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Top 5 reasons your resume is cr@p!

As any recruiter, hiring manager or resume writer will tell you, most people have really average resumes.

I'm always pretty shocked when a client sends through their resume prior to their consult. It's usually unclear, confusing, has poor design, looks dated, and doesn't sell the person at all.

And I often find that the more impressive the person, the worse the resume.

Image of a resume on a table next to a woman typing on a laptop

So why do people have such average resumes or CVs?

I think it's because a resume is something you only need occasionally - most people don't change jobs that often.

Plus most people hate talking themselves up and selling themselves.

Which brings me to the 5 reasons your resume is cr@p! (Cue drumroll...)

1: Your resume doesn't sell you

Even though you probably hate selling yourself, that is exactly what your resume needs to do.

Most people seem to think a resume is a long list of jobs and responsibilities, but these days that will not cut it - even in this candidate's market.

Your resume is essentially a sales document, selling you to the prospective employer.

So how do you make sure your resume sells you? It needs to be punchy, easy to read, and highlight your unique selling points, key skills/strengths, and key achievements.

You need to brainstorm your top skills and strengths, and work out what is unique about you.

What do you bring to a role that makes you stand out compared to other applicants?

These skills and unique selling points need to be on the front page of your resume in a Professional Profile followed by a Key Skills section.

You also need to include Key Achievements for each recent job role, and put the most impressive achievements on the front page of your resume.

I like to think as page 1 of the resume as your sales page. So go and check your resume now. Is page 1 selling you to the reader? If not, add in a Professional Profile, Key Skills and Key Achievements section, and start brainstorming your content.

2: Your resume is confusing

It's said that a recruiter will skim a resume in 7.4 seconds.

So if your resume is confusing and/or doesn't sell you clearly (see reason 1 above), it's unlikely you will be selected into the 'maybe' pile.

You don't want someone to have to read pages of badly formatted text to get an understanding of your career history, skills and achievments.

So make sure you have a clear professional profile that states who you are, what you bring to an organisation, and what's special about you in terms of your skills.

And also make sure that your resume is formatted clearly with the expected sections, meaningful job titles, and dates that make sense. (Overlapping roles and gaps can be confusing; explain them if necessary.)

3: Your resume doesn't incorporate keywords

Keywords are super important when you are applying for jobs. In order to get past HR - both the computer version (Applicant Tracking Software; ATS) and human version - you'll need to make sure all aspects of your job application contain keywords.

You'll find the keywords in the 'what we are looking for' or 'selection criteria' section of the job ad or position description.

You should incorporate the keywords into your resume in the Professional Profile and Key Skills sections.

If you are applying for similar roles, you shouldn't need to update your resume too much each time, as most similar roles have similar keywords. However, you'll need to do some major tailoring of your resume if the job you are applying for is quite different.

4: Your resume looks really dated

Design might not be the most important thing about your resume, but good design certainly helps the reader to find the information they need - plus it's good for your professional image!

Nothing dates you more than an italicised Times New Roman style font with tables... (I recently met with a client. I was expecting someone in their 60's because their resume was so old fashioned, but it turns out she was in her 40's. It was just poor font choice!)

I recommend using a clean font that is modern, simple and easy to read, such as Arial or Calibri.

My favourite is Calibri light with the main text in very dark grey, size 11, with a complementary colour such as black or dark blue for headings.

Avoid using mulitiple colours, dated fonts and unnecessary underlining and italics. And you don't need to add a photo unless you are an actor. They can look at your LinkedIn profile if they want to know what you look like.

5: Your resume is too long

And not just too long, but too long and boring. Please don't list the minute detail of every job you've ever done!

I generally say aim for 3 pages and do not go longer than 4 pages unless you are an academic and you need to list research publications.

So how do you keep your resume succinct?

Have a Career Summary table on the front page which lists most of your professional roles.

Then in the Career History section only list roles from the last 10 -12 years (or your last 3 major roles).

Obviously this rule of thumb won't work for everyone, but it does for most people.

And don't worry if your resume is 3 or 4 pages. Resume length is a controversial topic! People panic because they have heard that resumes are supposed to be 1 or 2 pages.

But you'll be pleased to hear that 3 - 4 pages is okay for a resume in the Australian professional market. North American resumes tend to be shorter.

Hopefully now you've identified where you've being going wrong with your resume you can work through each area and create a resume you are proud of - and which ensures you get that next job interview!

Need help getting your resume up to standard? I can help with my Not Just a Resume Template program:

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