These are dark days for many American workers. Layoffs are mounting — 533,000 people lost their jobs in November alone — and the bloodletting hasn't stopped yet. In times like these, it's more important than ever to have a sparkling, flattering resume at the ready. The only way to accomplish that is to avoid shockingly common resume blunders. Consider these tips.
1Stress your successes. Rather than listing the basic job duties you've performed in a ho-hum way, emphasize your accomplishments. Ask yourself these sorts of questions: Did you shine in certain ways in your last job or jobs? Did you make money for the company or save it money? What noteworthy results can you cite? Did you receive awards or promotions?
2Steer clear of vague objective statements. Job-search Web site Monster.com shares this as an example of an essentially meaningless objective: "A challenging position enabling me to contribute to organizational goals while offering an opportunity for growth and advancement." Instead of using something like this, prepare a clear and specific objective for each employer you approach.
3If you truly need more space, use it. The pressure to keep your resume to one page can get to be a little ridiculous at a certain point in your life, and the struggle may not be necessary, especially if you have years of experience in your field. Hiring managers say they don't want you to omit important accomplishments for the sake of brevity. At the same time, they also don't want to endure long, rambling resumes full of irrelevant details.
4Omit certain details for sure. Avoid including any of these: the names of your spouse and children; your age, height or weight; detailed lists of hobbies or short courses you've taken, unless they're relevant to the position you're seeking; salary history; reasons for leaving past jobs; and any reference to health.
5Use strong verbs. Don't refer to yourself with the terms "I" and "me"; instead, start each resume entry with strong verbs and action phrases, such as, "Managed a team of 80," "Saved the company $1-million."
6Be a perfectionist about spelling and grammar. Run your resume through a grammar and spell-check on the computer, but don't stop there. Proofread your resume again and again, and ask people you trust to read it. Ask your proofreader friends to point out grammar and spelling errors, sentences that are unclear, details that seem irrelevant and information that is missing.
7Remember to include key words. Key words are relevant job titles, responsibilities, skills and industry-specific terms, and they should be sprinkled throughout your resume. If you're applying for an advertised position, take note of the desired skills and characteristics mentioned in the ad and then incorporate the same or similar words and key phrases into your resume and cover letter.
8Don't reference your references. Does your resume have that "References available upon request" phrase? Delete it; hiring managers know you'll give them references if they request them. Do this: Give your references a heads up that they may be contacted, and send them a copy of your resume so they'll be up to date on your accomplishments.
9Do just so. Submit your materials exactly how the employer wants to see them. If a company specifies it only accepts hard copies of resumes, don't e-mail it. If e-mail is preferred but attachments are not, don't send attachments.
10Pay special attention to your cover letter. No matter how flawless your resume is, it will all be for naught unless you include a well-written cover letter. If hard copies of your resume and cover letter are called for, send a polished package. Use high-quality white or off-white paper, and choose a professional-looking, non-decorative font. Never fold your resume. Address your cover letter to a specific individual if you can, and don't forget to sign it.
Laura T. Coffey can be reached at laura@ tentips.org.
Sources: Monster.com (www.monster.com); eResumes.com (www.eresumes.com); National Association of Colleges and Employers (www.jobweb.com)