If you have been laid off, if you are looking for a new career, or you recently graduated from college, you need to create a stellar resume to start your new job search. Having a solid, result-driven resume is essential to land any job. Most HR personnel (Human Resource people) glance at resumes for 5-10 seconds before deciding if the resume warrants further review or if it gets tossed in the trash or deleted from their incoming e-mail account. As you probably have heard numerous times, your resume is your first (and sometimes last) impression.

The way you create and organize your resume is as important as the way you write it. A few years ago professional resume writers advised people to write their resumes based on templates from MS-Word or WordPerfect, but today these same experts recommend you do not plug your information into boilerplate templates. Many resume templates are outdated, poorly put together, and contain irrelevant information to employers who are now technology-savvy.

Sarah Templeton, an executive writer at A-Plus Resume Writing Services in Orlando, Florida, advises job seekers to drop the “Goals” or “Mission” portion of the resume. “In the past job seekers commonly inserted a short statement at the top of the resume to indicate their long-term employment goals,” says Templeton. “These days employers do not have time to waste reading unnecessary descriptions that don’t detail your experience, skills and education.”

You can find many (perhaps too many) qualified and unqualified writers and writing companies that specialize in creating professional resumes, but they often charge from $100-$300 to personalize a resume for your situation. It’s easy to create your own professional looking resume–after all, you know yourself better than anyone who can try to translate your personality and experience to paper.

Avoid these common resume writing mistakes:

Misspelled words, grammar mistakes, and stupid typing errors: These are, by far, the most common mistakes on a resume because they are easy to commit. Luckily, they are just as easy to correct. Use a spell check to catch misspelled words and ask a friend or relative to proofread your resume before you send it to the employer. Make sure you have no typing errors, repeat words, fragmented sentences, or sentences without punctuation. Most of these errors occur due to laziness or because you are in haste to send out your resume. Do a perfect job the first time, and you can keep using this resume to send out to future employers.

Being unspecific (general) about your experience: When you outline or describe your previous experience, the employer wants to know about your specific skills and how you will use these skills to contribute to the success of the company. For example, if you worked previously in sales, then you don’t want to mention plainly that “I sold software over the phone and via the Internet.” Instead, you must specify how your skills contributed to the company, such as: “In a 4 month period I completed an in-depth analysis of our sales structure and created a new cost-effective sales strategy that saved the company $14,500 annually” or ” I sold over $22,000 worth of software and added 19 new clients in the fourth quarter.”

You can see, through the employer’s eyes, that you’d be interested in a person who saved their company money, improved sales, and established connections with new clients. Writing plainly about your experiences provides no useful information to the employer. Always dive deep into details about your accomplishments, specific skills, specific obstacles that you overcame, etc. Dress up your resume with details.

Making your resume too generic: When you prepare your resume to send out to potential employers, it’s tempting to download a generic (fill-in-the-blanks) resume from the Internet and plug in your information. This is a big mistake. Because employers receive dozens of resumes in any given month, they can spot generic resumes by glancing at the first three lines. Employers know that it takes less time, effort and thought into preparing a general resume; therefore, the first impression that your generic resume makes is a negative one. Generically prepared and addressed resumes end up in the trash. Again, we come back to the tip of being specific. Employers want to know why you want to work for them–specifically. Research the background of the company and find at least three reasons why you eagerly want to work for them. In your cover letter you can list the reasons why you’d be a valuable asset to the company, and then you can conclude with the reason why you want to work for that company. For example, let’s say you are interested in working at ABC Company, Inc. because they have an excellent reputation in their industry.

Being unclear about relevant experience and accomplishments: You will bore a potential employer if you state in your resume that you answered phones for eight hours a day without taking a bathroom break for your last employer. Writing that “I had many duties including answering the phones for the length of my shift every day” will not win you a job. In fact, the lack of effort in writing specifically about relevant experience will turn away any employer reviewing your resume. It’s better to write, “I found a new phone service that increased efficiency by 28% over the course of six months.” Here, you sound specific, more focused and more impressive. Focus on important, relevant tasks that you successfully completed, not just what you did to fill in the time every day.

Providing too much information: In college your professor might have taught you to include your outside interests and hobbies to personalize your resume and to show some aspects of your personality. You can throw out what your professor taught you. Today’s employers could care less if you coached a little league baseball team or you volunteered for your church fundraiser. Everything that you include in your resume must strictly be succinct and relevant to the job for which you are applying.

These are the most common mistakes in writing your resume. If you eliminate these mistakes, you will have an excellent chance at impressing a prospective employer to hire you.

About the author: Juan Perry is a freelance writer who covers topics on employment and writing resumes.


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