Resume Blunders

In a companion piece to Cover Letter Blunders, here’s what not to put in your resume:

Objective
I am seeking a position where my knowledge and skills will contribute to the success of your business.

Ugh. This is bland and pointless. It tells me nothing about what you are really trying to do.

If you are applying for a job listed in an ad, it is not even necessary to put an objective in your resume; it’s pretty obvious that your objective is to get that job (not to mention that you will put, in your cover letter, exactly which position you are applying for).

You would use an objective on a resume in these situations, however:

  • When sending someone a resume cold (meaning you don’t know if they’re hiring or not);
  • When dropping a resume off at a placement agency; this allows them to know how to place you; and
  • When passing it through family members or friends (word-of-mouth is still the best way to find employment; I got 2 out of 3 of my jobs that way).

Example objective:

I am seeking full-time employment as an assistant/paralegal in a law office or corporate legal department in Nashville, TN or its environs.

 Your objective should state whether you want part-time or full-time or contract work (or a combination of any of them), what sort of position(s) you would like to have (as specific or general as you want to be), what sort of company you want to work for (large, medium, or small; family-owned or corporate; non-profit or for-profit; manufacturing or office), and what city(ies)/states you’re willing to work in. If you are looking at jobs where travel might be involved, you can also state how much travel you want or are willing to do (“with up to 50% travel”).

Capabilities

This should be entitled “Skills” and should be full of real skills not,

Perform tasks with minimum supervision.

I’ve got news for you: it’s assumed that every person with normal mental facilities can do this. Specifics, people!

Knowledge of various office equipment

This is an awkward sentence; it would be better as “Knowledge of various types of office equipment.” It would be ever better, however, if there were specifics. What kind of office equipment can you operate? A copier or binding equipment? A fax machine or a transcription machine? If I don’t know that you can operate the equipment in my office, you’re no help.

Dependable & very Dedicated, including good work attendance

Again with the ampersands. No ampersands, unless they’re in formal titles. And watch the capitalization. And finally, this is once again a generic piece of information that kills trees for no reason. You shouldn’t have to tell anyone that you have good work attendance; they can (and will) check your references for that.

References should always be on a separate piece of paper; not on your resume. Some people chose to send them whether they’re asked for or not, but I don’t usually provide them unless they’re asked for. Do not put “References on request” on your resume; that just wastes a line of text. Anyone who wants them will ask, whether you’ve noted that or not.

Break your references down by type: employment, personal, and academic. This way employers will know who to call to ask about your work habits (which is what most of them want to know). Also, when it comes to employment and academic references, note how you know this person; was he your boss at Company X? A professor at University Y? Give the person looking at your references some help on deciding who they need to call. And for the record, only high school students and recent college grads (including undergrad, graduate and doctoral) and people still working in academia should have academic references. If it’s been five years or more since you got out of school, and you’re not applying for jobs where your academic records are important, then don’t have academic references.

For young people, with no prior employers, try to get non-family members to act as references; check with your parents’ friends who you know pretty well. You may also see if any of your teachers would be willing to act as a reference. This is a good way to learn how to network and start presenting a professional demeanor. Also, the more people who know you are looking for a job (and the type of job you are looking for), the better your odds. Again, most jobs come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Capabilities
Experienced in secretarial and clerical functions associated with the daily operation of a law office, including but not limited to acting as a receptionist, answering and/or transferring all incoming calls, taking messages [the list goes on].

The main problem with this is the fact that it’s a paragraph-long list and it’s hard to read individual skills. It’s better if you break skills out using bullet points. The second thing I would do is not put this under capabilities/skills; these aren’t skills so much as a list of responsibilities that belonged with a specific position. You should combine the Employment History section with this, like so:

4/01-4/11    Bob Lowe, Attorney-at-Law
                      Paralegal

  • Receptionist duties
  • preparation of legal documents, including wills, adoptions, subpoenas, warrants, collections, etc.
  • Small business tax preparation

Notice that in the original there is “receptionist, answering and/or transferring all incoming calls, taking messages;” that is all one job. You do not have to explain what a receptionist does; it’s implied that you can answer the phone, take messages, transfer calls, and handle walk-in clients. Save the space for something more important.

But there are times when you should not list details under a job title–namely for basic jobs, such as retail or food prep. If you tell someone you worked at Wal-Mart, you do not need to list:

  • Provided customer service to the general public.
  • Responsible for department and product knowledge.
  • Assisted customers with questions and concerns regarding specific products.

These are all tasks which are implied with a job at Wal-Mart (or similar) and don’t need to be enumerated; it’s sufficient to just put down the business name, your title(s) while there, and your date of employment.

If you did things above and beyond the ordinary, however, that should be listed. For instance, if you worked at Best Buy on commission, quote some sales figures. If you did any managing or training, that goes on there too. But if you were a cashier/stock boy, I don’t need to know that you put products on shelves successfully and ran a cash register that was always balanced.