I talk to clients all the time about why they are not getting interviews. Almost invariably, they will insist that there is nothing wrong with their resume. Then I look; in nearly all cases, I see a problem. Remember, when your resume is in front of an actual human being, you have only about 12 seconds to make an impression. Yes, 12 seconds is the average time spent scanning a resume, and after those 12 seconds are up, the person scanning has decided whether to move you along in the pipeline or not. If you are applying for positions for which you are certain you have the minimum qualifications, but still not getting interviews, you need to take a long, hard look at your resume.
Most resume problems fall into one of these categories.
It’s a list of job duties. The daily tasks that you performed in your previous roles do absolutely nothing to sell you and your background to the person who is sourcing candidates. Your resume should not be a task list. It is a marketing tool, and as such, you need to keep in mind that its purpose is to promote you. Rather than listing all of the daily duties for which you were responsible, focus on the outcomes and achievements of previous roles. Quantify these when possible.
The format makes it difficult to understand your career trajectory. If you’re using the “functional resume” format, you need to abandon it ASAP. Most people who review resumes hate the functional format because it makes it difficult to understand what the candidate accomplished in previous roles. Advice to use a functional format to hide gaps in employment is bad advice. Almost everyone, on both sides of the desk, has gaps in employment history. Your best bet is to use the reverse chronological format, which makes it easy to see your employment history and accomplishments.
You have an objective. Or a Yahoo email address. Or a “home phone” listed. Or your home address. All of these are outdated, outmoded, and have long outlived their usefulness. Who cares what your objective is? Replace your objective with a summary section that paints a succinct picture of your core competencies and major accomplishments. Get a Gmail address, and don’t list your landline. Home address? Is someone going to be sending you snail mail? Don’t waste precious real estate on that.
Vanilla. Bland. Basic. Mainstream. Your resume is a generic overview of your career and your accomplishments, but it doesn’t answer the hiring manager’s driving question, which is “will this person excel at the job, and help to make my life easier?” You answer that question by customizing your resume for each application. Read the job description, go to the company website, and see what it is that the organization values, and what is important to them. When you write your resume, use a tone that conveys humanity. Far too many resumes I review read like abstracts from technical or scientific manuals.
Bad grammar is a turn-off. Bad grammar, spelling errors, and other problems with the mechanics of writing can get your resume tossed into the trash bin in an instant. Do not rely on red or green squiggly lines. Proofread thoroughly. Even better, have someone else review it for you.
With such limited time to engage your reader, it is imperative that your resume actually says something about you and your understanding of the business’s problems. Be sure that you convey this, and that you do so in a manner that is easily digestible. Focus on achievements instead of tasks, proofread obsessively, and tweak each resume you send out.