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Career Kickoff
Ten Ways to Botch Your Resume
By Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor
Copyright CareerBuilder, LLC -- reprinted with permission
More often than not, the company's first impression of you comes in the form of a resume, a simple piece of paper that includes your entire work and educational history, typically on one to two pages. With such limited space to convey such important information, it pays to make sure you get it right the first time.

To meet this challenge, it's important to keep in mind 10 of the most common resume mistakes. While avoiding these mistakes won't automatically make you a shoo-in for the job of your choice, it will make sure you are on the right track.

Mistake #1: Writing your resume to sound like a series of job descriptions.
You need to give the reader an idea of what you have done throughout your career, but instead of focusing on the duties you were responsible for at your last jobs, list your accomplishments along with quantifiable facts to back up your claims. Saying you were responsible for a 10 percent growth in overall sales is more impressive than simply stating you managed a sales team.

Mistake #2: Writing in the first person.
Your resume is not a personal correspondence, and should not include words such as "I," "my," and "me." Save the first person pronouns for your cover letter.

Mistake #3: Including unrelated and personal information.
As mentioned above, you do not have much room in a resume, so why take up valuable space with information unrelated to the position you are seeking? Leave the details about your personal life, marital status, hobbies and other interests on the cutting room floor.

Mistake #4: Using passive language or no action words.
Your resume needs to make a bold, strong statement, and the best way to do this is by utilizing action words to describe your accomplishments. Words like "coordinated," "achieved," "managed," and "implemented" will spice up your resume and make it more interesting and relevant to the reader.

Mistake #5:Repetition.
While using action words is important, it is also key to make sure you have variety in your resume. Don't pick a couple of words and stick with them throughout the entire document. Utilize a thesaurus, career advice Web sites and other sources if you are having problems coming up with new ways to say the same thing.

Mistake #6: Poor formatting or formatting that is too flashy.
While the most important part of your resume is the content, there is no question that the document's overall look and feel is also important. By now, you should be comfortable enough with a word processing program to create a clean, polished-looking document. Use consistent formatting for headings and bullet points. In the same respect, steer clear of flashy formatting or overly creative resumes with unconventional fonts or graphics, unless you are seeking a highly creative position. Keep your resume simple, bold and professional.

Mistake #7: Sending a resume without a cover letter.
One of the worst things you can do is send a great resume without an official introduction. Resumes and cover letters should be inseparable. Make sure you don't give up your chance to really sell yourself with a cover letter.

Mistake #8: Sending an unfocused or generic resume.
While your work experience doesn't change depending on the job or industry you are targeting, your resume certainly should. If you are seeking a sales-related position, your resume will include details that are different from those that would be included in a resume for a management job. Make sure you write to what you are seeking and make it easy for the reader to see why you are a good fit.

Mistake #9: Including typos and other spelling or grammatical errors.
Before you send out your resume, make sure you have proofread it several times. Many hiring managers will automatically throw away a resume that has typos or other errors.

Mistake #10: Sending your resume to a nameless, faceless person.
Want your resume to get thrown out with the recycling bin? Just send it to the company's "Hiring Manager," or "To Whom It May Concern." Do yourself a big favor and take the time to find a real person at the company who is responsible for hiring in the department you are targeting. This is often the first and most helpful step to getting your foot in the door.


Copyright CareerBuilder.com 2004. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority.