Now that my new medical company, Panacea Research, is off the ground, we’re hiring lots of people. So I’m reading lots of resumes. And most people make the same few basic mistakes, which drives me up the wall. So, here’s what not to do:
1. Don’t use tiny font. Regardless of how long a resume is, I usually spend about thirty seconds on it. Packing in more stuff doesn’t make me learn more about you, it just creates eyestrain.
2. Don’t avoid numbers. Your project “saved the company money”. How much? $1? $1,000? $1,000,000? If you don’t say which, it’ll be written off as empty filler.
3. Don’t brag about meaningless “skills”. Using a word processor is not a “skill”. Browsing the Web is not a “skill”. Writing email is not a “skill”. (Yes, people really say these things.) If an average eight-year-old can do something, don’t list it.
4. Don’t talk about “objectives” or “career focus”. Why should the employer care?
5. Don’t call yourself an “experienced professional” in field X when you’re right out of college, and haven’t worked in field X. It just looks silly.
6. Don’t send resumes as Word docs. They look different on different computers. PDF, please.
7. Don’t list things irrelevant to the job. If you’re applying to a chemical engineering company, no one needs to know you waited tables seven years ago.
8. Don’t write in a foreign language. There are exceptions (overseas offices, translation jobs, etc.), but they’re unusual.
9. Don’t apply for a highly specialized position without naming relevant skills. If you want to be a physicist, talking about your illustrious career in accounting won’t help.
(Disclaimer: This is based on how I read resumes, and that varies from person to person. Your mileage may vary, batteries not included.)
My biggest pet peeve in reading resumes was that people simply wouldn’t read the very simple requirements posted. 3 years of experience in the field =/= grad school, guys.
Possibly they have experience with the “requirements” not actually being required.
I think the “waiting tables” thing is relevant because otherwise someone has a gap on the resume. Gaps usually lead employers to assuming the worst: that you were unemployed. I would not actually suggest most people have a resume gap unless they’re prepared to spin a good story during the interview.
Maybe I’m weird, but I would favor someone with a “gap” over someone who had waited tables. If you just have a “gap”, that could be anything – maybe you tried a failed startup, maybe you did open source projects, maybe you did some job that isn’t relevant, maybe you wanted to tour Europe, maybe you just were tired and needed a break. Waiting tables is a very clear signal that you couldn’t find anything better to do, which is a big red flag.