If you are among the 7.2 million Americans actively job hunting right now, there are a lot of factors outside of your control. Millions of people are unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which upended work as we knew it. More than 19 million Americans reported they were unable to work in September because their employer closed or lost business due to COVID-19.
And that’s in addition to the natural disasters and everything else 2020 has gifted us.
But how you present your career story in a resume remains in your control. And in 2020, your resume should reflect these new, unprecedented times. Resume experts shared the most common mistakes they’re seeing in 2020.
1. You list an objective.
Melanie L. Denny, a Florida-based career coach and resume writer, said this is the biggest mistake she sees job seekers make currently. She said it typically looks something like: “Objective: to secure position that fits my experience at a company with opportunity to grow.”
But, as Denny notes, “Isn’t that everyone’s objective?”
Listing an objective makes the resume about you and the job you want when your resume needs to reflect the value you’re bringing to the company, Denny said. Instead of listing an objective, she recommends writing a headline of the job you want and 2-3 sentences describing the qualifications that make you the best fit for that role.
2. You mention “references available upon request.”
This is a redundant mention “that’s a waste of a line,” Denny said, because of course you will give references if a prospective employer asks.
Instead, “Use that line to sell your value. Give examples of your experience and your accomplishments,” Denny said, though she noted you should separately have a list of people you can ask to be a reference just in case.
3. You use a resume template that cannot be processed by applicant tracking systems.
The risk with using a resume template is that it may cause your resume to be unintelligible to an applicant tracking system.
Applicant tracking systems are common software programs that employers use to sort and organize electronic job applications. The problem is that the software might filter out certain resumes. In a 2016 survey of 374 human resources professionals, the majority acknowledged that some qualified candidates are likely being filtered out by their applicant tracking software.
Disqualifiers can include creative column formatting, using a header and footer, and failing to use job description keywords in your resume that track with the desired activities, titles and tools associated with the open role.
4. You frame COVID-19 job loss as a loss, instead of an opportunity.
If you lost your job due to COVID-19, there are two schools of thought on how to address it on your resume. Some job search coaches recommend mentioning explicitly on the resume that you lost your job to coronavirus in order to eliminate the idea that it was performance-related. Denny recommends explaining it in a cover letter.
But regardless of which approach you take, make sure to show off how you have adjusted your skills and experiences in the downtime. Bonnie Negron, a New Jersey-based career coach and former hiring manager, said she notices people fail to include new skills they have gained due to COVID-19, such as becoming tech-savvy or Zoom experts.
Employment gaps should be filled with volunteering or any courses you’ve taken in the meantime to continue your education, Denny said.
“What were you doing with this spare time that we can add to your resume?” Negron asks furloughed and laid-off clients.
If your job experiences don’t exactly align with the role you are applying for, recruiters generally recommend listing any such self-studies at the top of your resume. If you’re making a career pivot, this is where you can talk about your new career direction and list any initiatives you are taking to reach that place.
5. You repeat your job experiences.
Negron said another mistake job seekers make is being redundant about job experiences on their resume. “What is different about each of the different roles that you’ve had?” Negron said your resume should explain. “In every position we’ve had, we’ve always done something that is unique to that position. Your professional experience should speak to that.”
If you’re a receptionist, for example, you don’t need to list that you answered phones under each receptionist job you held in the past, Negron said.
6. Your resume is too long.
Recruiters initially skim through resumes for an average of seven seconds each, according to a study that tracked eye movements. Make every one of those seconds count by mentioning only what is most relevant to the role. “You shouldn’t have 12 bullets for each job; three to five is good enough,” said Denny.
And keep an eye on length: “Three pages is too long,” she added. “One full page if you have less than 10 years of experience [or are a] new grad, and then two full pages if you’re a more established professional with a little bit longer of a job history. But that’s it.”