The 5 Ways You’re Making Your Resume Hard to Read

The 5 Ways You’re Making Your Resume Hard to Read

Did you know your resume could be difficult for hiring managers or ATS systems to read?

It’s important to clearly convey your ROI to employers – and make your resume easy for humans AND bots to navigate.

Take a look at these 5 ways you could be making your resume HARDER to read – along with suggestions for improvement:


1 – Adding dense paragraphs or endless lists of bullets.

resume too longIf you want your carefully crafted resume to get noticed, it must be designed for skimming. Lengthy blocks of text can be difficult to interpret at a glance.

With today’s short attention spans, many people easily miss important data if it’s embedded in a paragraph of 5 or more lines.

In fact, many readers only “see” proper nouns, dollar figures, or words along the edges of each paragraph.

Therefore, it’s best to break your resume into brief chunks of information. Distill past jobs into key details, such as the size of teams you’ve managed, your scope of authority, and other facts.

Cut achievement bullets to a handful of wins under each job, using short sentences and metrics that illustrate your results.

See Resume Headlines That Can Get You Noticed and Sample Resumes for 2021 for more examples of brief, power-packed content.


2 – Over-emphasizing tasks vs. achievements.

A compelling resume should focus on your personal brand and success stories, while briefly mentioning your everyday tasks – NOT the other way around. However, too many people simply add a job description (that could apply to anyone) for each entry in their work history.

For example, it’s common for a CFO to model complex financial decisions, while IT Directors typically work with business leaders on systems projects. These details should be stated briefly in a few lines – followed by achievements showing cost savings, growth results, new technology implementations, or other success stories.

If you’re unsure whether your executive resume is too heavily focused on tasks, compare it to a job description. Your document should match many of the skills, but also include career wins unique to YOU.


3 – Skipping the qualifications summary.

Personal BrandingIf your resume launches immediately into your work history, you’ve just missed a HUGE personal branding opportunity.

A Qualifications Summary or Profile is a FANTASTIC place to incorporate keywords, feature achievements, and help frame your value proposition.

Most employers and ATS systems also expect a Qualifications Summary that briefly outlines your desired career level and background.

Not sure how to write a Summary? You’re not alone. Is Your Resume Summary Boring Employers? outlines simple ways to craft a robust opening paragraph.

This example (which shows at least 14 keywords, 2 job titles, and 5+ accomplishments) also shows how you can combine your career level, credentials, soft skills, and achievements into a memorable summary for your resume:

Senior operations and financial officer credited with 14 regional turnarounds and M&A transactions at #1 real estate financing corporation nationwide. Achieves new efficiencies using Lean Six Sigma and builds top-notch teams well-versed in cost controls. Increased profit margins and IRR up to 35% through long-range strategic planning, investor relations, and change management.


4 – Over-using bold text.

When you read a document, your eyes naturally fall on items that stand out, such as words that are in bold or all caps. This is perfect for information you want to prioritize!

However, if you apply bold to nearly every line, EVERYTHING will stand out at the same time, making your resume hard to navigate.

Instead, selectively highlight words that reflect your biggest wins, or the size and scope of your projects. Refrain from putting words in bold that you’d rather not emphasize, and concentrate on your BEST career-defining successes instead.


5 – Using fancy templates or creative fonts.

A compelling resume should deliver a clear message of value almost immediately. It’s MUCH easier to do this when you select a common font available in most versions of Word.

Unusual fonts might garner attention, but they won’t translate well in different operating systems. Rare fonts might also become garbled when viewed on a mobile device. Spare yourself the headache by choosing a common font such as Calibri, which is easy to read and available on most platforms.

resume templateYou might also be tempted to download a fancy resume template with multiple colors and a unique design.

However, employers (especially those in conservative fields such as banking) often prefer a more toned-down presentation. In addition, ATS systems may not be able to correctly identify the meaning of text in these formats.

Top resume writers are trained to ensure your content can be parsed by ATS and humans – which is why you’ll see innovative designs in their portfolios. Be careful with advanced formatting if YOU don’t know how to use it!

Instead, use a classic resume format, accentuated with a hint of color in section headings. Skip text boxes for important information (as ATS systems can’t parse these graphics) and refrain from adding a headshot (unless you’re applying to positions in Europe).


The lesson?

It’s important to treat your resume as a marketing document, using the same principles as a successful ad campaign: brief descriptions, powerful metrics, and easy navigation.

You’ll get the BEST results by simplifying your resume format, condensing data, and featuring achievements that show leadership and drive.

As seen in:

Among the World’s Top Resume & LinkedIn Experts:

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