The wrong resume formatting, content and style can sink your chance of getting the job or MBA of your dreams. Your resume is literally THE most important part of your application, so you better make sure it’s good!
To get you started, Angela Guido is here with the three biggest resume mistakes, how to avoid them, and plenty of resume examples you can draw from as you construct your own perfect resume.
Need more resume guidance? We’re currently constructing an amazing resume course that will not only teach you everything you need to know to construct brilliant resumes, but also enough that you can even coach your friends on how to write their own! Watch this space! Until then, there’s a lot more information here.
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
Hello and welcome back to MBA Monday and Make Mondays Better. Today's video is for all of you: MBA applicants, careerists, people seeking a job, people seeking a promotion, anyone who is ready to advance their career through more effective communication. Today I'm talking about the three biggest resume mistakes and how to fix them.
My name is Angela Guido. I am an MBA Coach, a Career Coach, I'm a former BCG Consultant and Recruiting Manager and I'm here to help you make the most of your career. What do I mean by making the most of your career? Make it as fun and enjoyable as possible for you because let's face it, you're spending eight or more waking hours every day working. If it's not fun for you, what is the point? Today we're talking about resumes. I'm going to talk you through the three biggest mistakes that people make in their resumes, and my hope is that by using my tips, you will not only improve your resume, you will not only make yourself more competitive for the jobs or MBA programs that you really want to get into, but you will also discover what you love the most about your work, thereby making more fun accessible to you in your next job. Okay, so let's get right to it. The three biggest resume mistakes people make.
1. Creative Formatting
Mistake number one creative formatting. This may be a controversial perspective because if you listen to a lot of the advice out there, people are telling you to make your resume pop, make it personal, make it reflect your personality through the use of color, icons, graphics, etc. Well, unless you are a graphic designer and what you're being hired for is your ability to create beautiful documents, creative resume formatting is almost certainly going to be a mistake. Now, keep in mind that I am primarily talking to those of you who are either trying to get into business school or who have serious professional jobs. You're working in consulting, banking, technology. Even if you're working in a nonprofit, your role is having an impact managing people, managing processes, doing business style work. When you are in the business and organizational arena, you don't want your resume to distract the reader from the content of your experience. The purpose of your resume is to convey to recruiters, to interviewers, to hiring managers, and to admissions committees, none of whom — almost none of whom — have a very strong grounding in whatever your actual background is, to understand what you've achieved. Anything on that page that distracts from getting into the detail of your accomplishments is going to be a mistake. So ditch the fancy colors. Ditch the segmented resume where one side is really pretty and the other side is bullets in reduced word count. Get rid of icons. Get rid of your photograph, in most cases. Some of you, if you're using a European style CV, you may have a picture of yourself on there, and if you are applying for jobs within Europe keep that. Ditch the creative formatting. If you're confused about where to start to format your resume, you may be tempted to go to the Internet and find examples. This might lead you to say, for example, Canva, that has a lot of really beautiful resume templates for you to borrow. But if you're looking for a job in business, do not use those templates. You want the content of your experience to shine, and anything fancy on the page is going to distract from that. So for most of you, you want a really simple, black and white boring, text-based resume. One really good way to decide on the correct formatting is to go out and google the place you want to work resume or the business school you want to go to resume. If you go google “Harvard Business School resume” or you google “Goldman Sachs resume”, you'll see, if you just scroll down the page of images, it's almost exclusively text based black and white resumes. And that's really what you want, because the resume is not about your creativity — again, unless you're applying for a creative job — the resume is about the content of your experience.
2. Bad Resume Bullets
- Bullets aren’t to describe your job
(“Responsible for”, “Managing”, “In charge of”)
- Instead, focus on impact and achievements
All right, so now that we've gotten the formatting out of the way and you've created something very simple and direct, the next big resume mistake I see is in the content of the bullets. What most people do when they construct a resume is they think about their job description. What were they in charge of, what were they responsible for, what were their day-to-day activities? And then they write bullets based not on themselves and their unique impact, but on the job. Now, if you tell me that you're an investment banking analyst at J.P. Morgan, I already know your job description. If I'm a hiring manager who's worth my salt, I already know, based on your job title, what your basic job description was. So, explaining to me that you conducted all kinds of analyses to evaluate deals, that you built Excel models and PowerPoints to enable good investor decisions, you're telling me something I already know. It's not about you specifically, and it's not about your ability to do your job well. I can't discern anything about you and your excellence if all of your bullets are in the present tense or if I see the word responsible for or managing or in charge of. If I don't see discrete achievements and impact in each of your bullets, then I can't ascertain how strong of a candidate you are or not. If you think about the purpose of the resume, it's to differentiate you from everyone else that might be more or less like you. It's to stand out in the process, not to blend in. So don't submit resume bullets that describe your responsibilities and your tasks. Instead, really try to hone in on your impact and achievements. So, for example, instead of describing all the different kinds of models that you built as an analyst, pick the one time that your model really changed the outcome of the deal. So here's an example of an impact bullet from an investment banking resume: Tapped to operate at skip level on $1.7 billion agricultural company transaction. Engineered financial model that supported complex cashflow profile transformation and generated premium valuation for client. Now, if you're not in investment banking and you're not in the realm of finance and you're not used to evaluating finance resumes, there's a good chance that that bullet confused you. But that's all right, because this person is in finance and will be applying for finance jobs. So people, including HR managers in the finance industry, will read that bullet and understand that this person had unique and meaningful impact above and beyond their job description. That's your goal in your resume. It's to make sure that each and every bullet is showcasing a way in which you made change happen in the world for your company, for your team, for your client, for your customer. I started this video by talking about the importance of fun and enjoyment in your career. A really important aspect of getting more fulfillment in your next job than your last job is understanding which kinds of impact, which kinds of results in the world you get the most satisfaction from producing. So as you're thinking through your achievements and shaping your bullets around the impact that you've had, think about the times that were most fulfilling to you and emphasize those in your bullets. If you do that, then the hiring manager for your next job will understand where you're able to add unique value and where you're uniquely qualified to have an impact in this new organization that will give you the ability to do more and more of the things that you like. Absolutely every aspect of your professional communication is important in helping you get more of what you want in your career. By the way, constructing beautiful impact bullets is truly an artform. It's something that, as a coach, I struggled for years to really master. A way to help each and every client in each and every industry really drill down to their most salient achievements and communicate them in a way that absolutely everyone can understand. If you want to benefit from all of my expertise, consider signing up for our resume course. By the time you get to the end of this program, you will not only have an amazing resume, you will be able to teach other people how to write their resumes. We have templates, instructions, and a ton of videos to really help you master not just the art of the bullet, but the art of the entire resume to convey your complete professional achievements to get the job or the MBA admission that you really want.
3. Jargon & Insider Vocabulary
- Let them understand what you’re saying
- Don’t make them feel stupid (or worse)
Okay, mistake number three. Mistake number three is quite a bit related to mistake number two, and that is the use of jargon and insider vocabulary throughout the resume. So, a second ago I read you a really awesome investment banking bullet, and while you may not understand all the details of what goes on in the investment banking world, I didn't use any words in that bullet that you don't understand and are able to contextualize in a business context. That means that anyone reading that bullet, even if they're not in finance, they may not understand the nuances of it, but they can at least understand the full meaning of the bullet. When you riddle your bullets with jargon and vocabulary or words that are really important within your company, you alienate the reader and do one of two things. You either make them feel stupid, like there's some term that they should know that they don't, or you kind of piss them off because you're wasting words that don't convey meaning. You're making me wade through a lot of vocabulary that has no relevance to me so that I'm not really able to understand your achievements. The fields that need to be especially cautious of jargon are technical fields. So if you're in technology or if you're in engineering, but really any field has its own specific vocabulary and every company has its own lingo that may or may not be understood outside of your organization. Your job is to make sure that anyone reading your resume will understand it. You have to get rid of detailed jargon, obscure acronyms, company-centric vocabulary, so that only your achievements shine in the bullet and you're not distracting the reader from what you've achieved. Whatever industry you're in, there's a very good chance that you have a sense of which words and acronyms are jargon and which words and acronyms are used across multiple industries. If you don't, one really great trick is to show your resume to your mom or to a friend who works in a different industry and ask them, are there any words or phrases that you don't understand? You don't know what they mean, you don't understand their relevance, or you need someone to explain it to you? If they say yes, remove those words and replace them with more generally understandable terms.
That's it! Those are the three biggest resume mistakes I see as a recruiter and as a coach, and the best ways that you can fix those three mistakes. Don’t forget that if you want my direct guidance on your resume, consider signing up for our resume course, available on our website. The link is right here. I wish you all the best in your job search, your MBA application, your career, and beyond. I’ll see you next week!
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