7 deadly sins of résumé writing

Steve P. Brady, freelancer

Despite the fact that there are numerous how-to articles out there, résumés are not easy to write. They require time, talent and patience in order to craft them into targeted advertisements for your most precious commodity: you.
You don't want this document that you have been poring over for days to fall victim to the seven deadly sins of résumé writing. Be vigilant and double check before you send your résumé to any potential employers.
Deadly sin No. 1: Typos
This is a no-brainer, but it is still one of the most common mistakes on a job seeker's résumé. Double and triple check, and then have someone else proofread it for you. This is the easiest of the seven to fix as long as you read carefully.
Deadly sin No. 2: Faulty formatting
Today's word-processing software allows for just about anyone to become a publishing wizard. You can add shadings, graphics, artistic fonts and stylistic flourishes. Don't.
Above all else, you want your résumé to be readable. Keep the fancy formatting to a minimum and place a priority on scannablility. Email it to a friend to ensure that the formatting you do keep is not lost.
Deadly sin No. 3: Irrelevant job experience
Everyone is proud of their professional life, and rightfully so. However, there comes a time when you have to be ruthless with your past and cut out anything that strays from the branded image you are trying to create with your résumé.
A general rule of thumb is to stick with the most recent 15 years of experience. For instance, if you are going for an upper level management position, you certainly do not need to include your time in the sales department 20 years ago when you first got out of college.
Deadly sin No. 4: Weak word choice
Banish words such as 'helped," "provided" and "worked" from your résumé vocabulary. Only use strong, active verb phrases that point toward dynamic action. You want employers to view you as a problem solver, not as a "doer."
Deadly sin No. 5: Boring bullets
Many times when a candidate sends in his résumé, the work history reads as if it was taken from his job description. In fact, that is what a lot of inexperienced résumé writers do. If you are one of them, don't worry, it is a common mistake, but it needs to be fixed.
Instead of just listing what your job requires of you, focus on what you have been able to accomplish. Sales numbers, quotas reached, budgets balanced and clients signed are all items that will make you stand out rather than blend in. Remember the key is to sell yourself.
Deadly sin No. 6: Not including a branding statement
The résumé objective is dead, but long live the branding statement. This is the first section of your résumé after the heading where you can create a dynamic headline and description of your own personal area of expertise. This will frame the rest of the résumé for the reader so that she sees your experience in light of your specialty.

Deadly sin No. 7: Length
There is a lot of conflicting advice as to how long a résumé should be. Here is the standard. A résumé should contain one page for every 10 years of experience in a given field. More often than not, this guideline works.

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