4 Things To Keep Off Your Resume

resume, words to use
Looking for a job after military service? AOL Jobs is republishing some career stories to help veterans in their job hunt. This story is one of our best career advice stories.

Most employers will tell you that job seekers routinely make obvious, painful errors on their resumes that cost them the job. And while there are online tools that will help you avoid making some of these mistakes, such as punctuation errors, most tools won't catch these four major blunders.

Subjective Text:
When you fill your resume with lavish self-praise, like "dedicated self-starter," "exceptional communication skills," and "hard-working professional," you're just stating your own opinion. This kind of language is like nails on a chalkboard to recruiters. Why? You're not stating facts. Don't tell them how you see yourself. Prove it by listing quantifiable accomplishments. Let the recruiter decide if you're actually a self-starter.

Too Much Info:
Many people assume they should list everything they have ever done at every job. It makes them feel like they're proving they've got valuable experience. Well, in reality, it detracts from your core message and strengths. Information overload to a recruiter is not a way to stand out. It's actually the fastest way to get in the 'no' pile. That's because, when they see you've listed everything, they look for every single skill they need. And, if even one skill is missing, they assume you don't have it.
The better approach is to simplify the resume to list only the key skills you want to leverage. Then you will be implying that you have a lot more to offer -- but the recruiters need to contact you to find out. Less is more. If the hiring managers like what they see, they'll contact you for a phone screen to get more details. And that's exactly what you want the resume to do: Make the phone ring!

Weak Top-Fold:
The first third of our resume is known as the "top-fold" -- it's where the eye goes when someone sees your resume for the first time. Most studies say a hiring manager's mind is made up about the candidate within six to 13 seconds of reading the resume. Which means the top-fold is determining whether you even get considered for the job. Text-intensive top-folds that aren't well-formatted and don't present key skill sets lose the reader's attention. It's that simple.

Fancy Fonts:
Curly-tailed fonts (aka fancy fonts) are harder to read. That translates into the reader absorbing less of what's been written. When you use script fonts as a way to make your resume look "classier," you are only making it harder for the hiring manager to retain what you are all about. Skip the script font and go with something clean-lined, like Arial or Calibri. While that may look more basic, the hiring manager will at least take in more -- and that can lead to the phone call you want.

Keep in mind: Your resume is your marketing document. Paying attention to these minor details can help you get a better response to your marketing message. Which is: "I'm worth talking to about this job!"

How To Keep Your Resume From The Applicant Black Hole

Keep the fancy formatting out of the picture

By Arnie Fertig

Have you wondered what happens to your résumé when you submit it online? The "black hole" it enters is actually an applicant tracking system database. Virtually every major and midsize company, governmental organization and recruiting firm employs this kind of software to contain, manipulate and access the large volume of resumes they receive.

Robin Schlinger, owner of Robin's Resumes, recently outlined how job hunters can best avoid the landmines associated with submitting a resume online at the Career Empowerment Summit, a conference for elite professional résumé writers and career coaches organized by Career Directors International. To get your résumé read, scored highly and acted upon, she offers the following tips:

1. Divide your résumé into clear sections, and use common headers for each one. ATS software often takes cues about what to do with information within a résumé from the heading it is found under. It parses the information and puts it into the database bucket that it "thinks" is the most relevant.

Even if you have the skills, accomplishments or certifications an employer is looking for, if this information isn't located in the right section of your résumé, it likely won't be found. The result is you dramatically decrease your chances of gaining "human" consideration.

Standard headings include: Contact Information, Summary, Professional Experience, Education, Training, Certifications and Skills.

Schlinger suggests using "Professional Experience" as opposed to "Work History" or just "Experience," especially if you have been out of work a while. When handled this way, it becomes fair to include experience you have acquired volunteering when the skills and accomplishments relate to the position you are seeking. Make certain, also, that your listed skills match up exactly on your résumé and LinkedIn profile.

Throughout the résumé, use keywords and phrases you find in the job announcement wherever possible to describe your experience and successes to achieve a higher matching score.

2. Not all ATS systems are alike. There are many systems available today, from large-scale enterprise solutions utilized by corporations to desktop versions suitable for a single recruiting desk. Each imports and stores data its own way, and offers different features to end-users.

When crafting a résumé, Schlinger warns: Some ATS can only read text or Word 2003 files. Many cannot read tables or graphics, some cannot scan italic or underlined words and many will substitute funny characters for non-standard or special characters. Since some can read paper with narrow margins and crammed text while others are incapable of doing so, you should be certain to have adequate margins and use a very standard or "vanilla" font like Helvetica.

Save "pretty" formatting with lines, boxes, graphics, pictures or color for a bio or a different version of your résumé that you distribute in person.

Schlinger goes so far as to suggest that when meeting someone at a company where you want to work, provide them with the dressed-up résumé and another one that is more ATS friendly. You might even say: "Here is a copy of my résumé for you, and in case you want to include it in your company's database, here's another one that will be better suited for that purpose."

3. Myth: You can avoid the ATS black hole by networking.

Reality: While networking is an indispensable part of working your way into a company, many companies require that all résumés, no matter how they are obtained, be put into an ATS system for both compliance reasons and to prevent charges of discrimination.

4. Myth: You can avoid networking by going through the ATS.

Reality: No matter what ATS system is utilized, hiring managers like hiring people they know, or people who are directly referred to them by others they know and trust. If your timing is right, a hiring manager might identify what you offer as priorities for which they request an ATS to screen. And you can still receive preferential treatment once your application is approved through an ATS compliance function.

It is easy to feel slighted when your résumé doesn't rise to the top. And it is easy to blame the grading criteria applicant tracking systems use when you aren't hired for a job. But the reality is that ATS software treats all candidates equally. It is your job to make certain you present your qualifications in a clear format, with content that can be understood both by human beings and ATS software.

When you study the suggestions Schlinger sets forth, you can better understand the "rules of the ATS road" and employ them to your advantage.

Happy hunting!

7 Outrageous Things People Actually Put On Their Resumes

Creative or just plain bizarre?
A vial of blood - real or fake - is an example of something you shouldn't send with your resume. By Alison Griswald

Being creative on your resume can be a good thing. But beware of crossing the line between creative and crazy. "People are always thinking, 'Hey, I want to stand out in the job search,' and that's ok," says Katharine Brooks, executive director of personal and career development at Wake Forest University. "But you don't want to stand out by being weird. You want to stand out for excellence."

While the most common resume mishaps are typos and misspellings, some people venture to the weird and wacky. Career and recruitment experts weighed in on the most ridiculous things they've seen on resumes.

1. A plastic foot
"A candidate sent me a plastic foot, with the opening line of her cover letter stating that she wanted to get her 'foot in the door,'" says Brooks. "Throughout the letter she added other foot references such as 'her shoe was the right fit.' It wasn't."

2. A vial of fake blood
On another occasion, Brooks received a resume that had a small plastic vial of red-colored liquid attached to it and a note saying the candidate would "sweat blood" for the job.

Creative? Yes. But probably not the best way to win over your prospective employer (unless it's Dracula).

3. Body measurements
Gene Gordon, a sourcing expert for recruiting company Decision Toolbox, says he once received the following information on a resume:
  • Height: 5'4"
  • Waist: 28"
  • Hips: 33"
  • Bust: 34"
  • Shirt Size: M
  • Pant Size: 5/6
  • Shoe Size: 8 1/2
  • Hair: Reddish black
  • Eyes: Earth Green
The physical statistics were in no way relevant to the job application, Gordon added.

4. A table of contents
A good rule of thumb is to keep your resume to only one page. Two pages is pushing it, and anything beyond that is far too long.

Well, Mary Massad, division president of recruiting services at Insperity, says she once received a resume so lengthy that the candidate included a table of contents with it. "A resume should never be so detailed and long that it requires a table of contents," Massad says.

5. A chocolate croissant addiction
Just as weird statistics don't belong on your resume, neither do irrelevant interests. Marc Goldman, executive director of the career center at Yeshiva University, says he's seen people list interests such as "eating chocolate croissants" or "Settlers of Catan," the popular board game.

Goldman says people who include random interests on their resumes often do so with the hope of sparking a conversation over a mutual passion with an interviewer. Sometimes that works, but often it doesn't. "It's certainly a risky thing because it can be looked at as very frivolous," he adds.

6. Knowing how to use a paper shredder
There are skills worth mentioning on a resume, and then there are those that will earn an eye roll from your recruiter.

Dana Manciagli, a global career expert and author of "Cut the Crap, Get a Job," has seen her share of arbitrary, outdated skills. Some highlights? Understanding how to use Microsoft Word, the fax machine, and a paper shredder, she says.

7. Proficiency in the English language
When you've got limited space to sell yourself, you don't want to waste it stating the obvious. Goldman says he once received a resume that listed "English" as one of the candidate's languages. Seeing as the resume was written in English, the clarification was not necessary.

How To Explain Your Resume Gaps To Employers

5 strategies that will give yourself a fighting chance at getting the job.

older workers
You have a gap in employment that's wider than the Grand Canyon. Whether it's because you've taken time off voluntarily to care for your child or you're one of the long-term unemployed, there are strategies that can help you get hired.

You've been a stay-at-home parent. Consider applying for jobs where your homemaking skills would be useful: budgeting, coping with the full range of children's issues, having to be a self-starter. Of course, those skills are useful in child-related jobs: in schools, child care, pediatrician's offices, and children's stores. But they're also applicable, for example, to careers as a manager, coordinator, administrative assistant, and event planner. Cite those transferable skills in your applications, interviews, and networking. Also tout the transferable skills you used in any volunteer work.

You've been playing around. For the last year or four, you've decided to, say, travel around the world or just goof off. How do you explain that to an employer you're trying to convince to pay you to work? You might try something like, "I figured that while I was young and unencumbered, I'd do those things that many older people regret not having done: travel, build a boat, do volunteer work. But now, I'm truly ready to get serious about my career. Here is what I bring to the table (insert.) Might I be possibly be of help to you?" The wrong employers will blow you off; a right one will at least interview you.

You've been self-employed. Employers worry that self-employed people will be unhappy having a boss. Preempt the objection. For example: "Five years of self-employment made me realize the advantages of being employed in a organization. I'm looking forward to it. Having been in charge could be a plus in working for you. I am, as they say, a self-starter and can be intrapreneurial, identifying new profit centers for your organization."

You've been ill. Let's say you've battled cancer or severe depression for the last two years and can't claim you're cured. In addition to tapping your network for leads, you might ask your doctor or nurses. They likely have particular empathy for people in your situation, have bonded with you, and know lots of people. If I had a disability that would affect my ability to do the job, along with my strengths, I'd disclose the disability to prospective employers. The wrong employers will reject me, a right one will accept me, the kind of employer I'd want to work for.

You've been unemployed a long time. If employers knew you've had a helluva time trying to find a job, they might view you as too-often-rejected merchandise. Sure, it helps to do a fill-in activity that would impress employers: training that gave you up-to-date skills in your desired field, relevant volunteer work, etc. But that may not be enough. Try radical honesty, for example:
I wasn't looking forward to having to pound the pavement so, for the first few months, I rationalized that making just a few inquiries would do the trick, but after a while, I had to face the realities of today's tough job market. Since then though, I've had a hard time because employers reject you because you've been out of work for a while--They figure you must be no good. I am good at what I do (insert evidence.) I just need someone to give me a chance to show it. Might you be willing to talk with me?

You've been in prison. Tell your story. For example:
"Five years ago, my wife divorced me right after my company sent all the jobs in my workgroup to India. I was at rock bottom. So when a friend asked if I'd help him rob a bank, I can't believe it but I went along. I got caught, went to Sing Sing, and was released early for good behavior. I can understand that you're tempted to reject me. I just want to say that my terrible mistake has made me completely committed to being honest. I just need someone to give me a chance. Perhaps someone gave you one. Might you be willing to talk with me? You'll find me hard-working, willing to start at the bottom, scrupulously honest, and most grateful."
If you were an employer, might not you interview such a candidate?
Broadly applicable advice
Rely on your network.People who know you are more likely to give you a chance.

Explain how your time-off will benefit the employer: You're rejuvenated, gained, perspective, had time to upgrade your skills, etc.

Don't hide or obfuscate. Ethics aside, it will likely come out that you weren't a consultant but rather were in India seeking enlightenment. All it takes is a Google search to find your social media posts on that. Most employment applications state that even if discovered after hiring you, dishonesty in the application is grounds for termination.

Of course, there are no guarantees but even in these challenging situations and tough times, there are ways, honest ways, to give yourself a fighting chance.