The Biggest Blunders of Job Searching

Part 1: Resumes

As a recruiter I’ve seen a lot of, ahem, interesting job search and interview techniques—everything from wearing  a tuxedo print T-shirt to the interview to misspelled names on resumes. Mistakes happen and small mistakes will most likely not cost you your dream job. I’d like to help you eliminate those mistakes. This is the 1st post of a 4-part series on interviewing and job searching. The suggestions below come from many different recruiters who have seen it all.

Creating a resume is typically the first step in a job search.  You want a resume that catches manager’s eye, highlights your skills,  and convinces recruiters of your superhuman powers (or at least your ability to excel at the job)—in short, you want a Resume Masterpiece. Like all masterpieces, it’s going to take some work. While I can’t do the work for you, I can provide a roadmap to help you avoid the common pitfalls.  Previous blog posts have provided some valuable resume suggestions: see the related posts below.  Despite the information out there, people are still confused about how to create a stellar resume. Hopefully the list below will help clear up that confusion. Read on for things to avoid so that you can create your very own Resume Masterpiece.


Don’t rely on spell check, and don’t rely on your own eyes. Ask a few people to look over your resume before you submit it.

Missing Information

Make sure all of your contact information is at the top of your resume and easy to find. You should have your full name, address, email address and phone number (home and cell if you have both). If you have more than one email address, choose one and stick with it. And, while we are on the topic of email addresses, make sure it is business appropriate; is not an appropriate email address… unless your last name is Fatguy.

Difficult to Read

Make sure the fonts are consistent. If you put the job title in bold for one job, make sure it is bold for all job titles. This will make it easier for a potential employer to read. I know you want to make your resume concise, but writing it in 5 point font is not the way to do it. Make sure it is readable without a magnifying glass. If you scan your resume to submit it electronically, make sure it scans nicely and is still legible. Also, to keep it professional, don’t use fancy fonts, cute graphics or photos of yourself.

Along the same lines, you want to make sure the order of your resume makes sense. It is best to put your work history in chronological order, with the most recent job at the top. If you recently graduated from school, the education section can go at the very top. A list of publications typically goes at the end. Every recruiter I spoke with voiced their dislike for functional resumes so stay away from that format and stick to the format described above.

Bad Bullets

Ensure that someone who doesn’t know you or your company can understand what you have done at your previous jobs. This may be the most difficult piece of advice. You are drawing a fine line between being concise and explaining enough. This will take work and multiple revisions. Here are some things that can help: ask someone who does not know what you do to read it and give you feedback, take a look at your job description and get ideas from that, or have someone in career services at your university or alma mater provide advice.

The space on your resume should be reserved for the coolest/most important/most impressive things you have done in your position. Anyone can schedule meetings using Outlook: what else did you do? When you are writing your bullet points to describe what you did, start with an action word. Use different action words in your resume, and make sure your tenses are consistent. Here’s a great list of resume action words. Try to quantify your contributions and accomplishments by adding numerical values to your resume. For example “Monitored a 20-month project timeline with a $400K+ budget for the implementation of an electronic medical record.”


Tailor your resume to the job! If you see that the position requires experience in Nucleic Acid Purification, you better explain your Nucleic Acid Purification experience!  Also, make sure your objective (if you choose to include one— it is not necessary) matches the job.

Include Every Skill… Ever

Just because you have seen someone characterize proteins or program in C++ doesn’t mean you are an expert at it. Be honest about your strengths and don’t present a list of every single technique/programming language/buzz word you can think of.

Ignore the Weird Stuff

If you have a gap in your work history or have bounced from job to job, don’t try to hide it (the recruiter will find it), just explain the circumstances. If the explanation is lengthy, include it in your cover letter. If you were unfortunate and worked for a lot of startups that went out of business, put that information right on the resume.

Too Long

Although we wish we did, recruiters don’t have time to read through everyone’s 20-page resume. List only your major accomplishments, and write just enough for a recruiter to understand what you can bring to the table. All job duties should be in bullet form, not a paragraph. Also, keep in mind that recruiters don’t always read the whole resume, put your most impressive and important information at the top.

Odd Objectives

One of the questions I get asked most concerning resumes is whether or not an objective is necessary. The answer is no. If you are a biology postdoc looking to continue lab work, your objective is obvious when you apply for a research position so an objective is not necessary. If you have been working in research and development and are looking to move into marketing, it may be a good idea to have an objective statement explaining that you are indeed looking for marketing jobs so recruiters don’t think you accidentally applied for the wrong position.

Hopefully this information will give you a good start down the path to creating a stellar resume. Stay tuned next month for more job searching wisdom from the recruitment front lines!

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Becca McKnight

Becca McKnight

Senior Recruitment Specialist at Promega Corporation
Becca is a member of Promega’s Emotional and Social Intelligence (ESI) team where she gets to coach employees, teach classes related to self-awareness, mindfulness, empathy and relationship management skills and teach yoga during the lunch hour. She earned her BS in psychology with a minor in dance at the University of Iowa. In her free time you can find her dancing with her toddler, practicing yoga or cooking.

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