Recruiters receive tons of applications and there seem to be some patterns...time to make sure your resume isn't guilty of these faux pas.

I have been a resume writer for a couple of years now. Lately, though, I've had the opportunity to be on the hiring side. A friend whose business is growing rapidly asked me to help out with office work, including some hiring, and it has been quite the learning experience; I believe this task has made me an even better resume writer and has taught me a great deal about resume dos and don'ts.

The position I've been trying to fill is precise and the posted job description is very clear: Full Time Bookkeeping and Administrative Assistant with QuickBooks, advanced Excel experience, and meticulous data entry required.

Within 48 hours of the posting we received about 40 resumes and they continued steadily after that.

Here are some resume mistakes, facts, and cautionary resume help I can offer from what I saw:

  1. Approximately 95% of the resumes contain the words “detail-oriented,” “excellent verbal and written communication” or “Able to communicate both verbally and in writing,” and “organized.” You can bet not every single applicant really exhibits these characteristics and we plan to give each candidate a data entry and transcription test. My guess is very few will pass; some of the resumes themselves are barely coherent. These self-description statements are so prolific, we've taken to ignoring the summary altogether and go directly to the experience and background area to search for QuickBooks and Excel. I'll bet that's what recruiters at the larger companies do as well.

  2. Few people list their related skills at the top, or at all. The skills area can provide searchable key industry words for applicant tracking systems (ATS) and search engines and yet only one or two resumes show skills or include a skills area that lists specific skills for the position. I have actually had to dig for the information.

  3. Some applicants (about 20%) come from unrelated fields (manufacturing, elderly care, art, IT) and send resumes totally unrelated to this field without any reference to the job requirements. In terms of resume dos and don'ts, this is a huge don't.

  4. At least half the resumes don't include some of the major points in the job description. A few otherwise very qualified people omitted QuickBooks even though it turns out they have been using it for years.

This has been quite the eye-opening experience. As a resume writer, when I close out a project, I remind my clients that the final version of their resume is in Word. This is important because position titles and job descriptions vary wildly company to company and organization to organization. Each posted position will contain very specific language and keywords that applicants can use - should use - on their resume. If the position requires AutoCAD, and you have used AutoCAD, list that as a skill. If the position requires data analysis and you have experience with data analysis, list that. This is why experienced resume writers advocate focusing your resume and career coaches tell clients to have more than one resume - each resume has a specific focus.

What's the resume help take away here?

Focus your resume to the position to which you are applying. This can be very annoying, admittedly a cumbersome task, especially if you're just out of college and looking at a variety of positions or you're not yet sure about your career path or you're changing careers. There are so many jobs that are similar with different titles. In the past, I've been the random sender as well. When you're looking for a job full time and you're sending out 20-30 resumes per day, you can get burned out. I get it.

As your potential hirer, I suggest - actually, beg - you take an extra moment to read the job description and appropriately add important keywords. Now that I've experienced the hiring side of resumes, I see the power of resume mistakes and what's at stake. Seriously - your resume is the difference between a job and the shredder.

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