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- We asked professional résumé writers and career consultants for one thing they want people to know about crafting a résumé that will land the job.
- Small mistakes on a résumé can be off-putting to recruiters.
- A strong résumé should answer the "so what?" question and give context to past experiences.
- Experts also say a résumé should be persuasive, not boastful.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Résumés: Nobody likes writing them.
But unless you’re, say, a cranberry bog harvester or a deep sea fisherman, chances are you’re going to need one.
The art of writing the perfect résumé, however, is a mysterious one. There are countless small variables to consider. And opinions on what you should and shouldn’t put on a résumé vary drastically. Should you include your date of college graduation? Some would say absolutely. Others would say that’s a rookie mistake.
So where is a hapless job seeker to turn for solid advice on what makes a great CV? To the experts, of course. In an effort to dispel the shroud of mystery — and anxiety — that shrouds crafting a résumé for many people, we tapped a group of professional career coaches and résumé writers for the one thing they wish job applicants knew about résumés.
Here’s their best advice.
"Make sure your resume doesn’t read like a job description"
Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images
While you need to make it clear what you do at your current job and did at your past jobs, a résumé shouldn’t read like a laundry list of duties, Timothy Lo, cofounder of the business consulting firm Your Next Jump, told Business Insider.
"It’s very common for résumés to read like a list of the person’s tasks, day-to-day activities, roles and responsibilities, how many people they manage, and the size or type of budget they manage," Lo said.
"While there is definitely a place for all of that information — you have to establish context after all — what tends to differentiate a candidate from the pool, and what we find what most employers are really looking for, is answering the ‘so what?’ question. So you do all of these things. That’s great, but so what? What were the outcomes? What were the results? Those things you did, what did they lead to? You don’t want your résumé to just talk about what you do or did, but rather, you want to emphasize how well you do it. You want to show that no matter what you do, you’re going to be really good at it."
"I wish people knew how off-putting small mistakes are"
Spell-check is your friend, according to Paden Simmons, senior vice president of Nigel Frank International, a leading Microsoft recruitment firm.
"Spelling and grammar errors are, largely speaking, avoidable, and simply point towards a careless attitude that always leaves doubts about your desire to land the job," Simmons said.
"Similarly, any dates that don’t match, or contradict other parts of your résumé, will either raise alarm bells that they’re untrue or that you’ve rushed your application, which isn’t a great trait to be revealing at this stage of the hiring process. That’s not to say you can’t overcome them, but they create such an unnecessary stumbling block at a time when you most want to be making a good impression."
"A résumé needs to be clearly focused"
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A big mistake that many job seekers make is being too vague, according to Martin Yate, of Knock Em Dead, a résumé and career coaching service.
"It should be based on what the customer wants to buy, reflecting what you bring to the table with each requirement," Yate said. "Not doing this is why résumés sink to the bottom of résumé databases, never to be seen again."
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