If your heart rate is a little faster than usual it might be because you’re in the thick of job-application season, so take a breather and slow down in order to make sure you have all the essentials in check. For example: the resume. It’s perhaps the single most important piece of paper you’ll ever send out, as it gets your foot in the door with potential employers. So to make sure you’re resume is doing its job properly, avoid the following:
- Weighing it down with junk. No one wants to know every single thing you’ve ever done ever. Instead of junking up the page with each volunteer opportunity, extracurricular activity, or academic credential, cull out what’s most important. Your resume isn’t a catalog of your life, but instead a streamlined list of what you’ve experienced and achieved in relation to what you’re applying for. In other words: make every word count.
- Stuff that happened a long time ago. If you avoid the above pitfall, you should have no trouble avoiding this one, too. In general, potential employers don’t want a laundry list of, say, your high school achievements. As impressive as they are, if you can’t speak to collegiate or internship experience, then you won’t be taken as seriously as you might be hoping.
- Generalizations. It’s always good to put a “Skills” section on your resume: just a short list of what you’re competent at. For example, if you’re a social media wizard, go ahead and say you’re proficient in the art of Facebook and Twitter. Don’t just put down something general, though, like “media.” There are a lot of different kinds of media, and if you want to be taken seriously you have to get specific.
- Clunky grammar and syntax. There’s no reason why you have to fill up your resume with paragraphs of explanations about your experiences. Chances are if you have to write down a ton of words to explain yourself then you’re doing it wrong, and getting clunky. Instead, write out short, effective lists with efficient and powerful verbs. For example, have you ever helped someone create an organized list of contacts for a specific purpose? Well, then, you might say: “developed a database.”
- Errors. If even one spelling error shows up on your resume then that might be enough to blow your chances, considering you’re going up against many others. So be careful, and proofread, proofread, proofread.