Reflections of a job fair

BY SAMANTHA NOLAN Published: March 9, 2012
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Attending a regional job fair in February, I had the opportunity to speak to a number of candidates, most of who were seeking insight into why they were not getting calls for interviews.

I thought I would review some of the most common mistakes I found while evaluating résumés, in the hopes that this helps you identify ways in which you can improve the effectiveness of your job search.

Aesthetics & Formatting

One of the major downfalls I noticed was that the majority lacked any visual appeal, were typically created using common templates, and were inconsistent in the use of formatting.

While content is very important in creating a résumé that grabs the attention of the reader, the aesthetics of that document can compel or repel someone’s interest.

Heading

While most may feel that this section is self-explanatory, I noted some major mistakes on numerous résumés. The heading on your résumé should include your name, address, phone number(s), and email address.

Be sure to take a moment to look at your email address and verify that it reinforces the professional tone of your résumé. I noticed many email addresses that contained birth years, ages, and other personal information that should not be presented on a résumé.

Also, never list a work phone number as this could tell a prospective hiring manager that you do not value your employer’s resources.

Qualifications Summary

I was a little troubled to see that the majority of résumés still do not contain qualifications summaries, and instead waste space presenting a vague objective that serves no purpose on a résumé.

Defining your objective is critically important to the development of this section, but instead of simply stating your objective, this section, along with everything on your résumé, should be developed to sell yourself for the type(s) of roles you are seeking.

Engage the reader by performing due diligence to understand the keywords for the position(s) of interest, and infuse those keywords throughout this summary and the remainder of your résumé.

I will agree with many of the attendees who mentioned they struggled with this section; it is typically the most difficult part of a résumé to write. As a tip, start writing your résumé from the bottom up, beginning with the easier sections and leading to the summary.

Professional Experience

Next to the qualifications summary, a strong professional experience section, with achievements highlighted, is critical in driving a successful job search.

A lot of candidates seemed to struggle in determining how many years of experience to disclose on their résumé, and unfortunately while there are guidelines, there are no steadfast rules on this topic.