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4 resume mistakes to avoid

May 01, 2014

The ideal resume can open up new career opportunities in IT, but a subpar resume can shut down your job search before it really gets going. If you want to have a decent chance when it comes to the most desirable IT jobs available, you need to avoid unforced errors.

Here are four of the most significant and common errors to avoid when crafting your resume.

1. Misspellings and grammar mistakes
The importance of submitting an error-free resume should go without saying, but many IT job applicants commit this mistake repeatedly. Misspellings, grammar errors and typos are symbols of carelessness and a lack of professionalism, and they are also major pet peeves for hiring managers and recruiters. These decision makers view so many resumes every day that an error-ridden offering stands almost no chance of moving on to the interview stage.

Part of the reason why language issues are so prevalent, despite how obviously damaging they can be, is that job applicants often rely on automatic spell-check software for proofreading. They assume that if Microsoft Word or Pages does not detect any errors, then the document must be clean. But this is hardly the case. Speaking to Digiday, career expert Kelly Moeller noted that many of the errors she sees go unnoticed by spell-check software because the applicant has simply typed the wrong word. For example, many candidates write "manger" when they mean "manager."

To avoid these silly and devastating mistakes, Moeller recommended that you have at least three people read over your resume for errors before you submit it as part of a job application.

2. Vague claims
Moeller also emphasized the importance of avoiding vague language when describing your responsibilities and achievements, the news source noted. It may be tempting to use general terms when describing your experience with a company, but this will suggest that your impact was minimal.

For example, Moeller urged applicants to resist writing that they were "involved' with or "participated" in a project. Instead, she urged job seekers to use more powerful, active language.

"When candidates are able to use more impactful verbiage ('created,' 'developed'), those are words that really grab attention from hiring managers, because that's what they need," said Moeller, the news source reported. "They're looking at how they can alleviate their pain point or their business challenge. So if they need someone to create or develop something and they see that in writing, it automatically gives that person a leg up."

Similarly, a 2013 Harris Poll for CareerBuilder found that hiring managers are drawn to specific descriptions of skills and accomplishments, and look down on overly familiar and ambiguous terms, the Shreveport Times reported. 

"Subjective terms and cliches are seen as negative because they don't convey real information," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, the news source noted. "For instance, don't say you are 'results-driven.' Show the employer your actual results."

3. Distortions and exaggerations
This is one of the most common mistakes that job applicants make on their resume, and one of the most potentially damaging. The Shreveport Times noted that a 2013 EmployeeScreenIQ survey found that most bosses had encountered few or zero resumes featuring exaggerations and distortions. This year's survey, however, found that about one-third of participating decision-makers estimated that 16 to 30 percent of all applicants' resumes included misleading information.

More importantly, almost three-fourths of employers said they would not hire anyone who engaged in such practices, either on their resumes, via social media or on any other channel.

Hiring managers can usually spot exaggerations and distortions quickly, and will immediately dismiss resumes that seem dishonest. And even if they do not identify the untruths at this stage, they will during the interview. It is far better to stick to the truth at all times throughout your resume.

4. Underselling yourself
However, it is critical that you do not overcompensate and actually sell yourself short. Many job applicants feel uncomfortable when writing about their achievements, as they fear this will come across as braggadocio. This may cause candidates to water down their resumes with less impressive descriptions of their skills and experiences.

Considering how many applicants the most prestigious IT jobs typically draw, such modesty is a cardinal error. Your resume must serve as a sales pitch, and you must do all you can to emphasize your value without exaggerating the truth.

"Make sure that your resume represents you well," recommended Randy Miller, vice president and general manager of an employment firm, the Shreveport Times reported. "Make sure it has all of your knowledge, skills and abilities, what we call the KSAs, from each of your positions. Make sure you highlight all that you did and all the accomplishments that you have."

Strong language demonstrating your best abilities should be the hallmark of every resume you send out during your job search.

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