Three Resume Mistakes to Avoid

Three Resume Mistakes to Avoid

Ryan Shirley, Pursuit & Tie LLC

Three Resume Mistakes to Avoid

After nearly a year and a half of consistently reviewing resumes, I can confidently say that 90% of the resumes Pursuit & Tie works on contain the same overarching mistakes. There seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding around both the purpose of the document and how to best tell your story in under two pages. Now, there are a million different reasons why this is the case: the changing role of technology, the impersonalization of the hiring process, the need-based aspect of keeping a resume updated, and (of course) the fact that our stories all vary in length, complexity and experiences. Combined, these elements stack up and look rather scary and overwhelming to the point where many disgruntled employees simply stay put or abandon the search all together…and that stinks.  What if a few simple fixes could radically change how your resume is viewed?

“What else can I do” is a commonly heard sentiment from our clients who feel as though nothing sticks and automated HR emails overpopulate their inbox. However, when we dive into their resume, we often find one of the following errors.

1. Functional Statements

A resume is a document intended to show an employer why you can bring them value. A resume is NOT a document intended for you to regurgitate a job description for your most recent position. With the exception of one or two clients, every resume we’ve looked at fits into the latter. Candidates continue to think in terms of function versus value, essentially telling employers what they did in previous roles but never why they were great in them.

Consider the following two bullets on a resume; which is more impactful?

Bob’s Bakery – Lead Baker

  • Open and closed bakery, order fulfillment and responsible for staff.


  • Point of contact for all store operations, training staff, and order fulfillment. Achieved 100% customer satisfaction throughout tenure and increased overall sales by 10%.

The second choice, right? Easy! You are absolutely right; however, 95% of our clients bring us resumes written to match the former. Employers and hiring managers know the line of work they are recruiting for. You do not need to explain to a former baker what a baker does…they know. What you do need to explain is why you were the best baker this side of the Mississippi. Now, we all don’t work in finance or consulting where our work has a direct impact on a client, but that does not provide an excuse to not think about ways we’ve excelled in our current and previous work experiences. Think about:

  • Times you were praised for exceeding expectations
  • Any process you owned or were responsible for driving
  • People you trained, mentored or coached
  • Ideas you brought to the table that were ultimately implemented
  • Skills and certifications you earned

All of these areas are most certainly valuable and should be made known on your resume. We have an average of SIX seconds before a hiring manager moves onto the next in the pile – functional statements will not cut it. We coach our clients using an acronym, PSR, for value-added resumes. PSR stands for Problem, Solution, Results.

  • What was the “problem” or status quo when you arrived at your employer?
  • What solution did you / your team propose to change this status quo?
  • How did that result in value for your employer?

PSR ensures a value-driven approach to your resume and has helped many of our clients transform their marketability – simply by telling us how great they were! Try thinking of some PSR statements; it’s fun to revisit all your wonderful accomplishments, and pepper them into your resume. Soon you’ll be the most sought-after baker in all the land (unless…you know, you aren’t a baker).

2. Generic Resumes

All resumes should begin with analyzation and tailoring to the desired job description. Unfortunately,  nearly every client we engage has either not done this at all, or has to an underwhelming degree. This step is absolutely critical in the modern workplace. Why?

Search strings.

In the digital age of 2018, human resource functions have been automated to an incredible degree, and this is seen very clearly in the hiring process. Many of us can express our frustrations over rarely hearing anything back after submitting a resume to an HR portal, or “black hole” as they have come to be known. The reason for this is simple; recruiters run algorithmic-based search strings that prioritize resumes that align with their needs, and more specifically, the job description. If you made little or no attempt to review your resume and find areas to pepper in relevant words or phrases, do not be surprised when you hear crickets after submission.

For example, if you see the following on a job description:

  • Project manager must be able to collaborate across departments and use all resources necessary to deliver results

You should think about areas in your experience where you have 1) done this successfully and 2) can highlight those occurrences by using similar words and phrases. So your resume could say:

  • Led teams from marketing, HR, and accounting to collaborate on initiatives; proposed new processes to client, all of which were accepted.

Such a statement is impactful, follows PSR, and is catered to the job description. Perhaps it’s more work than you’d like, but only those who go the extra mile get the phone call.

Think about it: if you won’t take the time to align your experience with their needs, what does that say about you as a candidate? Remember the power of perception; it’s as real in the job market as much as anywhere else.

3. Lengthy Resumes

Unless you have been working for 5-10 years your resume should fit on one page. We receive many resumes that resemble J.R.R. Tolkien novels, complete with an appendix and footnotes (no joke), and this is simply a detriment to your portfolio. The goal of your resume should be to tell your story in the way that resonates most with your prospective employer. You should be bringing to light all the aspects of your experience that would make you a valuable employee and mitigate risks. Hiring the wrong person has serious financial consequences, so you should aim to be as succinct and impactful as possible. How?

One phrase: Relevant Experience.

Most resumes begin with an “Experience” section, where the candidate states their prior work history. By changing this section title to “Relevant Experience” it shows an employer a degree of customization and personalization rarely found, and allows you the opportunity to prioritize your experience on relevance, not chronology. If what you did two years ago is more relevant to the position you’re applying for, this technique allows you to bring your most marketable work to the forefront of your resume, saving your reader time and providing a degree of customization.

Want more good stuff? Check out our blog the Tie Rack – for all things professional. Well, kind of.

About the Author

Ryan graduated from Georgia College in 2013 with two degrees – Management and Marketing – only to discover how little collegiate curriculum prepares you for the working world.

He found his passion for consulting as a technical recruiter, learning timeless professional development secrets from some of the best minds in the business. He has since worked in event marketing, inside sales, B2B technology marketing, and is now an enterprise sales manager with Accenture, the largest technology consulting firm in the world. He lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Natalie – a fourth grade teacher – and their cats, Luna and Poppy. He enjoys being outside in the PNW, all things comedy and Atlanta sports. Go Braves!

Pursuit & Tie LLC builds better professionals by delivering dynamic, proven and affordable career workshops for individuals and groups alike. We bring value to our clients by providing individual attention for each aspect of your portfolio and enabling you for future success.  

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