Resume Deal Breakers


You invest so much time into your resume.  You spend hours writing it and customizing it for each position and once it’s ready, you spend a lot of time finding places to send it.  If there are problems with your resume, all of this time will be wasted because your resume will be quickly discarded.  Here is a list of common mistakes that job seekers make with their resumes.  By eliminating these errors on your resume, you can make sure that it gets the consideration that it deserves:

Proofreading errors.  Spelling and grammar errors on your resume are a big problem.  Many employers will immediately discard any resume with those types of mistakes.  They may view mistakes on your resume as a lack of professionalism or they may make the assumption that your work is sloppy.  If you have a few people proofread your resume, you can avoid this problem and keep the employer focused on your skills and experience.

Being vague.  Resumes that are overly general and lack specifics are weak.  You can make your resume a lot more impressive to potential employers just by including a few more details.  The statement “Served customers in a professional manner” is vague.  Instead say something like, “Improved customer satisfaction ratings by 30%”.  Try to remember the feedback that you received from your previous jobs and add in details whenever possible.

Not customizing.  If you are submitting the same resume to every employer, you are probably not getting the results you should be.  When you customize your resume you use language that resonates with each individual employer and you are able to show how your skills and experience make you a great fit for each specific job.  Since a lot of job seekers don’t do it, customizing is a way that you can stand out from your competition.

Not visually appealing.  It’s gotta be pretty!  Since your resume will probably be in a pile of a lot of other resumes, it needs to be pleasing to the eye.  If it looks good, the hiring manager will give it a little more time.  The layout should be attractive and you need to have enough white space.  Also, make sure that the headings and the formatting look good.  It may be worth having an employment counselor or someone in your network review your resume and give you some feedback.

If you have been sending out your resume for a while without much response, that is a good sign that you need to make a change.  You may find that it only takes a few small adjustments to your resume to get your phone ringing again!  Good luck!

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of iosphere at


Pick Me! How to Make Your Resume Stand Out!

ID-100287320When you’re sending out countless resumes without any response, you may start to wonder what you’re doing wrong.  Why is it that other resumes are being selected over yours?  Here are some tips that will help you get your resume to the top of the pile:

Choose the right keywords.  When shortlisting resumes, the employer will use either a computer or a human to screen for keywords that are requirements for the position.  If the relevant keywords are not on your resume, it might as well be invisible.  Use the job advertisement and your knowledge of the position to identify potential keywords and make sure that they can seen by a quick scan of your resume.

Pay attention to the layout.  Appearance counts with your resume.  Managers will give more time to a resume with an attractive layout than they will to one that’s just a jumble of words.  Allow for sufficient white space and include clear subtitles and sections.  However, don’t get too fancy; your goal is a simple layout that makes your resume easy on the eyes.

Customize it for each position.  Sending out a large number of generic resumes is not an effective job search strategy.  Most employers will see it for what it is; spam.  Consider the message you are sending with such an approach.  You are essentially telling the employer that you would like to work for them, but you are not willing to spend the time it would take to speak to them directly.  Conversely, when you carefully study the job description and create a resume and cover letter that is unique to that employer, you can show them why you are the best fit for that specific position and you are demonstrating your enthusiasm for both the job and the organization.

Use numbers to quantify your achievements.  Don’t tell the employer how amazing you are; show them!  Vague declarations like, “Excellent customer service skills” are weak, but specific statements like, “increased customer satisfaction by 30% over a 6 month period” are strong.  When you demonstrate your skills by using quantifiable examples, you appear more credible and you are more memorable.

Focus on the employer’s needs.  It is important to always keep the employer’s needs at the forefront of your mind when creating your resume.  Carefully study the job description, review their website, and learn about the industry so that you get a sense of the problems that the employer needs to solve.  If you can present yourself as the solution to their problems, they will be eager to make you an offer.   

Proofread!  Mistakes on your resume can be an automatic deal breaker.  They present you as a poor communicator and they suggest that your work is sloppy.  Read and reread your resume to make sure that you catch all those little mistakes.  You might even consider asking someone else to review it in case you missed something.

You could be the most skilled applicant for a position, but if you are not strategic about your resume, it will be ignored.  However, if you put in a little bit of extra effort, you may be surprised by the response that you get.

(Written by Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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The Real Reason You’re Not Getting Interviews


How many of your resumes have gotten trapped in the black-hole of online applications?  It is sooooooooooo frustrating to spend hours applying and all you get in return is an automated message assuring you that your application has been received.  If you’ve sent out more than fifty resumes and you’re not getting interview calls, then chances are you need to change your approach.  Here are five mistakes that job seekers often make when submitting applications.  Fix them and suddenly your phone may start to ring!

You are sending the same resume to every employer.  One-size fits all is never a good approach for resumes.  To attract employers, you need to customize your resume and cover letter for each individual position.  If you are using a blanket resume, you will not be speaking the employer’s language and it won’t be targeted to the employer’s unique needs.  As a result, the employer may determine that you either do not fully understand the organization or that you are not the perfect fit for the job.

You are focusing on duties instead of accomplishments.  Don’t think of your resume as a description of your experience; instead view it as your primary marketing document.  In your work summary, you want to highlight the skills and experience that are most marketable to potential employers, which is not necessarily the tasks that took up most of your time.  Also, employers don’t want to hear you talking about how amazing you are; you need to show them that you’re amazing by telling them about your quantifiable accomplishments.  For example, “I reduced the customer wait time by 2 business days by streamlining the application process.”  Now that’s impressive!!!

Your resume is not attractive.  Try to put yourself in the position of a hiring manager who has a HUGE stack of resumes in front of them that they need to screen.  Which resume would you pick up?  One with so many paragraphs that the words are spilling off the page?  Or one that is nicely formatted with headings and white space so that it’s easy on the eye?  The answer is clear.  What can you do to make your resume more visually appealing?

You are being cagey.  One of the most important questions that an employer will ask themselves when they are considering hiring you is, “Can I trust this person?”  If they don’t trust you, then the interview is basically over.  Human resources managers are trained to identify inconsistencies in resumes.  Are you being vague about your employment dates?  Do you have unexplained gaps?  Do your skills and work experience seem to be inconsistent with your job title?  If there is anything on your resume that may appear suspicious to a potential employer, it is best for you to explain it.  Otherwise, the hiring manager may just cast your resume aside.

Your resume has errors.  It should go without saying, but each day qualified candidates are missing out on amazing opportunities because they didn’t proofread their resume.  Don’t go through all of that effort just to lose out because of a misplaced comma.

None of this is new, but knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things.  If you are truly not getting any results from your resumes then you have to change something or you could be out of work for a long time!  The job search game is tricky; a small mistake could be costing you a lot of opportunities.  The key is to be adaptable and if a particular strategy isn’t working, be ready to scrap it and try something else.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Idea Go at

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Are You Using Keywords Effectively?

ID-100153291How much thought do you give to the keywords in your resume?  The reality is that submitting an application without keywords is about as effective as throwing a stack of resumes off of a tall building and hoping that an employer will find one.  Since employers are increasingly using automated applicant tracking systems, if your resume doesn’t have the right keywords, it is essentially invisible to employers.  Here are some tips that will help you use keywords in way that brings your resume to the top of the pile:

Use the job requirements.  The trick with keywords is to focus on the technical requirements of the position.  Be as specific as possible about your skills, competencies, software, previous employers, and credentials.  A good approach is to scan a variety of job advertisements and to pull out the terms that appear in a lot of the posts.  Try to think like an employer; which terms would you use to search for candidates?

Customize it for each position.  Since every job is unique, you should be using keywords that are specific to each individual position.  Even jobs with similar requirements could be using very different keywords.  With automated applicant tracking systems, your keywords need to be an exact match with the search terms that the employer is using.  You can often get an idea of the language that the employer is using by looking at the job advertisement and the employer’s website.  

Weave the skills into your resume.  While some job seekers will throw in a list of keywords without context, it is probably not the best approach.  Instead, integrate the keywords into your work experience and training.  You can also add a summary of skills near the top of your resume.  While you want your resume to be scannable, it is a human being who will ultimately make the decision to hire you.   

Use keywords on your social media profiles.  Don’t forget to integrate keywords into your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook profiles.  Today’s job seeker needs to use every opportunity to network and these tools are an excellent way to get connected with recruiters.  You will know that you have used keywords effectively when the jobs start coming to you!

To be successful in today’s job market, you need to be strategic.  It’s not enough to work hard; you need to educate yourself on how employers find candidates and adjust your strategy accordingly.  Job seekers who are adaptable and who consider the employers’ perspective are the ones that will get hired first.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of patpitchaya at

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What do Your Hobbies Say About You?


Should you include your hobbies on your resume?  There are strong arguments on both sides of this debate.  While some people feel that a hobbies section is distracting and may be held against you, others see is as a way to present yourself as the best fit for the organization.    Job seekers sometimes make the mistake of including hobbies that reveal too much about their political or religious beliefs, or that may cause the employer to have concerns about their lifestyle or character.  However, if you never lose sight of the fact that you are trying to make the employer want to hire you, then it shouldn’t be difficult to stay on track.  Here are some ways that your hobbies can make you stand out above your competition:

They provide a glimpse into your personality.  Prior to the interview, there are not a lot of opportunities for the employer to see your personality.  If you believe that your personality is an asset, then you have to get creative.  Your hobbies allow you to paint a picture of yourself.  The key is to try to imagine what type of personality traits they are seeking.  For example, if you are looking for a job in human resources, team sports or any other hobby where you are interacting with people would be ideal.

They reveal your passions.  It is often said that you can tell a lot about a person by what they do in their spare time.  Employers may look to your hobbies to try to get a sense of your values.  Are you passionate about a particular cause?  Do you use your downtime to network, or do you just take the opportunity to relax?  Beware of coming across as a ‘weekend warrior’ who’s true passions are outside of their career.

They demonstrate your skills.  You acquire skills from everything you do.  If you think back, you may find that you gained some of your most important skills through your hobbies.  Review your target job and try to identify the key skills and personality traits.  If some of these skills relate to your hobbies, then it may be worth putting them on your resume.

They show a sense of community-mindedness.  Employers like to hire candidates who are involved in their community.  Employees who are singularly focused on their jobs may not be as healthy and may not have a strong network.  If you demonstrate through your hobbies that you are well-rounded, you may find that it makes your resume even stronger.

Never forget that people are at the heart of the hiring process.  In addition to the required skills and experience, the employer is trying to find the right person for the job.  There is a lot more to you than your professional skills.  If you allow the employer to get to know you, they may connect with you and decide that it’s you (and only you) that they want on their team.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Gualberto107 at

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Is Your Resume Style Doing You Any Favours?

Resume Style

Do you ever feel like your resume is ending up in a black hole?  You do so much work preparing it but after you send it in, you never hear from the employer again.  If this happens to you frequently, it may be an indication that your resume needs a little work.  Here are some things that you should take a look at:

Resume Type.  When you write your resume, you are forced to make a lot of different decisions.  What type of resume should you use?  Should you include an objective?  Should you include a summary of qualifications?  It all depends on you, the employer, and the type of position you are targeting.  However, most employers prefer applicants who are clear about how their skills relate to the job and who are transparent about where and when they attained those skills.  If you have any doubts, ask someone in your network to review your resume and give you feedback.

Page layout.  When it comes to resumes, appearance counts.  Put yourself in the position of a hiring manager who has to screen hundreds of resumes.  Doesn’t it make sense that they would select the ones that are easiest on the eye?  Choose a layout that is professional, attractive and make sure you leave enough white space.  When making decisions about fonts, spacing, and headings, always select the option that will make your resume easier to read.

Content.  Content is the meat and potatoes of your resume so you need to be strategic about the information that you present to the employer.  Don’t think of your resume as a summary of your skills and experience.  Instead, view it as your key marketing document.  Your resume is your answer to the question, ‘Why should I hire you?’  It should include quantifiable accomplishments that clearly demonstrate your skills.  It should also include relevant keywords which will help you pass through both human and automated resume screeners.

Customization.  Have you ever sent out the same resume to twenty different employers?  What was the response rate?  Probably not very good.  When you send your resume out like that, employers will respond to it in the same way as you respond to the spam that you get in your email inbox, because that’s really what it is.  If you are genuinely interested in a job, then demonstrate that enthusiasm to the employer by taking the time to customize your resume.  Eliminate all of the information that is unrelated to the position and draw a clear link between your experience and the requirements of the job.  It takes a lot longer to customize your resume, but you will get a much better response from the employer. 

Often it’s the little things that make the difference. You might make a small change to the format of your resume and suddenly find that your phone is ringing off the hook.  To find a job, you might need to try out a few different strategies.  If one isn’t working, be ready to scrap it and try a different approach.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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5 Things to Look for Before You Hit Send

You would be surprised at how many applications are discarded because of silly mistakes.  When you have errors on your resume and cover letter it makes you look sloppy and it gives the employer doubts about your quality of work.  Here is a checklist that you should complete each time you submit an application.  If your resume and cover letter pass this test, then you’re ready to apply:

Spelling and grammar.  Spelling and grammatical errors look terrible on a resume and since it’s so easy to run a spell check, there’s really no excuse for them.  Even if you’ve proofread it yourself and you’re an amazing speller, run the check!

Employer specific.  It is important that you customize your resume and cover letter to the specific employer for the specific position.  You want to show them that your skills and experience will allow you to meet their needs and that you are a good fit for both the job and the organization.  Most importantly, if you are re-purposing your resume and cover letter, you need to remove any previous customization so you’re not submitting an application with another employer’s name on it.

Up to date.  The easiest way to keep your resume current is to update it as you gain new skills and experience.  Before sending your resume, take a quick look at your most recent position to ensure that everything is still accurate.  In particular, make sure that you add in any new certifications and skills that you may have attained and that you don’t have ‘present’ listed for a position that you have already left.

Overall appearance.  Once you are done proofreading the content, take a quick look at the appearance and layout of your resume.  Are your headings and formatting consistent?  Is it attractive and professionally laid out?  Since you only have a few seconds to catch the employer’s attention, appearance counts!

When you’ve spent too much time looking at a document, it becomes more difficult for you to identify problems within it.  You may find yourself overlooking glaring errors that you definitely should have caught.  For this reason, it’s a good idea to have someone else look at your resume and cover letter.  You want to be judged based on how qualified you are for the position, not on a silly spelling mistake.

(Written by: Karen Bivand)

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