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  • 5 Reasons Your Resume Is Killing You

    In today’s economy, employers are receiving hundreds or even thousands of resumes every single day. One hiring manager for a Fortune 500 company told me that he recently received over 12,000 resumes for one position!

    Hiring managers will not take the time to determine why you should be hired. It’s your job to present your resume in a concise, logical manner that makes it abundantly clear how you can help a specific employer solve their unique problems.

    Upon reading your resume, your target employer must think, “Wow, this person is EXACTLY what we need. We MUST bring this person in for an interview immediately before someone else scoops them up.” If your resume doesn’t cause that reaction, you are probably in for a long, stressful job search.

    Most of the resumes that come across my desk (even those from highly successful senior executives) unfortunately have one or more of the following 5 major errors:

    1. Your resume is not clear.  Your resume will be ignored or thrown in the trash if the hiring manager can’t identify your unique value in a matter of seconds. More importantly, you must illustrate how you are equipped to solve the specific problems facing your target employers. If you try to appeal to everyone (or if you have no focus for your resume), you will be viewed as nothing more than a low-value commodity.

    2. Your resume is not compelling.  Most resumes are dull and unimpressive. To be clear, the people behind the resume are often incredibly talented. However, the document representing them is not.  What you were responsible for is not nearly as important as what happened because of what you were responsible for.  The goal of your resume and your other marketing materials is to emphasize how you have overcome obstacles to deliver positive results throughout your career. Always think and speak in terms of “PAR” (problem, action, result) by identifying the problems you faced, the actions you took, and the positive results for your employer. Show evidence for your credibility by discussing your results, honors, awards, achievements, endorsements, etc. Demonstrate how your employers are better off now than when they hired you. More specifically, you must address the following 3 areas:

    • Profit: How have you made money or saved money for your employers?  How have you increased productivity for your employers?
    • People: How have you raised awareness for your employer’s brand/mission? How have you improved customer service or customer retention? How have you developed or strengthened external partnerships for your employer? How have you improved internal communications or relationships? How have you improved the performance of your colleagues?
    • Projects: How have you initiated, implemented, or improved projects for your employers? How have you met challenging deadlines?

    3. Your resume is not customized. Most job-seekers approach the resume-writing process backwards by updating their resume before studying their target employers or ideal positions. You need to reverse-engineer the process instead.  Start by studying your ideal employers and identifying their unique problems.  Then, build a resume in which you are presented as the solution for the specific challenges facing your target employers. It’s a huge turn-off to hiring managers when someone submits a cookie-cutter resume or cover letter that is clearly being sent to a variety of employers.  In other words, you have to “dress” for the people you want to impress.  The more customized, the better.

    4. Your resume is not concise.  Your resume should not be your autobiography. I occasionally see 2-3 page resumes from young professionals with less than 5 years of full-time experience. I also recently reviewed a convoluted 4-page resume for a senior executive who had 31 bullet points listed for one job! Seriously… 31 bullet points.  While it’s valuable to brainstorm every possible responsibility, qualification, skill, achievement, etc. that could have any relevance to your ideal employers, you have to go one step further by trimming the fat before you submit your resume. Approach your resume like a sculptor. To sculpt a masterpiece, you start with a big slab of “marble.” Then, you chip away from there. Perfection is achieved by subtraction, not by addition. Every single word on your resume either increases your perceived value or dilutes your message.

    5. Your resume is not clean.  Many talented, qualified job-seekers unfortunately never even get a chance for an interview simply because they look unprofessional or unimpressive because of the formatting on their resume.  Your resume must be highly organized, very easy to read, and 100% free of any grammatical errors or typos, or it could be thrown in the trash simply because of its appearance. This might sound harsh, but think about it from the employer’s perspective. If you cannot produce a document that is user-friendly and error-free, how could you possibly be trusted with a more complex project?


    Pete Leibman is the Founder for Dream Job Academy and the Author of the new book titled “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You.”  His career advice has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN, and he is a popular Keynote Speaker at career events for college students and at conferences for people who work with college students.

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    11 comments on “5 Reasons Your Resume Is Killing You
    1. avatar
      Seth Fargher says:

      Great article Pete. I have definitely experienced my resume getting lost in the shuffle at times because I wasn’t specific enough. I’ve saved several “templates” that I begin with when tailoring my resume to a specific employer…Like PR resume, Communications resume or Finance resume. I can then go in and highlight my work experience to what I believe the employer will be most interested in. You always want to leave them feeling like “we can’t continue on without this person.” I loved your PAR acronym also.

    2. avatar

      What is the best way to research companies that are hiring?

      • avatar
        Pete Leibman says:

        Every great employer is always hiring when the right person comes along…most jobs are filled behind the scenes through networking and personal contacts. Jobs are created every day when the right people come along…Not the answer you may have been looking for, but this is the truth. To learn about “hidden” jobs, talk to people working for the organizations you want to work for.

    3. avatar
      Pete Leibman says:

      Seth: glad you liked the article. Good luck with your search!

    4. avatar

      Really like the PAR illustration. Draws a great mental picture to use when writing a resume while also being simplistic and easy to remember.

    5. avatar
      Idealniche says:

      You are absolutely right; resume starts your entrance process in an organization. It’s just like you dress smartly to go to a cool party. At the entrance gate you appearance impresses the security so much they just fulfill their formality and welcome you in the party. Similarly if your resume is so much impressive you would be warmly welcome in an organization for further process of recruitment. Hence better the resume, easier to get a job.

    6. avatar
      Josh Tolan says:

      These are all great tips on how to make your resume work for you instead of against you. Clarity is a major factor, as is tailoring. Too many job seekers forget to tailor their resume to specific positions and instead send out a template. If you care about the position and see a future for yourself at the company, take a few minutes to tailor your resume. Another way to show employers how much you care is to record a video resume. On video you can enhance your traditional resume by showing off your communication skills and showing your passion for the position.

    7. avatar
      Deepti says:

      Great tips. even after months later this article resonates with whats happening in hiring world. I learned to dress up the cover letter in compelling ways for a position, leaving the resume clear, compact & totally based on PAR.

    8. avatar
      Benjamin says:

      Good article Pete, relevant although I’m reading it a year and a half later. Quick question, If I right a PAR for all the projects I’ve been involved in this past year, the length of my resume exceeds a page. Is that okay? I believe the general rule is that the resume shouldn’t be over a page especially if you don’t have a lot of experience (I have only a years’ experience).

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