myself have been rejected many times because of one thing I didn’t include, or included excessively.
Resumes make or break your first chance to get your foot into a company’s door. As today’s job application process becomes online-driven, resumes have become the default personal branding tool (thanks to LinkedIn, which has made it more social and interactive). They serve as personal advertisements that shout out: “Here’s who I am, and this is why you should hire me.”
If you’re a job candidate who wants to stand out in your next application, here’s a helpful list of common mistakes that you may want to consider before you hit that “send” button.
1. Submitting a three-, four- or a five-page resume
“Brevity is the soul of the wit”, as the saying goes. Put yourself into the shoes of a busy HR recruiter who is drowning in a pool of resumes for various positions (multiply that figure ten times for popular, sexier companies). A resume must be short to capture attention, but informative enough for the recruiter to consider you for an interview, not immediately the job (bearing in mind to take it one step at a time).
“The main body of your resume should be short and crisp: one page for every seven to ten years of work experience”, shares Yameen Mohamad, co-founder of The CViator, a social start-up based in Kuala Lumpur which specializes in resume checking and consultation for millennials. Cap your resume to two pages no matter how top-level the position is. “Save all the details and stories for later because that’s what interviews are for”, Yameen adds.
Unless you’re applying for a creative position, be conscious of your resume’s lay out as this also determines its length. I’m a fan of clean, black-and-white and minimalist styles as this portrays a professional image. I use half-inch margins, and I usually get torn among classic font types like Times New Roman, Arial, and Cambria—all in /- 10 point size (Comic Sans or any script type is a suicidal mistake). Finally, save your resumes in PDFs as you don’t want anyone to tamper with your personal information. It’s much easier to access whether on desktop or mobile, and opening it feels like a fresh t-shirt that’s been iron-pressed down to perfection.
2. Adding unnecessary details, or every aspect of your life
Speaking of long resumes, be mindful that not everything you think is important matters to the recruiter. I personally replace the “Objective Statement” (e.g. To work as a bank manager in a multinational finance company) with a “Career Summary Statement” smacked right after my name. “Objective statements” are not only out of fashion these days, they are too generic, and reduce you to a specific role without leaving room for flexibility when the company can offer multiple career paths that you can choose from. My career summary goes like this: “Multi-awarded marketing director with 10 years of branding and digital experience in telecommunications, pharmaceutical, and aviation industries” which tells a solid and compelling story of what I can do regardless if the recruiter reads or skips the rest of my resume. Recruiters averagely spend 6-10 seconds scanning a resume which is why you should spend it wisely on its primary space. It must answer this question right from the very start, “Why should I keep on reading?”
“Fresh university graduates should include details such as their GWA/GPA and co-curricular activities since they don’t have work experience. However, this starts to become irrelevant for junior managers with 3 years of experience and up”, says Glenn Ayton, a Filipino expat who manages an internship program for a bank in Malaysia. Come to think of it, a 35-year old applicant who mentions that he placed second in an oratorical contest in high school isn’t only taking up a lot of resume space, he’s just simply being awkward.
Mentioning school grades is also a tricky art. It’s worth citing that you graduated with latin honors in your resume regardless of how old you are. But specifying that you were a Dean’s Lister for only 5 specific semesters is just information overload, and over brag for no reason. You will notice that the more seasoned you become in the corporate world, the less important your educational experience becomes (but never irrelevant of course). This is no rocket science as soft skills and business acumen are more favoured at work vs. academic performance in school. For applicants with years of work experience, show your career history immediately on the first page and keep the educational background last.
Finally, keep the TMI (too much information) elements at bay. It’s nice to know that you won a basketball league for your barangay or that you did a cameo for a skin whitening TV commercial—but they won’t necessarily help you get an office desk. If the information isn’t critical to your employability, let it go.
To read part 2 of the article, click here.