This is What's Wrong with Your Resume

This is What's Wrong with Your Resume

Ella Patenall

Updated February 21, 2023 Updated February 21

By Viv Mah

As a fresh graduate, it can be difficult to understand where you’re going wrong with your job applications. Is it the number of applications of the company’s received? The fact you haven’t racked up enough internship hours? Or something else you can’t quite put your finger on – perhaps that additional “Sir/Ma’am” in your cover letter really blew it?

It’s not easy to decode where exactly you’ve gone wrong without some help, which is why we’ve put our best minds together to identify four potential causes as to why you’re getting knocked back.

There are gaps in your resume the employer doesn’t understand

At some point or another, everyone will have a bit of a break in their working history. It could have been caused by anything, from travel to family reasons, but regardless of the reason, a significant time period will leave employers wondering just what caused you to be out of the workforce for so long.

Whether or not you disclose the reason for your break on your resume is up to you. To some hiring managers, it might come across as unnecessarily preventative and demonstrate little faith in your hiring manager’s ability to put two and two together. Alternatively, you can ask them to contact you to discuss the gaps, although there’s no guarantee this conversation will take place either.

Your resume doesn’t look like it fits the job

If you want to stand out from other competitors it’s important to make sure the single piece of paper you have to sell you, well, sells you.

It’s also important to make sure that what your resume’s demonstrating aligns itself with the job you’re applying for. Say, for example, that you’re applying to be a graphic designer. If so, it makes sense for your resume to be as technically advanced and impressive looking as you can make it.

Likewise, if you’re applying for a role in project management or in an organizational department and your resume has no structure or flow, you’re not going to inspire a lot of faith.

You’re using the wrong type of language

A sheer torrent of buzzwords can put anyone off. It’s why you’d turn your nose up at any café offering you “a kale-infused spiraled juice which has been alkalinized to ensure you glow from the inside out”. It’s overkill, and you can tell it’s probably obscuring the truth.

Equally, overusing the buzzwords of your industry is likely to have a hiring manager rolling their eyes and tossing your resume in the reject pile. Also, the task of actually scanning resumes may be handed to someone who’s unfamiliar with all the technical jargon you’re spouting, and who might end up choosing someone who uses simpler language over you.

Instead, focus on demonstrating how you achieved what it is the company’s calling for as clearly as possible. And remember, results have more impact than implications.

Your resume is too long

Publishers have a rule. If they’re not interested beyond the first page of a manuscript, they turf it out. The same, allegedly, goes for resumes.

For this reason, sometimes less is more. If it takes you an entire paragraph and a half to explain your job title, chances are your employer isn’t going to be interested. Concision is key — and will also help you practice how you sell yourself when it comes to an actual interview.

It’s best to load your most recent work experience with the meatiest information, and then scale the rest back so you only focus on a few key highlights and achievements.

Viv Mah writes for Inspiring Interns, which specializes in finding candidates their perfect internship. To browse our graduate jobs London listings, visit our website.

This article was originally published in January 2018 . It was last updated in January 2020

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