There are many resume faux pas that may hinder your job search. Grammar atrocities, unhinged formatting, lack of achievements, ATS incompatibility, paragraphs that are too dense, and others are the usual culprits.
But if there’s one thing that will get you completely ignored in your job search—despite the impressive qualifications and a nicely formatted and grammatically impeccable resume—it’s this:
You’re trying to be all things to all people.
Let’s set aside for a moment the sad fact that by trying to be everything to everyone you are not positioning yourself for opportunities that would lead to a happier, more successful you. In other words, you are not targeting jobs that would allow you to leverage the very best of your talents and enable you to spend your blood, sweat, and tears on something that excites and motivates you. Let’s focus solely on the fact that this is an entirely ineffective method of attracting attention.
If you have not clearly pinpointed your ideal opportunity (industry, type of company, role, type of business problem to be resolved) because you want to “keep your options open”, you will not be attracting more opportunities from which to choose.
No one wants someone who vaguely fits what they are looking for. They want someone who is the perfect match for their precise needs. If you have not defined your target audience and what their specific needs are, it is impossible to write a compelling argument about why you are the perfect candidate, which is essentially what your resume should be. How can you add value to an undefined scenario?
Example: Unfocused Job Seeker
Let’s say you are a marketing executive who loves to build businesses from scratch, and a business-to-consumer startup opportunity would really excite you, especially if it allowed you to leverage and continue to grow your digital expertise. It just so happens that you have an excellent track record of stretching limited resources, which would be very attractive for a startup environment. You wouldn’t describe yourself like this:
“Strategic leader with 15 years of cross-industry experience, an analytical mindset, a results-oriented approach, and an inspirational leadership style.”
Sure, this leaves the door open to non-marketing roles, or B2B enterprises as well as B2C, or startups and well-established companies. Come to think of it, it leaves the door open for just about anything, but means absolutely nothing to your reader.
A More Focused Approach
A more meaningful description for the job seeker described above might be:
“Entrepreneurially minded Marketing executive known for taking B2C startups to the next phase of growth by cultivating winning digital marketing divisions within cost-conscious environments.”
The latter description is not at all vague and is based on the courage to eschew jobs that don’t ignite passion while attracting perfect-fit ones. Herbert Bayard Swope said it best: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure; it is: try to please everyone.”