5 mistakes that will send your resume straight to the reject pile

Your resume is the very first impression that an employer will have of you, and it’s usually the determining factor in whether you move forward to an interview or get rejected on the spot. That means that it’s crucial to put real energy into getting it right — and yet many job seekers put more energy into picking out an interview suit than they do into writing a strong, compelling resume.

These five common mistakes will virtually ensure that your resume goes straight to the reject pile rather than getting further consideration — but they are easily avoided.

[See: 10 Items to Banish From Your Resume.]

Your resume is four pages long — or even longer. It’s true that resumes no longer have to stick rigidly to a single page, but that isn’t license to turn your resume into a lengthy essay. If you’re in your 20s, your resume still should generally only be one page; you haven’t had enough work experience yet to justify a second one. If you’re older than that, two pages are fine, but three will usually raise eyebrows (not in a good way) and anything longer than that will come across as prohibitive self-importance or terrible judgment. In fact, having looked at tens of thousands of resumes, I can tell you that after two pages, there is an inverse relationship between the number of pages of your resume and the strength of your candidacy.

There’s not much information about what you did in each job — or, conversely, there’s so much information about each job that it’s a challenge to wade through it all. Your resume needs to contain enough information to explain what you achieved in each job; job titles and a single bullet point describing your work in each role aren’t generally going to be enough. At the same time, though, you can’t include so much information that hiring managers’ eyes glaze over. You’re aiming for highlights, not an exhaustive account of everything you did. The idea is to distill your achievements down to what matters most.

[See: The 10 Things You Do That Turn an Interviewer Off.]

You’re extremely overqualified for the job you’re applying for and don’t address that in your cover letter. When employers get a resume from someone whose skills and experience are far beyond what the role calls for, they’ll usually assume that the candidate is either applying to everything they see or that the person fundamentally misunderstood what the job is. The exception to this is if you explain why you’re applying for this particular job, despite it potentially seeming like a step back. That means that if your resume shows qualifications far deeper than the job requires, it needs to be accompanied by a cover letter that explains your interest. For example, you might explain that you’ve realized through experience that front-line accounting work is what you really love, not managing the people doing the accounting work, or that you’re deliberately seeking something with less responsibility than you’ve had in the past in order to obtain a better work-life balance, or whatever your reason is.

You left all the dates off. Sometimes in an attempt to avoid age discrimination, older candidates will leave the dates of employment off of their resume altogether. The problem with doing this is that employment dates are such a standard part of a resume that leaving them off stands out in a negative way. Plus, those dates are important; it matters whether your experience doing relevant work was recent or 15 years ago and whether you did it for six months or for six years. If you’re concerned about avoiding age discrimination, a better option is to only include your job history for the last 15 years. Your more recent experience is likely to be the most relevant and interesting to employers anyway.

[See: 7 Common — and Costly — Cover Letter Mistakes.]

You’re obviously resume-bombing. If your application materials make it clear that you’re applying for every job you see that you’re remotely qualified for, you’re going to torpedo your chances. Employers want candidates who are interested in the particular job they’re hiring for, not just any job, and whose work history is a strong match for the role. Candidates who spray out resumes in all directions tend to figure that this approach can’t hurt — but it will waste your time and make a poor impression on employers who otherwise might have considered you in the future.

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5 Mistakes That Will Send Your Resume Straight to the Reject Pile originally appeared on usnews.com

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