These are all basic rules, but they all seem to get broken constantly. All of these should be obvious to anyone who’s conscious (maybe even the lightly sleeping), but they must not be. On to the rules!
- Proofread your resume. This is the most basic rule I can imagine, and yet it has been violated so many times that it’s threatening to press charges. I’ve gotten applications for the Administratvie Assistant position from people living in Memhpis. Spellcheck, and fix your grammar. I’m not interested in your “too years of experience”. And proofread your cover letter and/or email, too. Misspelling the name of our company is not helping your cause.
- Remember to attach your resume. This one really hurts. Don’t send a wonderful email and forget to attach your resume. I know, I know, people make mistakes. People who make mistakes during the application process don’t get hired. Remember, this is your first (and probably only, if you don’t attach your resume) chance to impress a prospective employer.
- Don’t dump your resume into an email. I don’t know what fool has been giving out resume advice lately (aside from myself), but apparently, lots of people apparently think I’d prefer a resume dumped in an email to a nicely formatted PDF or DOC file. Trust me, I don’t. Unless your prospective employer specifically asks for this, don’t do it. Your resume looks horrible and sloppy when you do this. I did have one industrious applicant who actually submitted her application as an email, but took great care to format it with lots of HTML and tables. Unfortunately, when I printed it, the right side of her resume was cut off. It ended up in the “no interest” pile, along with the rest of the email-as-resume group.
- Microsoft Works is not your friend. I know, you’ve got Works already and Microsoft Office is expensive. I don’t care. Someone you know has a copy of Microsoft Word. Put your resume together on their computer. Why? Because I use Linux at work and OpenOffice has no idea what to do with a Works file. Even my laptop with Microsoft Office couldn’t open those files without installing a new plugin. Rich Text Format files are likewise not your friend, but a PDF will get you bonus points. (OpenOffice files would have been fine for us, too, but probably not for most employers.)
- Follow standard resume guidelines. Your resume doesn’t make you look different or clever, and it’s not supposed to. Your resume should make you look professional. That is your primary goal. Your “special” colors are not helping. That cute divider you used is not impressing me. Your resume cannot, and should not attempt to, convey your personality. You can show us your personality when you come in for an interview, after we select you based on your professional resume.
- Don’t use an embarassing account on a lame email provider. I know hotmail and yahoo are free, but your cutegurl56xx username just isn’t cool. I’m also not interested in trying out the new game advertised on the bottom of your hotmail account. If you must use a free provider, make sure that they aren’t tacking ads on the bottom of your emails. And please, get a better username.
- Don’t have a resume objective. This goes contrary to a great deal of resume advice out there, but it needs to be said. Raise your hand if you know what the “objective” on a resume is for. If your hand is up, put it down. You’re lying. About eighty percent of the resumes we received for this latest position listed an objective. Out of those, zero percent had an objective that said anything good. Every single one was either generic (“To obtain a job in which my skills will be useful”), irrelevant (“To join a fast-growing company”), or flat out wrong (“To obtain a graphic design position”). At best, an objective wastes space on your resume. At worst, it shows you as boring, lazy, or misinformed. I’d rather read that you were in 4-H than read your objective.
- Don’t put friends as references. This one was kind of fun. We actually had some applicants naming each other as references. Did they think we just wouldn’t notice? You should never list as a reference a person who would list you as a reference. You should list bosses, professors, etc. If you can’t fill your references without listing friends, you need to figure out why that is, and make some changes.
- Include a cover letter. There’s some disagreement about this one, but I think a cover letter is a definite plus. I’d prefer a nicely formatted document as the cover letter, but I will settle for a well-written email. What I will not settle for is a one-line email with no cover letter attached. “Please see attached resume.” Okay, please see trash folder. I want something other than just the resume. The letter (or email) is somewhere that you can actually speak to me. If you can’t manage that, I’m not interested.
These nine rules are all fairly simple and straightforward. Following them will go a long way toward impressing a prospective employer. Remember, your resume is your first impression. It should sparkle, or at the very least, glimmer a little bit.
Update: I’ve put up four more Bonus Resume Tips.