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The 4 Most Common Resume Mistakes I See as a Recruiter

We get it: No one likes writing a resume. It's hard to talk about yourself—let alone to "sell" yourself—while being honest or modest, and with a possible job on the line.

To help alleviate that pressure, recruiters from Johnson & Johnson share tips to help you succeed, plus some of the most common resume mistakes they see—so you can avoid them.

Omit the Pic

We review over 1 million resumes every year, so our recruiters are (understandably) busy, reading them carefully to identify candidates who are the right fit for each role. Given that scale, it's not surprising that they occasionally come across some shocking things. And, across the board, our recruiters could recall memorable instances in which candidates included pictures that, shall we say, didn't present their candidacy in the most professional light.

"One candidate used a picture of himself inside a restroom," said Alberto Molina, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist at Johnson & Johnson. "Another one was wearing sunglasses."

Carolina Castillo, Talent Acquisition Lead at Johnson & Johnson, recalled, "One resume showed a photo of the candidate. It was from her wedding day. While she looked very happy, I didn't think that was the most professional thing to include on a resume."

Want to avoid blunders like these? It's simple. Just don't include a photograph with your resume in the first place. Pictures are not expected as part of the regular application process for roles in the United States or the United Kingdom—and including one can actually hurt your candidacy. Expectations vary across the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Asia, but you can always submit a photograph later on, if requested.

Align With the Role and the Company

Miguel Orjuela, Senior University Recruiter, Early Talent & International Development–IRDP at Johnson & Johnson, recalled once receiving a resume from a candidate with "Procurement Analyst" as a header immediately followed by an objective that read "Looking for a role in human resources ..." Uh oh.

"If your resume isn't aligned to the specific job you're applying for, it sends the message that you're not serious about the application," Miguel said.

So it's important for you to carefully review the responsibilities associated with the role you're applying for, and then make sure your resume clearly conveys how your background and experiences qualify you to satisfy them. Whether you're just starting your career or are an executive-level candidate, your resume needs to shout how—and why—you're a good fit for the job.

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Skip the Bells and Whistles

"I once received a resume in the form of a three-page sales brochure, in which the candidate was, essentially, advertising himself," said Miguel. "It included a full-body picture—resembling a beach model—on half of the page. Also, the candidate, now referring to himself in the third person, ended the resume with the tagline, 'Grab him now for X dollars for part time and Y dollars for full time—after tax!'"

The lesson here is that it's best to use a clear, easy-to-understand format for your resume, rather than relying on razzle-dazzle and a ton of design elements.

"It's important that a resume is accurate, complete and includes all of the relevant information without being overwhelming," Alberto noted.

You also want to make sure your resume is easy to read—literally. Even if you're trying to fit a lot of information on one page, the font size shouldn't be Lilliputian. And multicolored Zapf Dingbats, or anything in cursive, are poor font choices.

Brief is Best

In the course of his career as a recruiter, Miguel says that he's reviewed more resumes than he can possibly remember—except for the one that has always stood out in his mind. "I once received a 96-page resume. The file size alone was over 50 MB, and it contained over 50 certificates, including diplomas, courses, recommendations, several-page-long descriptions of responsibilities—as well as tax returns."

He went on: "When I asked the candidate to remove the excess information and send me a summarized version, I received a 43-page document!"

Alberto has also suffered through overly detailed resumes: "I remember one that was eight pages long and included the name of the kindergarten that this person went to."

So what's the right length for your resume? Between one and two pages, our recruiters unanimously agreed. That gives you plenty of room to check all the necessary boxes and get your message across. The bottom line is that, when it comes to resumes, "less is more," Carolina advised. "Focus on your achievements—and if you have metrics, that's all the better."

Are you readying your resume to apply for a job at Johnson & Johnson—and to help us make a positive impact in the world today? Check out all of the opportunities available right now.

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