Greetings and salutations, dear readers. I hope that you are well in these weird and dangerous times.
Well, your girl did it. I got my PhD in English. Woot woot! I’ve been fearing that someone was going to say that there had been a terrible mistake for some reason (What reason? I don’t know.). But the diploma came in the mail and everything, so . . . no takebacks!
Now, I begin the job journey.
I’ve been sending out applications, and I’m wondering if I can do anything to improve my materials, specifically my resume. So, let’s take a look at what could be wrong with my resume and maybe yours too.
1. Submitting a document with typos and mistakes. These essentially mean that you’re not ready for “Prime Time,” so why should potential employers waste their time?
2. Not including the months on your dates of employment. Oops. So, supposedly if you don’t have the months, this could indicate that you are trying to hide gaps in your work history. But what if you’re like me and you literally can’t remember back that far? I don’t want to make mistake #15 in this list, so what’s a gal to do?
3. Being too detail heavy on your old jobs. Old jobs (meaning anything older than 10 years) don’t matter as much as new jobs that you’ve had, so they shouldn’t get as much detail and space as your new jobs. Why? Well, answer me this: Are you the same person now as you were 10 years ago? Have you grown since then? Have you matured and gotten better since then? My point.
4. Not being consistent in your dates, details, and jobs across platforms. This one was interesting to me. Employers will go through your various social media platforms and cross reference what they see with what you present to them in your resume.
5. Including irrelevant work experience. If you’re applying for a web content designer job, why would you include your experience as a volunteer firefighter? Unless there’s a good and valid reason where the firefighting experience relates to the web content designer job (e.g., maybe you want to design the webpage for a fire department), then leave it out.
6. Emphasis on the wrong parts. By emphasis, I mean bolding and italicizing. Italicizing should be used minimally and you should be bolding the position that you held rather than the company you worked for.
7. Fluffing it up. This is a difficult one. You don’t want to obscure meaning by using big words to sound fancy, but you also want to make sure that you get in the keywords that employers and machines are looking for (yeah, sometimes our resumes go through computer programs before they ever reach a human, which I understand but . . . geeze). So, try using this guideline: 1) Does the wording accurately reflect what you did and what you accomplished?, 2) Is there any way that the wording’s meaning could be misunderstood?, and 3) Does the phrase/word come off as practical language or hot air?
8. Including basic and obvious skills. Some jobs specifically ask for Microsoft Office Suite skills, and yet many people consider these to be “basic and obvious” abilities. So, unless a job specifically asks for something that is seemingly basic to you (i.e., they teach it to you in grade school), then leave it out.
9. Not explaining a career change. Career changes happen and that’s okay. However, major ones, such as going from middle school teaching to accounting, should be briefly explained in your cover letter. There’s no need to put that in your resume, but you still need to address it.
10. Using weak verbs. Humans love verbs because we love action. Now, which sounds more imagistic and exciting to you: “I planned classes” or “I designed courses and curriculum?” Personally, I like the last one as it more accurately portrays what goes into putting courses together and is more imagistic than “planned.”
11. Using passive voice. Speaking of verbs, your past jobs need to be discussed using past tense, but they shouldn’t have passive voice. Need a trick for identifying passive voice? If you can put “by zombies” at the end of the phrase, then it’s probably passive voice. For example, let’s take “The cake was eaten.” If I put “by zombies” at the end of it, does it make sense—“The cake was eaten by zombies.” Yep, that makes sense (other than the whole zombies don’t eat cake thing). So, it’s passive. Technically, passive voice is the past form of “to be” plus a verb with a past participle, but the “by zombies” trick is so much easier to remember.
12. Attaching your photo. Who even does this unless it’s a modelling or acting gig?
13. Having a bad file name. I didn’t think of this one until I did some research, but it makes sense. If your file name is something like, “IHATELOOKINGFORJOBS5,” potential employers are going to see that and you’ve already made a negative impression before they even open your resume.
14. Focusing on what you did instead of what you accomplished. This is a bit nuanced, but it could mean the difference between you seeming like you copied and pasted the job description and you coming off as having excelled at the job. How did you overcome obstacles in this job? What did you excel at? Did you receive any promotions, awards, or recognitions for your hard work? Remember though, no fluffing allowed.
15. Lying. Just don’t. They’ll find out. They always do. *insert creepy music*