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Five Critical Resume Mistakes

A strong resume is one of your greatest assets in the job search. A resume is more than just a record of your past employment and educational background. It’s a targeted marketing tool that, pills if done right, can make you stand out from the crowd and catch the attention of managers and recruiters. Competition for most jobs is stiff, and most resumes are skimmed rather than read. Avoiding these five critical resume mistakes can help keep yours out of the reject pile.

Mistake #1: Not adapting your resume to the specific job you’re applying for. No matter how many resumes you send out, each one must be tailored to match the requirements of the job. If you use a one-size-fits-all resume, you’ll miss opportunities.

Mistake #2: Not including keywords from the job description in your resume. Many companies use an automated tool to scan incoming resumes. If yours doesn’t contain the keywords the machine is looking for, it may never be viewed by a human.Resume

Mistake #3: Including too much content on the resume. Your resume shouldn’t provide complete job descriptions for each of the jobs you list—just the highlights, and especially those highlights that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for. When it comes to content, more isn’t always better.

Mistake #4: Using non-standard formatting. Unusual formatting can make your resume stand out…but not necessarily in a good way. Using non-standard formatting might make the reader think you’re not professional or you don’t know what’s expected of you. Find other outlets for your creativity–in most fields, your resume isn’t the place for it.

Mistake #5: Allowing typos, spelling errors, and grammatical errors to remain on the resume. Recruiters and hiring managers are often looking for any possible excuse to eliminate a resume from consideration. You could be the best fit in the world for the job, but if your resume is sloppy, it will likely be discarded. To be safe, ask a friend–or even a professional editor–to proofread your resume before you send it out. It’s well worth the extra step.

Avoiding these common mistakes will take a little extra effort on your part, but it can help set you apart from the competition and pay off in the form of more interviews and, with luck, job offers. Good luck!

E-mail: Pet Peeves and Preferences

Everyone has a pet peeve or two when it comes to e-mail. For Len Elliott, Financial Aid Director at a major Midwestern research university, it’s thank-you e-mails. “The thank-you is implied,” says Len. “There is no question this is what I’m expected to do. I don’t want a thank you email. There’s nothing endearing to me about the thank you email.” Len processes financial aid payments to hundreds of students, including all internal and external awards for Ph.D. students in 15 research departments. He estimates he receives about 70 e-mails a day, 30 of which involve “serious problems” that each require as much as four hours of work. Sometimes, during his busy season from July through September, Len misses checking his emails for several days: “I look at my inbox and it has 400 emails in it. And I think, ‘is this something else I have to do?’ I dread opening them. And then there’s nothing worse than a stale thank-you.’”

But what about courtesy? Isn’t it polite to say “thank you” when someone helps you? “I really don’t need a thank you,” says Len. “But if it makes you feel better—if I really got you out of a bind or something—just put it in the subject line.” Len goes on to talk about Katherine, a former colleague in the Registrar’s office. Once she had finished a task, she simply added the word “done” in front of the e-mail subject line, and her readers understood there was no need to open that message. “’Done,’” says Len. “That’s my favorite four-letter word.”

Katherine’s solution is one that organizations are adopting to cut down on the time spent on opening e-mails needlessly. Many people now write their entire message—as long as it’s brief—in the subject line, followed by “(eom)” for “end of message.” For instance, when a programmer writes “Adam working from home today (eom),” his colleagues know they don’t have to open that message; they can simply delete it from their inboxes.

As the technology of communication evolves, so do its protocols. Staying flexible and being sensitive to the needs of others is the cure for most e-mail pet peeves.

What are your e-mail pet peeves?

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