We get a lot of resumes from students. Over the years we’ve seen all kinds of resumes: good, bad and indifferent. I don’t know what your career placement people are telling you, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Your counselors may be telling you that your resume is your foot in the door, your way to get noticed. Nope. Here’s the secret.
Your resume is used against you as a rejection tool.
It’s not your way in – it’s our way out.
We get so many resumes that we yearn for ways to sort them effectively. We can sort them by all kinds of positive measures: grade point average, major, leadership positions, career goals, extracurricular activities. But we also filter them by negative measures, the things that make it easy for us to reject a candidate and thereby reduce the number of serious applicants.
Here are four of those negative measures that you should avoid on your resume:
1. Spelling and Grammar Errors – If you send your resume in Microsoft Word format, it should be obvious (but apparently isn’t because I’m mentioning it here) that I can see the wiggly red and green underscores highlighting spelling and grammar errors as easily as you can. Even without those highlights, we’re pretty good with words and sentences. We value writing so highly that every job posting of ours includes the requirement that qualified candidates must have excellent communications skills. You should proofread your own resume and get as many friends, family members and advisors to proofread it, too.
Be aware that misspelling our company name leads to immediate rejection. Yes, that happens.
2. Unprofessionalism – Of course, I wouldn’t include an applicant’s real email address in a blog post, but hot_chocolate@ and sxy_kitten@ are very close to actual email addresses from which we’ve received resumes. We’re looking to hire someone who is a professional. That doesn’t mean we’re looking for a bunch of stiffs, just that you need to have a sense of propriety. Get yourself a Gmail account like firstname.lastname@example.org and use that for your job search.
And please check that email address regularly for replies because we will follow-up by email. Candidates have used email addresses they later confess to not checking very often.
3. Objective Doesn’t Match Position – If we’re advertising for a software developer or computer programmer and the objective on your resume says you want to be the best thermal systems engineer you can be, we have absolutely no qualms about rejecting you. Otherwise, we feel we’d be holding you back.
We once received a resume with an objective along the lines of “I’m seeking a decent job that will support my various after-hours pursuits.” We made sure the candidate had plenty of free time for those pursuits.
4. No Cover Letter – Your cover letter is how you compel us to open your resume. Remember, we’re busy. While your resume contains just the facts (name, address, major, GPA, degrees, work history), your cover letter should reveal some of your personality and impress us with your passion for our particular job opening.
We realize that many of you are hamstrung in this regard by the job posting and resume software systems that your university uses. From an employer’s standpoint, we think they suck, too.
Here’s a bonus fifth tip. Give your resume a unique file name so that when we save it on our computer we don’t end up with 42 files all called resume.pdf. Our suggestion is to name your resume Lastname_Resume.pdf. It’s a little thing but it helps us.
Pointwise is looking for two summer interns: one for our technical support team and one for our product development team (www.pointwise.com/jobs). We look forward to receiving your excellent resume soon.
Employers: What other resume faux pas would you like to mention?
Students: What drives you nuts about prospective employers?