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10 top resume-writing don’ts for job seekers

Pitfalls are plentiful, when it comes to writing a resume. Job hunters, best be on your guard. Today’s job marketplace can be challenging. Employment candidates strive to come up with clever and creative ways to attract prospective hirers’ attention and line up interviews.

Often, a well-written professional resume is the launching point, but only if it’s correctly done.

NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.

Unfortunately, many job applicants seem somewhat ill informed, when it comes to producing acceptable professional resumes to showcase their talents and experience. Several key errors should be avoided at all costs.

What are the top ten biggest boo-boos job applicants might make on their professional resumes?

A professional resume must never employ cutesy quaintness.

Pretty papers are wonderful for thank-you notes, wedding invitations and other social purposes. However, fancy stationary is utterly inappropriate for a professional resume. The most successful job applicants allow their credentials to speak for themselves, rather than drawing attention through frilly or ornate papers.

A professional resume must never overlook basic neatness.

Usually, a job applicant’s professional resume represents his or her first point of contact with a prospective employer. Unless he or she is currently working for that organization as a professional intern or employee, the employment candidate will likely be seeking a primary introduction.

Just as a savvy job applicant would dress for success for an in-person meeting, he or she will want to present the professional resume in its best possible appearance. Clean, crisp paper, printed in a clear font, can make a solid impression. A neatly presented resume is like a sturdy handshake. It offers no offense.

A professional resume must never contain sloppy spelling.

On a professional resume, a misspelled word or two can quickly destroy an employment candidate’s credibility with a potential employer. Proofreading can make a world of difference, when it comes to creating a presentable professional resume.

Also, chat-room or instant-messaging abbreviations and acronyms are also unacceptable in the job-search process. Basically, the employment applicant must seek to present himself or herself as a diligent and capable adult.

“I want 2 work 4 U” simply won’t cut it with a potential boss.

A professional resume must never include messy mechanics.

The high school English teacher had it right. Good grammar does count, especially in the workplace. Sentence fragments, run-ons, improper capitalizations and other mechanical errors do detract from the professional resume. 

In nearly any career field, basic communications skills are highly valued. A smart employment candidate will enlist the help of a trusted writer or other skilled communicator to double-check his or her professional resume before submitting it to a prospective employer.

A professional resume must never be sent without a cover letter.

In most companies, middle- and upper-managers receive unsolicited professional resumes daily, whether job openings exist or not. Those resumes that arrive without cover letters are generally relegated immediately to the infamous circular file, or the trash.

Professional resumes that do include well-written cover letters often receive a bit more attention. After all, a resume without a cover letter is like a suit without a jacket. The outfit is not complete.

In addition, the cover letter offers the job applicant an opportunity to mention whether professional and personal references, writing or work samples, lists of awards and achievements and other supporting items might be available.

A professional resume must never offer vague employment objectives.

Human resources experts love to debate the question of whether job applicants should list employment objectives on professional resumes.

Certainly, if an individual is approaching multiple industries or job opportunities, the objective must be tailored to match each on. By adapting word processing files, job applicants may easily craft several unique resumes to fit various potential employment opportunities.

What about salary requirements? Should these be listed on a professional resume? Most employment experts advise against including actual amounts in print. Often, such figures may be open to negotiation, once an interview actually occurs. It would be unfortunate for a job applicant to list a suggested salary requirement, only to discover later that the potential employer was willing to pay even more.

A professional resume must never display too much information.

Professional resumes are often passed around in the workplace. Often, with the best intentions, a manager may forward a potential candidate’s resume to another department or staffer.

Personal information has no place in a professional resume. Although an interviewer may ask a job candidate in person about his or her pets, hobbies and special interests, this information does not belong on the professional resume. A professional resume should not include a photograph, caricature, clip-art or other image, either.

Confidential data, such as an employment candidate’s salary history, need not be listed on a professional resume. In addition, an applicant’s age, rage, marital status, health issues, religion, Social Security number and other classified details are to be omitted.

A professional resume must never have inaccuracies or untruths.

Throughout history, countless job applicants have been tempted to beef up their backgrounds, embellish their employment details, bestow additional academic degrees upon themselves or otherwise augment the details on their professional resumes.

Lying on a professional resume is never acceptable. This is the biggest job application no-no of all. Communicating untruths is the fastest way for a job applicant to destroy his or her own credibility.

Prospective employers do check professional resume details, run credit reports, and investigate professional references. In short order, the truth does come out. Fibs can cost an applicant the job.

A professional resume must never offer excuses for previous employment terminations or career gaps.

Often, a job applicant may become stymied by a significant gap between jobs or a sudden loss of employment. How should such questions be handled on the professional resume?

In the very least, the professional resume is not a forum for airing grievances towards former employers, attacking unfair employment practices, defending oneself after downsizing or bad-mouthing an organization.

In an employment interview, an employment candidate may be asked to elaborate on unusual employment gaps or job changes. However, even then, this must be done tactfully and strategically.

A professional resume must never be followed up by pestering of potential employers.

After mailing and sending a professional resume, the job seeker may be eager for a response. A single telephone call or e-mail, about two weeks after posting the professional resume, may be considered appropriate. Beyond that, however, the responsibility and prerogative lies with the potential employer. Constant calling will only work against the applicant.

Of course, a professional resume is the first step in self-promotion in the job market.

By avoiding potential pitfalls and gaffes, the job applicant may increase his or her chances of gaining the much-needed first interview. Once the face-to-face meeting takes place, the candidate will have an opportunity to articulate in person his or her career goals, skill sets and other advantages.

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10 top resume-writing tips for job seekers

A well-crafted professional resume is a key weapon in any job hunter’s arsenal. Prospective employers can readily discern the difference between professional paperwork and slipshod effort. Adept, proper, and strategic presentation of one’s credentials is often the first impression that leads to an introduction or interview.
NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.
What does it take to produce a professional resume that grabs employers’ attention and points an applicant towards employment success?

Try these top ten professional resume writing tips for job-hunting success.

What is a professional resume?

Basically, a professional resume is a passport to a first interview. Without an impressive professional resume, many a job seeker may never be invited inside to meet with prospective employers, where he or she might have had an opportunity to showcase skills and talents and ask for the job.

A professional resume is a short document that highlights an employment applicant’s professional background, experience and education. Usually, the professional resume will include information about the individual’s important abilities and achievements, particularly as these relate to the job he or she seeks.

A glowing professional resume may distinguish one employment candidate from many others, vying for a coveted employment opportunity.

Surprisingly, many employment applicants seem ill informed, when it comes to producing an acceptable professional resume to land that job. Certain items simply must be included in such a document. Here are the top ten must-do’s for professional resumes:

A professional resume must begin with accurate content information.

A professional resume must always list the subject’s full legal name and current mailing address at the very top of the first page. The resume writer must include a current telephone number and email address as well. This information must be spot-on accurate, making it easy for prospective employers to locate and contact the employment applicant, especially during regular business hours.

A professional resume must include important information.

Several blocks of important information will follow this data on the professional resume. In the very least, these will include Professional Experience and Education. Often, employment applicants will include additional sections, as applicable.

The Professional Experience section should state relevant professional internships and employment positions (or job titles) the applicant has held, along with the correct company and division names (with addresses). A simple, straightforward listing of general responsibilities is helpful here. The most dynamic professional resumes list applicants’ achievements and results achieved in each position held.

Generally, professional resumes list positions in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent job and working backwards.

The Education portion should indicate any earned degrees (including graduation years), academic or technical majors, and the names and addresses of schools attended. A professional resume need not mention high school, unless it is the highest level of education an applicant has completed.

A professional resume must display the employment applicant’s best assets.

Without bordering on cute or contrived, the smartest employment applicants look for ways to show off their best talents, traits and interests on their professional resumes.

Some employment applicants choose to include a Personal Qualities section on their professional resumes. Such a section might highlight career-relevant personal traits, such as leadership, solid work ethic, initiative, willingness to learn, creativity and more.

This section may be considered optional, but it can be a helpful way for a candidate who may still be gaining initial experience and training to beef up his or her professional resume and land that job.

A professional resume must consider organizational matters, such as readability.

All too often, an employment applicant will include far too many words on a professional resume. Full paragraphs should not be used, if bulleted lists can suit the bill.

By employing outlines and lists, job applicants can break up big blocks of type on their professional resumes. Strategic use of empty space actually helps to highlight the contents, while providing room for prospective employers to jot down margin notations.

Prospective employers appreciate brevity. Wordiness does not equal worthiness, especially when it comes to professional resumes.

In addition, professional resumes need not employ excessively advanced vocabulary. An applicant’s use of five-syllable words will not necessarily impress a potential employer. A simple, but straightforward, presentation of the applicant’s credentials is the most important asset of the professional resume.

A professional resume must adhere to acceptable formatting.

Fancy scrolled typefaces have no place on a professional resume. Most successful professional resume writers choose a simple font (such as Arial, Garamond, Times New Roman or Verdana).

Although the headings may be printed slightly larger, the basic text of the professional resume ought to be 11-point or 12-point. This makes the contents inviting, clear and readable to prospective employers.

A professional resume must aim for a polished, but professional, appearance.

Appearances do count, particularly with professional resumes. In today’s competitive workplace, a prospective employer might receive dozens (or even hundreds) of professional resumes for a single job opening.

Savvy employment applicants will consider the value of producing professional resumes on quality paper stock. Wrinkles, smears, stains and other disfiguring marks do not belong on a professional resume.

By all means, a professional resume must be printed on neutral bond paper, such as white, ivory, light tan, or grey. In most cases, black ink should be used. Rarely, a very dark brown, navy or charcoal ink might be chosen, if it coordinates subtly with the paper stock.

A professional resume must stay short and simple.

Human relations pundits perennially debate the page-length question. Must a professional resume be limited to a single page? Generally, for an entry-level job, a single page professional resume ought to suffice. For a middle- to upper-management slot, a two-page resume may be acceptable.

Anything over two pages is considered superfluous. Even if a highly qualified individual seeks a Presidential Cabinet position, his or her professional resume need not exceed two pages.

Prospective employers simply will not read multiple pages, particularly when they must wade through countless candidates’ submissions.

A professional resume must be proofread carefully.

Nothing can disqualify an employment applicant faster, in virtually any career field, than a professional resume filled with grammatical errors and misspelled words. Employment applicants must proofread their professional resumes carefully, using their computers’ spell check programs, reading and re-reading and enlisting the assistance of other capable readers to check for any unspotted mistakes.

A professional resume must include a well-written cover letter.

Because the professional resume is a straightforward document, using no first-person (“I,” “me” or “mine”) or second-person (“you,” “your” or “yours”) pronouns, it is almost universally submitted with an accompanying cover letter.

The cover letter offers the employment applicant an opportunity to demonstrate both creativity and personality, within accepted boundaries. Beginning with a statement of interest in a particular career path or job opening, the cover letter then highlights two to three key features from the professional resume. Finally, the letter asks for an opportunity to interview for the job and indicates when and how the employment applicant will follow up with the letter’s recipient.

A professional resume must have a targeted audience.

Even the most professional resume of all can never be effective, unless it is placed in the proper hands. A bit of research can help an employment applicant determine where potential jobs may exist and to whom he or she ought to direct an inquiry.

When the professional resume is submitted, the accompanying cover letter ought to be addressed to the person who actually has authority to make an offer of employment. Of course, his person’s name must be spelled correctly, and his or her current job title ought to be included.

Far too many employment applicants simply fire off professional resumes to every advertisement in the local newspaper classifieds. Others post their professional resumes somewhat blindly in response to a myriad of online job listings.

Here’s a simple guideline. If an applicant is not even remotely qualified for a position, it is fruitless to apply for the job. In fact, by doing so, that individual may undermine his or her own career credibility.

However, an applicant who does a little digging and discovers specific ways his or her background and experience may benefit a potential employer is much more likely to gain a positive response to an employment inquiry.

A professional resume is the passport to a first interview.

If these ten steps are followed, the employment applicant will be well-equipped to request an employment interview and potentially receive an opportunity to present his or her capabilities and character in person.

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