Title Card - Common Resume Misconceptions

Common Resume Misconceptions

When it comes to resumes, most people believe that there is only one right way to create one. You’ve probably seen a few resumes your friends put together, or maybe you’ve been handed one to give to your supervisor. The grand majority tend to feature a straightforward style, with the applicant’s name in slightly larger font at the top, contact information underneath, and simple bullet point lists for work experience, education, skills, and more. Seeing this type of formatting repeatedly might make it tempting to fit in with the crowd, to produce the “professional” style of resume which puts your best foot forward for the widest audience.

So that’s what you do. You produce your template resume, fill it with your outstanding credentials, and send it out into the world with the expectation that your profile would speak for itself. You sit hunched over your phone or laptop, waiting for the flood of calls and emails asking for interviews. Days and weeks pass, and you hear nothing back. You start asking yourself: are you so undesirable that nobody wants you to work for them?

Actually, you may be perfect for many of these positions. You just haven’t grabbed their attention yet.

“But Blog-Writer Sir,” I hear you say, “I put hours of work into my resume to make sure it’s in tip-top shape. I created a professional looking resume just like everyone else. How could I have done it wrong?” The content of your resume is probably as good as you say it is, and you are likely a good fit for many of the jobs you are applying to. The problem is, you aren’t standing out from the crowd, and you aren’t presenting the correct information to the right people.

I am certainly no expert when it comes to resumes, but I had a few eye-opening experiences when they were pointed out for me to adjust. What follows are a few of the traps that I personally fell for, and a few ways you can set yourself free of them.

Trap #1: There is one acceptable professional resume template.

Let’s start with a simple one. Starting this process, you made the assumption that there is a correct format for resumes out there, and if you deviate from that, it’s somehow less effective or will get your resume less traction because it isn’t “professional”. In fact, there are many different templates out there, and in my experience, it’s almost always better to be unique. A splash of colour, a stand-out (but still professional!) font: anything that allows a recruiter to stop and take notice.

The company and field you are applying to also makes a difference! A more traditional format of resume would be ideal when applying to an accountant position at a major bank, but maybe you could experiment if you were applying to a creative position. Imagine handing in a beautifully designed graphic resume to a graphic design position. Seems like the perfect fit, does it not? It allows you to show off your skills and separates you from the large number of other resumes on the pile.

I found that talking to working professionals in the field is a great way to find insight. They have already convinced someone to hire them. Ask them if they did anything special with their resume, and what their tactics were for breaking into the field.

Trap #2: Work experience comes first, it is the most important.

This may or may not be a trap, depending on your level of experience. Naturally, if you have tons of previous work in the field you are applying to, work experience is absolutely the top of the list. It shows you are capable of working productively in the field, and that you were trusted to achieve that work for a certain period of time.

The problem occurs when you have little to no work experience in the field you are hoping to enter. In my case, I worked in a retail position which had absolutely nothing to do with my field, but was something I could do to save money while I was in school so I could stay afloat while earning my degree. Many people do this, and there is absolutely no shame in it. Do what you have to do to survive.

This does mean that the primary relevant experience on your resume is likely not from your work, but from something like your education. Because of this, your work experience should appear lower than your more relevant education, allowing the recruiter to make that connection first. Perhaps you have extracurricular clubs or events with high relevancy, like taking part in a robotics competition as a programmer when applying for a computer science position. This would certainly be more relevant to a programming job than retail sales. Employers have a lot of resumes and a limited amount of time, so first impressions are always top priority. The sooner you can get to the relevant information, the better.

Another issue might involve international experience. Many employers are looking to see that you are able to perform in the domestic market under their country’s laws and economic system. Two jobs with similar titles may be run differently depending on the country the employee’s duties were carried out in. This is somewhat of a toss-up, and you should absolutely use your judgment in the matter. Opinions of professionals in the field are still extremely valuable here, and while they don’t speak for every company, some information is better than none. The more you talk to people, the more you learn, and the better you can put your knowledge to use. Knowledge is power!

Trap #3: Your resume is universal, it works for everybody.

Especially when applying online, it can be very tempting to just send the same resume to everyone. Job boards like LinkedIn and Indeed make it easy to upload a resume to your profile, then have it on hand when it comes time to apply. I have been stuck here before, where the resume section of the application form comes up, and your previous resume is ready to send without any input from you. When you want to send out rapid-fire resumes, it can be very handy. Unfortunately, it means your resume is generic, and not focused on the specific job.

I had a very clear transitional period in my resume building process. When I was first starting out, I had a generic resume for everyone, with no specifics for any company. I started realizing I had different industries and fields I was applying to, and I ended up having a different resume for each field. Better, but not quite right either.

Eventually, I started understanding that to give yourself the best chance of success, the skills and competencies they would be looking for could be folded into my experience descriptions. If recruiters read similar words in your resume to those they give in their job posters, it is much easier for them to draw the connection as to where you qualify for that experience, and what you can do for the company.

In the end, everything is about setting yourself apart from the masses:

  • Give your resume a touch of flair to let it stand out in the pile.
  • Order and trim your resume by relevance, so that the employer can see what matters to them.
  • Tailor your resume to the job itself, keeping industry in mind, and using their own words to describe your experiences.

Give the hiring manager every reason you can why they should pick you above the others. Put your best foot forward, and show them you’re really interested, and that you care about how you appear on the page. Effort will be noticed, and might allow you to see more handshakes in the future.