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The number 1 thing that's wrong with your resume

(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,
I am unemployed for over a year, after completing my MBA. I then had a fixed term contract that I did not manage to turn into a permanent position due to the difficult economic times back then (my direct boss was very happy with me).

I have since then mildly been involved in a private equity project and sent a zillion applications, redoing my resume so many times I cannot count, with the pathetic result of two phone contacts that led nowhere.

I have applied for positions such as sale manager /director, consultant, associate, in sectors all across the board except semiconductors (where I've worked in the past), since I really want separate my experience and skills from a specific industry.

Therefore, I shamelessly ask of you today to please tell me what is wrong with me, hoping your Evil nature will size the opportunity to say all the really terrible things no one else dares to tell me!

There is one mistake that I see over and over and over again on resumes and sure enough you have it as well. Here's one job from your resume:

[Company Name, Location]

Internal Consultant - 1 year (fixed term) - reporting to Senior Vice President Sustainable Construction

-Designed the first sustainable construction strategic plan introducing sustainable construction activities for the group (France, PR China/Chongqing, UAE, Canada, India, RSA, UK, Poland)

-Autonomously performed country strategic review, workshop, trend analysis (market, regulations, construction techniques) and key stakeholders identification

-Modeled and quantified sustainable construction risks & opportunities, liaising with local teams

-Consolidated and analyzed data to generate the executive committee presentations

-Provided support for local marketing teams to articulate specific sustainable construction marketing plans

-Inducted marketing teams to sustainable construction stakes, concepts and market dynamics

Know what's wrong with that? It's not grammar and it's not spelling. It's the number one problem with resumes: I have no clue what you actually did.

The company you listed is not a name I was familiar with, so I had to Google it to find out what kind of company it was. Internal Consultant can mean absolutely ANYTHING, although I was happy to see that you listed who you reported to, as that at least gives me an idea of what you might have done.

You specifically want to change industries, so you need to assume that the recruiter will not be familiar with the companies you worked for. If you were trying to stay within an industry this would be less of a problem, but always assume that the recruiter isn't familiar with your company. (Unless, maybe, you worked for a global ubiquitous company like McDonalds.)

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Most of your bullet points sound like they came straight from the job description. Job descriptions are terrible at describing a job that needs to be done and even worse at describing what you did. I could pick up lines from your resume and plop them directly into my resume and I wouldn't even be lying. For instance: "Consolidated and analyzed data to generate the executive committee presentation." I did that. I did that monthly for years. Does that mean you would be qualified to be an HR analyst and that I would be qualified to be a sustainable construction analyst? Doubtful.

Tell me more about what you did. Remember you want things that computers will pick up as key words. Think about these things:

-What type of data did you analyze?

-What type of presentations?

-What were the key decisions that your data helped influence?

-Did you develop these reports or just take over the task from someone else?

-Were there any complex legal requirements for reporting that you had to comply with/understand?

-Did these reports result in increased sales/decreased costs/some other good thing?

Naturally, you don't want to turn your resume into a 200 page novel, but an educated person should be able to look at your resume and at least have some idea what you did. A computer needs to be able to latch onto key words that actually indicate your experience.

Remember, a resume is a marketing document. Make sure that the reader knows what you are selling.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to

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